Be Safe This Holiday Season

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What's a holiday party or even the traditional Christmas morning scene itself without a beautifully decorated tree?

If your household, as those of more than 33 million other American homes, includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the salesperson's suggestion -- "Keep the tree watered."

That's good advice and not just to create a fragrant indoor winter wonderland atmosphere. Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage.

Typically shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. Dry and neglected trees can be. The following tips will help make a safe season for you and your household.

Maintain Your Holiday Lights

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.

Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.

Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets

Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.

Make sure to periodically check the wires; inside and outside the home -- they should not be warm to the touch. Don't hide cords under the carpet or throw rugs. Cords may over heat.

Avoid Using Lit Candles

If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning. Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame -- candles, lighters or matches.

Fireplaces

Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.

Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.

Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result, as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Toys and Ornaments

Purchase appropriate toys for the appropriate age. Some toys designed for older children might be dangerous for younger children.

Electric toys should be UL/FM approved.

Toys with sharp points, sharp edges, strings, cords, or parts small enough to be swallowed should not be given to small children.

Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan. Don't know what to get them this year, a new smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is always the right color and size.

'Tis the season to be "Fired Up" about holiday safety in your home or workplace.

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