Your home is a place of security, safety and happiness – especially during the holiday season. While you are working to create a warm and festive atmosphere, safety must always be a top consideration. With a little preparation, your holiday gatherings and ambiance will be sure to delight!
Christmas Tree Safety
A dry Christmas tree can be a fire hazard. Many people burn fires or candles in their home around Christmas, not to mention string lights on the Christmas tree itself. A dry tree around these potential fire-causing elements can be a disaster waiting to happen.
When buying a Christmas tree, do a few tests to make sure it is not dried out and therefore susceptible to catching fire. First, test to see if the needles fall off very easily or snap when bent. Next, check the bottom of the trunk to make sure it is sticky with resin. Finally, test the strength of the limbs by shaking the tree; only a few needles should fall off.
Remember to regularly water the tree so it does not dry out while in your home. Heaters and fires inside the house can cause the tree to dry out more quickly. A trick some people use is to add Sprite or ginger ale to the water as well because the sugar helps with sap production and keeps the tree moist.
If you prefer an artificial tree there is still a fire risk. Be sure to check the label before purchasing a tree to make sure it is fire resistant. This does not mean that the tree is completely immune to fire damage, though, so still take caution.
For both real and artificial trees, never burn candles or any other sort of open flame on the tree itself. The tree should be a minimum of three feet away from heat sources, such as fire places or radiators. Make sure all fires and candles are extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.
If you have pets, it is best to put the most delicate ornaments in the upper two-thirds of the tree, where it would be harder for an animal to reach it. Very sparkly or shiny ornaments which could be enticing should also be placed higher up where a curious creature can’t reach. Some cats will climb high into the tree no matter what you do, though. If you have a mischievous feline, you can use ornament wire and wrap it around the branch a few times so the ornaments are more securely affixed to the tree.
Before you light a fire, make sure the flue is open and clean. Fireplaces should be inspected annually and cleaned periodically (the frequency of cleaning depends on how much you use your fireplace). It is a good idea to get on top of your roof about once a year to check the top of the chimney yourself to make sure there are no bird nests, tree limbs or leaves clogging the top. You should do a general check on the foundation of the chimney at this time is as well. Make sure there are no cracks and the seal with the roof is tight. Shine a flashlight down into the chimney to make sure the mortar or bricks are not crumbling.
A fire should not burn in a fireplace for more than 5 hours. Keep a window open a few inches to prevent smoke build up inside the house. While this may sound counterintuitive, the cold air drawn in from the window will go up the chimney. Burn fires with the glass door open, but the screen pulled shut. The open glass doors will allow more air to be drawn up and cool the chimney, while the screen will prevent any embers from jumping out. If you have carpet in front of your fireplace, you can get a nonflammable rug anywhere that sells fireplace supplies to place directly in front of the fire. This will protect your carpet should any sparks fly out.
New technologies make holiday safety easier every year. In addition to cooler burning LED decorative lights, flameless candles which also utilize LED have become an increasingly popular way to create the effect of candle light in a safe way. Emphasis on flame resistant materials and more widespread safety knowledge also help us celebrate the holidays in a safe way while still being able to enjoy a festive and cozy ambiance with our loved ones.
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