Happy (and safe) holidays, please

Published 1:52 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

The turkey sandwiches are served, and the decorations descend from the attic. The smell of evergreen wafts in the wake of the 18-wheelers bearing Christmas trees to lots across the city. The tree is picked, the stand assembled, twinkling lights are wrapped from crown to base and the glitter, glimmer of glass and beads and ornaments galore, make every living room a Rockwellian scene.
Everyone counts on a merry Christmas each year. No one counts on a fire. Every year, fires during the holiday season claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 1,650 folks or more and cause more than $990 million in damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration website. It shares a few holiday tips that will help you ensure your holidays stay casualty-free.
• Make sure the tree you purchase is a freshly cut tree. Older trees can be identified by shaking their trunks. If a lot of needles fall off, the tree is older, and drier, and could be a fire hazard.
• Don’t set your tree up near a heat source. A heat source can dry your tree out faster and make it more easily ignitable.
• Make sure the tree stand is filled with water.
• Maintain your tree lights — look for frayed wires, bare spots, broken and cracked sockets. If you find any of those things, replace the strand.
• Do not string more than three strands of lights together.
• Be on the lookout for counterfeit lights and extension cords. Buy from a trusted retailer and check for an Underwriters Laboratories label. UL certifies that electrical products such as extension cords and Christmas lights have been tested and meet safety standards. If the extension cord does not have a UL label, get rid of it.
• Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations.
• If decorating with candles, place them in stable, non-melting holders and never leave them lit when out of the house.
• As pretty as your tree is, turn the lights off before you go to sleep at night.
And for the pet owners out there, protect your pets, too. Cats love to play with, and eat, tinsel and wrapping-paper ribbon, which is not so great for their digestive systems. If you’re leaving the pets unattended in the house, make sure there are no edible temptations under the tree — overfeeding your animals with super-rich food could cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease (especially in small dogs). And if you’re adding chemicals to the water to extend the life of your tree, make sure your animals can’t take a drink of that particular concoction.
Make your Christmas merrier by making the season safer for you and your kin.