Holiday Safety Comes First

The flickering glow of candles and holiday decorations will soon warm and lighten up many homes. Few things are more relaxing and festive than the sweet aroma of burning candles, the crackling of a fire or the scent and beauty of a brightly lit pine tree.

To ensure all remains calm and bright in and around your home this holiday season, be sure to take reasonable precautions.

Candles need to be displayed safely on a level surface in sturdy, non-combustible holders which are large enough to collect the dripping wax and which won't tip easily. Make sure there are no flammable materials such as curtains hanging over or near a burning candle.

Never leave a burning unattended. This is inviting disaster. Always check that the flame has been complete extinguished before you leave a room. And remember to snuff out candles before you go to bed.

Place any lit candles beyond the reach of children and pets, who are often fascinated by flame and may reach for it. Never use lit candles to decorate a Christmas tree.

Tree care
If a "real" tree is your tradition, ensure you buy a fresh one. When inspecting cut trees, tap the trunk on the ground. A fresh tree will not lose green needles. Before setting the tree up, cut one inch off the trunk to help it absorb water better. Your tree stand should be clean and hold at least a gallon of water. The water level should be checked every day.

Whether your tree is real or artificial, never place it near the fireplace, floor heaters or other sources of heat. To prevent the tree from tipping, secure it with a wire to a nearby wall or other secure structure. Use cool-burning bulbs to decorate the tree. And always turn the tree lights out before leaving the house or going to bed.

Decorative lighting
The selection and kinds of decorative lighting on the market has never been greater. It's easy to get carried away, overload outlets and create other electrical hazards. Be imaginative, but avoid overloading sockets and use adaptors as little as possible.

Also be careful with extension cords. Never connect more than three light strands per extension cord and don't place cords under rugs or in high traffic areas. Remember that indoor lights are for indoor use and outdoor lights are for outdoor use, and that the same goes for extension cords.

Before stringing light strands on the tree and elsewhere, check them for broken and loose bulbs and connections. Plug the strand into an outlet to ensure all lights are working and replace any that aren't before putting it up. Also, string light strands around the tree before adding any other decorations. Keep tinsel and other decorative items away from the lights. And never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Other safety tips

ensure your home has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and check their batteries regularly. Also have a fire extinguisher ready, just in case.
after a party, if you allow smoking indoors, check under furnishings and cushions for smoldering cigarettes.
keep gifts out of sight and away from windows.
use timers on outside and inside lights, even when you are home. Also, put a radio on a timer.
lock all doors and windows, even if you are only stepping out for a few minutes.
trim or remove any trees or bushes near your home which could hide a burglar's activity. Also have some outdoor lights that are activated by motion sensors.
don't leave tools or toys lying around outside where they can be easily stolen.
if you are leaving town for a few days:
cancel or arrange for a neighbour to pick up your mail and newspaper;
don't leave a spare key in a "hiding place" outside your home;
have someone shovel the snow from the driveway and walkways;
if your home does not already have one, consider installing an alarm system. These systems may not keep a burglar from trying to get into your home, but they will make a thief in a hurry or get caught before fleeing too far;
take photos or make a video of all your valuables and list these in a home inventory with descriptions and serial numbers. This will make things much easier if you ever have to file for insurance coverage;
ensure your furnace has been serviced recently and that your fireplace is well-maintained; and
treat a fireplace like a candle - never leave it unattended.




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