As this is the time of the year when folks set out to decorate their homes for Christmas, I thought that I would share...

As this is the time of the year when folks set out to decorate their homes for Christmas, I thought that I would share a few reminders to keep you and your home safe. Every year, a tragic accident or fire occurs during this time of the year. My goal with this article is to provoke you to think about every step you take, in adorning your home with the sights of the season. 

I will start with lights that you may put up on the outside. The first thing that you want to ensure is that the lights work properly. If an electrical problem  is found, then replace the lights. If you are going to be climbing a ladder to put up lights, then you want to follow safe ladder use guidelines:

  • Set a ladder on even terrain.
  • If necessary, have someone foot the ladder for you, preventing it from moving as you climb.
  • Ensure that you extend the ladder two to three rungs over the top of the roofline.
  • Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder.
  • Be careful not to put a ladder up near electrical lines.

If you plan to work off of the side of a ladder, then you must have someone footing the ladder and you will have to do a leg lock on the ladder. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then you should find a different way to put your lights up.

Just remember this: one wrong step could be all that it takes.

Many people like real trees. In choosing a tree, make sure that you do not buy one that is already starting to lose its needles. Run your hand along the needles. If they come off in your hand, leave that tree and find another. It will be important to keep the tree well-watered as long as it is in your home. If the tree dries up, then you need to get it out of your home. Christmas trees that catch fire burn hot and fast, easily igniting other items in the room.  

As you begin to put packages around the tree, remember the three-foot rule: keep all combustibles at least three feet from all heat sources. A heat source is anything that can generate enough heat to ignite a combustible. This may seem like a strange place to put this, but I want to warn about the use of excessive extension cords. A damaged extension cord can short out or heat up enough to light off your tree or other combustibles. You also want to make sure that the extension cord you are using is big enough to handle the electrical load placed upon it. 

I am going to include this reminder for those of you who burn wood in a woodstove or fire place. Remember that the embers from a fire can maintain heat for days after the fire was burning. If you must remove embers, absolutely do not put them in a paper bag or vacuum them out. All embers must be placed in a metal container that has no other combustibles in it. Once removed, the container must be placed outside of the home, away from other combustibles. 

I will end this article by stressing the importance of an adequate number of properly operating smoke alarms. Depending on the amount of decorations, especially candles, you may need to install more than usual. Keep in mind you are taxing your electrical system and you have brought more fire load into your home. You must test your smoke alarms to ensure that they are ready to protect you, if a fire should break out. Incidentally, your practiced home escape plan may need to be modified due to the placement of Christmas decorations. Be sure to consider fire safety as you decorate your home. Your life or the life of your family may depend on it.