SONY DSCIn the midst of the holiday season, safety isn’t always on the forefront of your mind… I mean it’s so hard to get distracted by all the twinkling Christmas lights, right? Fires, falls and accidents are prevalent throughout the holiday season… The two most common days for home fires in the United States are Christmas and Christmas Eve… or in Lynn’s instance, Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve. Because of this, fire departments and healthcare organizations encourage everyone to make safety a top priority during the holiday season.

One of the most important steps in home safety is to ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are installed and are in proper working order. The main cause of home fires during the winter holiday season is cooking, with heating coming in at second place. During this time of year, people also tend to use candles more often. Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the most common holidays for fires caused by candles.

Remember these helpful tips to stay safe this holiday season…

1. Turn all lights off. When using any decorative lights in or around the house or tree, be sure they are turned off when unsupervised. People who are using older strings of lights should consider switching to newer LED lights, which are more energy efficient and stay cooler.

2. Have multiple working smoke alarms and use carbon monoxide detectors. Each level of the home should have a working smoke detector. While it is ideal to have one in every common room and bedroom, it is important to at least have them placed strategically so home occupants can hear them regardless of their location in the house. Remember to keep fresh batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, even those that are wired into your house in case of power outages. A great reminder is to change the batteries when you change the clocks! If smoke alarms  are older than 10 years, they should be replaced. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, so it is considered a “silent killer.” If any existing carbon monoxide alarms are over seven years of age, they should be replaced.

3. Water fresh Christmas trees every day. Any fresh Christmas trees should be watered daily to ensure they do not dry out and become bigger fire hazards. All synthetic and fresh trees should be kept away from candles, heaters and fireplaces.

4. Decorate with care. Use caution when stringing Christmas lights and hanging ornaments, especially if you’re using a step-stool, chair or ladder. Always position whatever you stepping on, on level ground and stay towards the center to avoid tipping over!

5. Make a fire escape plan. Your home fire escape plan should have two separate exit options, and there should be a designated area outside of the home where occupants can meet. If a fire happens, remember to stay out of the home and call 911 immediately from a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone. Do not go back into the house for anything.

6. Do not leave candles unattended. Before leaving a room or going to sleep, make sure all candles have been completely blown out. There should always be a one-foot safety area encircling when they are burning, and make sure they stay on flat and steady surfaces.

7. Eliminate electrocution or electrical fires. Do not overload power strips or extension cords and always check lights for frayed wires, broken bulbs or loose connections. Also be sure to avoid placing cords under rugs to decrease the risk of fires and electrocution.

8. Use space heaters cautiously. Never leave a space heater running when the area is not occupied. Heaters should be at least three feet from any item or wall at all times. Do not use old space heaters that are not UL approved.

9. Do not leave stove burners unattended. Watch all cooking food closely. When baking, set a timer and keep it within reach. If pan does catch on fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire. Turn the heat off immediately.

10. Be responsible when drinking and designate a driver. Alcohol plays a part in many injuries, including automobile accidents and home fires. Always designate a drive or take a cab if you know you’ll be partaking in festive libations!

11. Smoke outdoors. Make sure all guests know to smoke outdoors, and provide ash trays so they do not toss cigarette butts in areas where they could cause fires.

12. Keep lighters and matches safe. If children are present in the home, make sure lighters and matches are kept out of their reach in a safe location.

13. Beware of plastic packaging. Try and avoid opening plastic packaging with sharp knives or scissors – one slip and you’ve landed in the ER on Christmas morning! For those tricky plastic packages, use an old-fashioned can opener to cut along the edge.

Check out our holiday safety tips infographic for more quick holiday tips!