Tis the Season for Safety

Keep the holidays happy with these simple precautions.

Gathering with family and friends to celebrate the spirit of the season is something many of us look forward to all year. Make sure your festivities are nothing but fun with these holiday safety tips.


FACT: Holiday or other decorative lights with line voltage are involved in an average of 150 home structure fires per year; electrical problems were factors in three-quarters (73 percent) of these fires. (Source: National Fire Protection Agency)

  • Before hanging light strings indoors or out, check them for frayed cords, broken lamp holders or loose connections. When in doubt, throw them out.
  • Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors—never the other way around.
  • Check all lighting and extension cords for the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
  • When hanging lights outdoors, make sure electrical connectors are off the ground and not touching metal rain gutters. Insulated tape or plastic clips are the safest way to secure them.
  • Don’t overload extension cords with too many items, and don’t string together two or more extension cords.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Turn off or unplug lights when you leave the house or go to bed.


FACT: Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries and $16.7 million in direct property damage annually. (Source: National Fire Protection Agency)

  • If you use an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled as fire-resistant.
  • Purchase the freshest possible live tree. Look for needles that don’t come off easily or break when a branch is bent. Keep trees watered so they don’t dry out and create a fire hazard.
  • Never use real candles on a tree. Keep the tree away from fireplaces, radiators and space heaters.
  • Make sure the tree stand is sturdy so the tree doesn’t tip over.


FACT: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 1,170 home-structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, from 2004 to 2008. (Source: National Fire Protection Agency)

  • Only use fire-resistant tree-trimming materials.
  • If you have kids or pets, place sharp or breakable ornaments higher up on the tree.
  • Many holiday plants can be poisonous to people and pets. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly berries are among those that should be avoided or displayed out of reach.
  • When decorating with candles, use fire-resistant holders and place them where they won’t be knocked over. Never leave a candle unattended.
  • While decorating, use a ladder or step stool, and make sure it’s sturdy and follow directions. When you’re outdoors, have someone hold the ladder steady for you.


FACT: Nearly 60 percent of people plan to host guests in their homes during this holiday season. From 2004 to 2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 154,700 home-cooking fires per year. Unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires. (Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International)

  • Follow basic food safety rules: wash your hands, utensils and preparation surfaces often; cook foods to a safe temperature; refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours; and never leave cooking food unattended.
  • If alcohol is part of your celebration, provide rides home to anyone who needs one.
  • Check your smoke detectors to make sure they’re working.


Give yourself the gifts of savings and safety. If your home has smoke detectors or fire alarms, you may qualify for a discount of up to 15% on your homeowners insurance.