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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Everyone wants a holiday season filled with gifts, gaudy decorations and good food. Above all, we want a safe and injury-free holiday period. Despite our best intentions, however, there are occasions when accidents and mistakes do occur.
Although putting up decorations is one of the most enjoyable ways to get in the holiday mood, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that each year there are about 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating that result in emergency room visits.
The NSC’s annual list, “The 12 Days of Safety,” offers a dozen useful tips on preventing ER visits:
- Never use lighted candles near trees and boughs.
- Keep poisonous plants (including some poinsettias) out of reach of children and pets.
- Keep trees away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources.
- Make sure your tree has a stable platform.
- If you’re using an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled fire-resistant.
- If you’re using a natural tree, make sure it is well watered.
- Check your holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or excessive kinking in the wire.
- Turn off all lights and decorations when they are not in use.
- When you’re putting up decorations, use a step stool or ladder to reach high places.
- Designate a sober driver when you’re going out to holiday parties.
- When preparing a meal, wash your hands, utensils, sink and anything else that touches raw meat.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
For children especially, gift-getting is a highlight of the season. So it pays to keep these few simple tips in mind from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when shopping for children’s presents:
- Avoid choosing toys for infants or small children with small parts that might prove to be a choking hazard. (Read toy packaging for age-appropriate information.)
- Be aware of the dangers associated with toys that require coin-shaped lithium batteries, especially the smaller “button batteries” that children could swallow.
If in doubt, check with the CPSC to see which toys have been recalled or are considered unsafe. Last year, the CPSC said, there were more than 174,100 toy-related Emergency Room-treated injuries and seven deaths associated with toys to children younger than 15 years of age.
“Riding toys, specifically non-motorized scooters, were the toy category associated with the most injuries and nearly half of toy-related deaths in 2016. Most of the toy-related injuries involved cuts and bruises with the head and face being the most commonly affected parts of the body,” the CPSC reported.
12 Percent of Home Candle Fires Occur in December
Thousands of deaths every year are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 12% of home fires started by candles occur in December.
In addition to Christmas, December is the month of Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which involves lighting candles for eight consecutive evenings. The African-American celebration of Kwanzaa also occurs in December and features lighting seven candles, symbols of the values and concepts reflective of African culture.
This greater use of candles and fireplaces in December, combined with an increase in combustible, seasonal decorations, mean more risk of fire in the home. The NFPA says never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle. Other safety tips include:
- Keep candles out of reach of children
- Make sure candles are on stable surfaces
- Don't burn candles near trees, curtains or any other flammable items
- Don't burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace
- The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends cleaning fireplaces at least once a year by a CSIA certified chimney sweep.
- Be alert to creosote buildup in the flue. Creosote is a black or brown residue that can be crusty and flaky, tar-like, drippy and sticky or shiny and hardened. All forms are highly combustible. If creosote builds up in sufficient quantities – and the internal flue temperature is high enough – the result could be a chimney fire.
Light the Way to Fire Safety
Holiday season or not, candle users want to be save all year ’round. The NFPA sells a colorful guide, “Candle Safety Tip Sheets,” that demonstrates the dangers of lit candles in the home.
Full-color photos, illustrations and easy-to-read tips will remind readers to:
- Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle.
- Keep matches and lighters up high and out of reach.
- Avoid using candles in the bedroom or any area where people can fall asleep.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can catch fire and burn.
- Try fire-safe alternatives such as flameless candles.
These tips can prevent injuries and home fires and, most important, a loss of life.