During the holiday season when there is more festive activity around the house, there is also more risk of accidents that can cause harm to ourselves and damage to our homes than at any other time of year.
I was reminded of this known fact just the other evening when my wife Margaret and I were decorating our tree. I had already gone through the ritual of attaching the three sections of the artificial tree to the base, strung the electric lights, and together we were hanging the ornaments. Our tree ornaments consist mainly of those we’ve made ourselves through the years, those constructed with Styrofoam balls covered with ribbons and decorated with baubles and beads.
Those we’ve purchased are mainly of blown and pressed glass, some quite large and heavy. My wife, who was barefoot, was hanging one of those, a large green pressed glass piece shaped like a pine cone and seemingly more than a pound in weight, when it dislodged from its hanging device and plummeted down like a torpedo and landed squarely on her toes. She yelled out, and in no time, the little toe on her right foot was black and blue.
The ironic thing is that just before this mishap, my wife had asked me what my column was to be about this week, and I had suggested that it might be a fair warning to readers that more accidents happen in and around the home during holiday season.
An estimated 13,000 injuries result in visits to the emergency room each year around the holidays, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 40 percent of deaths from home fires occur during the brief period between December and February. We also know that Christmas tree fires alone result in $17.5 million of property damage per year.
For our purposes here, let’s focus on accidents that can come about while decorating and observing the holidays.
If you buy a live Christmas tree, test it to make use it is not dried out, which is a fire safety hazard. This is done by hitting the trunk of the tree against the ground. If a lot of needles fall off, keep searching for a healthier tree. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. When you get it home, cut off about two inches from the bottom at an angle. Fill the tree stand with water and keep it full every day
Display the tree away from a heat source, such as a furnace or fireplace, and keep it away from doorways and main traffic areas. Live trees should not be left up longer than two weeks. Be aware that some artificial trees can also burn so check them for flammability and follow safety precautions that come with it upon sale.
To prevent an accidental tree fire, check holiday lights and extension cords for frayed or damaged cords and discard any damaged strings of lighting. Do not attempt to tape or repair the cords. Never link more than 3 strands of lights together, and always plug the lights into an extension cord before plugging into a wall outlet.
Another point of safety I might ask you to consider is the age of your decorations. If you’ve had them for many years, it might be time to invest in a newer, safer set. Before regulations in the late 1970s, items such as tinsel, artificial icicles, glitter and painted figures often contained dangerous levels of lead, chromium and even arsenic. Angel Hair (artificial snow) contained glass filings, and some brands were even comprised of asbestos fibers.
Candles, whether lit for a Hanukkah menorah or just decorative for their romantic glow, can be the cause of house fires, so you might want to think twice about leaving any room where one or more is aflame. During a five year period, the NFPA reported that there were an average of 10, 630 fires in the U.S. started by candles. More than half of them start because candles were left too close to flammable items. They should always be kept at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn. Other causes of candle fires include leaving them unattended in a room or something as simple as someone bumping a table they’re sitting on or pets brushing against them.
There are more candle fires in December and January, with the top three days being Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
And here’s a final note that I hadn’t thought of until last year when I had a close call concerning the disposal of wrapping paper. When unwrapping presents, dispose of wrapping paper in a garbage receptacle. Never throw it in a fireplace. That can result in sparks which can trigger a larger fire within the home.
Have a happy and safe holiday season!
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.