8 Christmas safety tips for holiday decorations

December 2, 2020

Follow these 8 Christmas safety tips when decorating your home for the holiday

A father and his children safely decorating with Christmas lights

Sparkling strings of lights, dazzling ornaments, and trees draped in glittering tinsel - decorating for Christmas always brings the magic of the holiday spirit into your home. For many people, this tradition ushers in a time of warmth and family amidst the cold of the winter season.

But all of those lovely decorations have to get up there somehow! Too often that means shimmying up ladders to precarious positions and sometimes, we overlook safety for the sake of creating a beautiful display. So before you begin opening boxes of lights and ornaments, check out these 8 Christmas safety tips and have an accident-free holiday! 

1. Keep your tree away from heat

If you're going with a real tree this year, make sure to keep it away from heat sources. This means fireplaces, but also space heaters and HVAC vents. Keep a fire extinguisher close by just in case. 

2. Water your tree

Speaking of living trees - they need water! Regularly watering your tree not only makes it look better and last longer, it prevents the needles from drying out and falling to the ground. Dry needles are incredibly flammable. 

3. Get an artificial tree

For many people, getting an artificial tree is a great option. Not only are you sure to have a consistently full tree each year, you don't have to worry about watering it or cleaning up after it

However, if you're in the market for such a tree, make sure to find out if it is fire resistant. 

4. Inspect your lights

Having to get new lights every year can add up, so we often do our best to reuse them whenever possible. They don't always hold up, however, so it's important to look them over carefully before each use. 

Before stringing them up, plug them in, test them out, and give them a good general inspection. You'll want to look for dead or broken bulbs, loose connections, and frayed cords - all of these can be fire hazards! Besides, a dead string of lights is the last thing you want to see after you've spent all that time and effort putting them up. 

LED bulbs can be found everywhere these days, and unsurprisingly, they make great lights for decorating your house. While they can be a little on the pricey end, they last a long time, they don't produce much heat, and they use less power than traditional lights.

5. Use caution when stringing lights

Although stringing lights across your roof looks great, hanging them can be a rather dangerous process if not done carefully. 

Wait for the weather. Sometimes we may find ourselves in a rush to put up our lights, but it's always worth it to wait for a good day to get out there. Don't ignore the weather forecast and avoid rainy, windy days. Hanging lights in the wet and cold is no fun, anyway!

Ladders. If you can't avoid using a ladder, it's important to do so with caution. Make sure the ladder functions properly, place it carefully before climbing it, and have someone below to keep it steady. Don't overextend yourself when hanging lights and move the ladder as often as needed.

Use the buddy system. In addition to holding your ladder, having an extra pair of hands is always a good idea. Your assistant can hand lights up to you so you don't have to constantly climb up and down and they can help ensure that everything looks good from the ground. 

Avoid nails and staples. Using nails, tacs, and staples to fasten lights in place can often result in a damaged cord, which may cause all sorts of dangerous scenarios. Instead, use gutter clips, hooks, or magnets

Don't hang them near heat. Choose your placement carefully and avoid stringing lights around your chimney, near dyer vents, or next to space heaters and fireplaces indoors. 

Mind the gaps. Whether you're hanging lights inside or outside, avoid crossing areas with heavy traffic, such as doorways and porch stoops. If you have to use extension cords, make sure they aren't taught or laying in areas where they may be a tripping hazard. 

Use extension cords carefully. In addition to giving your lights a good inspection, make sure your extension cords aren't damaged. When plugging lights into them, pay attention to their capacity (which can usually be found on a tag) so as not to overload them. 

Plug into a GFCI outlet. If possible, plug your lights and extension cords into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These are a special type of outlet found in every home that will automatically close the circuit if there is an abnormal flow of electricity. 

6. Turn them off before bed

Before you go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, turn off your outdoor lights and the lights on your tree. Not only will this reduce the chance of a fire, it will save you a little on your electric bill. 

7. Use LED candles

Candles are often used to decorate homes for a number of different seasons and create a comforting, relaxing mood with their warm wavering light. However, candles are a huge fire risk, and they are responsible for a substantial portion of Christmas fires each year. 

That's why it's best to avoid real candles and opt for their LED replacements. However, if you do choose to use real candles, make sure to keep them far away from anything flammable, such as wrapping paper, gifts, curtains, Christmas lights, and trees. Be absolutely sure that they are extinguished before you go to bed or leave the house.

8. Choose your decorations carefully

Although it may seem strange to think of decorations as dangerous, there are certainly some that can pose a risk - especially to young children and our furry friends. That's not to say that you should avoid such things entirely, but being aware of such things can help you decorate with caution. 

Mistletoe. Mistletoe has adorned winter celebrations across many cultures for thousands of years, and continues to find a place in many homes today. However, it may surprise you to know that it is actually poisonous. While a healthy adult might not become seriously ill if a few berries are accidentally ingested, it poses a much greater risk to children and pets. 

Poinsettias. Poinsettias are another classic botanical decoration that should be used with some caution. Although they are not deadly, they are mildly toxic and can cause a number of unpleasant effects if ingested by a cat or dog

Glass ornaments. Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful ornaments are also often the most fragile. If you have ornaments made from breakable materials, such as glass, make sure they are out of reach of children and pets. 

A young girl safely decorating a Christmas tree

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Read more: Need some ideas for a Christmas gift? It's not too late! Check out our blog for 5 last-minute gift ideas!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

What do you want to read more about? For suggestions, questions, or content-related inquiries, contact us at content@germaniainsurance.com!

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