5 ways to ruin your holidays

Here’s how to stay out of the ER this season

Published: December 16, 2013 12:30 PM

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A trip to the emergency room is no way to spend the holidays yet last year 15,000 people were treated in the ER for decorating-related injuries during November and December. Such mishaps have been on the rise since, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The holidays are also a busy time for fire departments responding to calls of blazes started by candles, faulty lights, and dried-out Christmas trees. Here are five surefire ways to ruin your holidays.

Fall while decking the halls

It may look funny in the movies but falling off a ladder is no joke. In fact, ladder accidents result in roughly 200,000 emergency-room visits and 300 deaths each year. If you’re decorating the house, have a buddy hold the ladder for you to keep it stable and then follow these tips:

  • Make sure the ladder can support your weight.
  • Angle straight ladders 75 degrees from the ground (1 foot for every 4 feet high).
  • Always face a ladder when climbing up and down.
  • Don’t climb to the highest step, and don’t reach more than 1 foot to the side.

Let the tree dry out

Trees ignited an average of 200 fires annually from 2009 to 2011 resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries, and $16 million in property loss, according to the CPSC. To avoid fire hazards, pick a fresh tree and cut an inch off the bottom to help it absorb water then follow these tips.

  • Place the tree three feet away from fireplaces, vents, and radiators.
  • Keep the tree away from foot traffic and doorways.
  • Monitor the water daily and keep the stand filled.
  • When buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label.

Be careless with candles

Candle-related fires resulted in another 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss from 2009 through 2011. The majority of the fires started because the candle was too close to combustibles like decorations and curtains. Try battery-operated or electric flameless candles or if using real candles do the following.

  • Keep them away from children, pets, and any place where they can tip over.
  • Use sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders.
  • Never leave a candle unattended.
  • Extinguish them before going to sleep or leaving the house.

Use old, damaged lights

Decorative lights cause an average of 170 home structure fires, 7 deaths, 17 injuries and $7.9 million in property damage each year. To stay safe, discard lights with broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Use an extension cord that’s been rated for the intended use and follow these tips.

  • Replace lights that are more than 3 years old or have been used for more than 90 days.
  • Look for the certification label of a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Intertek (ETL).
  • Keep children away from spare bulbs, a choking hazard, and light strands, whose cords may contain lead.
  • Turn holiday lights off before you go to bed or leave the house.

Be foolish around fireplaces

Fires related to heating systems, including fireplaces, result in 50,100 fires, 150 deaths, 575 injuries, and $326 million in property loss annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area and do the following:

  • Check to see that the flue is open.
  • Use a metal or glass fireplace screen to keep sparks from hitting nearby carpets or furniture.
  • Make sure the fire is out completely before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Avoid burning wrapping paper in the fireplace, it can cause a flash fire.

Home fires are often unpredictable, and they can be deadly. That's why you need one full-floor, multipurpose fire extinguisher on each level of your home and one in your garage, plus smaller, supplemental units for the kitchen and car.

—Artemis DiBenedetto

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