SERVPRO Holiday Safety Tips
The holidays are a wonderful time for traditions, family, and fun. While you’re decking the halls, cooking delicious feasts, and enjoying the warm glow of holiday lights, don’t forget to go through our SERVPRO Holiday Home Safety Checklist. Taking a few extra precautions will keep you and your home safe and prevent many common holiday season accidents.
1 Hang your lights with care!
Inspect indoor and outdoor electrical outlets before you use them. Cracked or damaged sockets, exposed or loose wires and other issues can cause a shock, electrocution, or even start a fire.
Don’t forget to inspect the cords on your lights and other electrical decorations as you put them up. Frayed cables can easily cause a fire. Also, make sure there is a bulb in each socket. Replace any damaged light strands each season.
Do your Christmas lights have a holographic UL label? This means they passed strict safety tests at Underwriters Lab, a third-party safety testing facility. A red label indicates the lights are safe for indoor and outdoor use, a green label means they are only safe for indoor use.
Holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires are often more damaging than other types of house fires. One easy way to prevent electrical fires is to use light clips to attach the holiday lights to your house instead of tacks or nails. Never hammer anything into an electrical cord.
Only use extension cords that are designated for outdoor use for external lights and decorations. A simple rule of thumb to avoid overloading your extension cords is to plug no more than three sets of light strands into each extension cord. The best practice is to plug outdoor lights, inflatables, and other decorations into circuits that have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). This type of outlet will turn off if there is an overcurrent.
Don’t forget your indoor light safety, too! Keep your indoor lights and electrical decorations away from furniture, carpeting, drapes, and other potentially flammable materials. Check the cords and extension cords before you plug them in. Keep the cords and decorations tucked away to prevent tripping, but make sure they aren’t crushed, kinked, or twisted.
2 “Candle, candle, burning bright…” Candle safety
December is the peak month for candle-related house fires.The Red Cross reports that holiday fires cause more than $554 million in property damage every year! Candles are responsible for an average of 22 reported fires each day during the holiday season. Many candle fires begin in the living room and dining room.
The safest way to enjoy the look and smell of candles is to use flameless candles around your home. If you do decide to use real candles, keep them at least 12 inches away from anything that can melt or burn. Place them in sturdy candleholders that won’t easily tip over or spill hot wax.
Be careful of loose clothing, hair, flowing decorations, and other flammable items. Never light candles if someone is using an oxygen tank in the home.
Make sure you blow out all the candles when you leave the room. Avoid using candles in the bedroom or during times when you might doze off and don’t allow the candle to burn all the way down to the holder or container.
3 “Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree…” Tree safety
Did you know that Christmas tree-related accidents result in an average $13 million annually in property damage? A dry Christmas tree, electric lights, and various heat sources can be a dangerous combination.
Fresh trees are less prone to fire than dry Christmas trees. Choose a Christmas tree that has healthy, green needles that are a little difficult to pull off. Stay away from trees that are browning or “shedding” needles.
Before you put up the tree, cut about half an inch off the trunk to help it absorb water. Use a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water and keep the bottom two inches of the trunk submerged in water.
Place your tree away from radiators, fireplaces, heat vents, candles, and other heat sources. Live Christmas trees do better in cool temperatures, so turn down the heat a little and consider putting your tree close to the window or door.
To avoid electrical fires, only use Christmas lights that have the UL or ETL/ITSNA safety seal. Don’t use any damaged light strands.
Don’t forget to unplug the Christmas lights before you head to bed, even if you have a fake tree! Whether you turn everything off yourself or use light timers, this will keep your home safer, lower your electric bill, and give you peace of mind.
4 Cook with caution
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of reported home fires. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two days with the highest reported kitchen fires.
Many people enjoy baking and cooking special meals and treats during the holiday season. It’s easy to get distracted or take unnecessary risks while cooking your festive feast.
Prevent stove fires by making sure your oven and stovetop are clean before you start cooking. Don’t forget to clean the exhaust hood and duct over your stove regularly to prevent dust, dirt, and grease build-up.
Make sure you plug appliances into Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets to prevent electrical shock and other issues. Keep all electrical cords away from the sink and hot surfaces. Don’t forget to unplug everything when you are finished.
As tempting as it might be, never disable your smoke detector. Many people unplug or disable their smoke alarms while cooking, but this is a dangerous practice, and it’s easy to forget to turn the smoke alarm back on.
Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy in the event you have a small kitchen fire. Make sure you know how to put out cooking fires, especially grease fires! Speaking of deep frying, if you plan to deep-fry your turkey, keep the deep fryer at least ten feet away from your home and deck.
Did you know that dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives? Sharpen your cutlery before the holiday cooking frenzy to keep your fingers a little safer.
5. Baby-proof your home
If you plan to have holiday guests with small children (or even pets), you can help everyone stay safe and rest a little easier by baby-proofing your home. Move cleaning products to higher shelves or lock those cabinets. Zip ties make easy, affordable temporary baby locks on cabinets.
Cover all the outlets with safety plugs, and keep decorations with small pieces out of reach of curious fingers.
Take extra safety precautions in the kitchen if little ones are around. Angle all the pot handles on the stove or countertop back toward the wall, so they aren’t easily grabbed, knocked, or pulled over (this is a good safety practice at all times).
To check the “baby-proof” status of your home, get down on your hands and knees, and look around your home from a curious little kid’s perspective. Move hazardous items out of reach or into other parts of your home.
6 Have an emergency plan
Fires and other home emergencies occur more frequently during the holidays. It’s critical to have an evacuation and response plan ready for your family. Now is a great time to either review your emergency plan or create a new one.
Make sure everyone knows how to evacuate your home in the event of a fire. Identify a safe place where everyone will gather if you do need to evacuate your home. Don’t forget to include your pets in the emergency plan!
SERVPRO is here to help with any type of disaster, from cooking and Christmas tree fires to frozen pipes and other winter home accidents. Our expert technicians are available 24/7 to respond to any size disaster, even during the holidays!