The very objects that brighten the holiday season can darken festivities with the treat of accidental fire or injury if used improperly. Electrical decorations such as light strings, animated ornaments and figures are certainly enjoyable. However, they should be used and displayed with the utmost care. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 1,500 people made emergency room visits last holiday season.
Each year, an estimated 35 million American families bring real Christmas Trees into their homes. Though the tree symbolizes a part of our holiday custom it can also be one of the most dangerous hazards in our homes. Once inside, a real tree has to endure many hazards such as electrical lights, fireplaces, radiators, heating ducts, television sets and other hear sources than can prematurely dry your tree. A dry Christmas tree can ignite and burn within seconds. So when you pick a tree, freshness is the key. A fresh tree is not as flammable as an older tree which is more likely to be dry. The best way to get a fresh tree is to cut it yourself. But if you are looking at pre-cut trees, you can use these tests to help judge its freshness:
- Lift the tree and tap the trunk on the ground; only a few needles should fall. The trunk should be sticky with sap.
- Bend a few needles in half. If the needles bend but don't break, the tree is probably fresh.
- Once you bring the tree inside your home, you should try these precautions to keep it fresh. Remember, real Christmas trees require lots of water. When you're ready to put your tree up, cut a one or two inch diagonal slice off the bottom of the trunk. This will allow your tree to absorb more water to preserve its freshness.
- Use a tree stand with a wide base to prevent falling.
- Fill the stand with fresh water daily.
- The tree should be installed away from heat sources such as radiators, heating ducts and fireplaces.
- If you use an artificial tree, be sure it's flame retardant. Be aware, however, that even flame resistant artificial tress can catch fire - especially if they have years' of dust built up on them. Wash your artificial tree each year and store the parts in plastic bags.
Lights make the holiday season brighter, but their improper use can also darken the season, or wo rse. So keep these tips in mind when you're hanging the lights:
- Be sure all holiday lights bear the label of an independent testing laboratory on the factory label.
- Mixing and matching lights can create a fire hazard, so keep outside lights outside and inside lights inside.
- Check all bulbs, sockets, cords, wires and plugs to make sure nothing is cracked, broken, frayed, or loose.
- Make sure cords are not in traffic areas, where people could trip over them, or under carpets or rugs or pinched behind or under furniture, or near heaters since wires could overheat and catch surrounding material on fire. Never nail or staple them to a wall, baseboard or any other object.
- Check each set of lights by setting it on a nonflammable surface and plugging it in for 10-15 minutes to see that the lights do not melt or smoke.
- Do not overload electrical outlets. Check for outlets that have loose fitting plugs which can overheat and lead to fire. Make sure your plugs fit securely into your outlets, and never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock. Never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn't fit. Plugs should fit securely into outlets.
- Position light bulbs so they are not in direct contact with needles or ornaments. They should be kept away from curtains and other flammable material.
- Keep electrical lights, cords and plugs away from the water under the tree.
- All decorations inside and outside of your home should be unplugged before you leave or go to bed.
- Never use electrical lights on a metal Christmas tree.
Candles are significant in the celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanza. Unfortunately, as the popularity of candles has increased, so too has the number of fires they cause. Consider taking the following precautions if you decide to use candles:
- Install candles in holders that will not tip. Light the candles only when they are secure in the holders.
- Never place or burn candles on your Christmas tree. Candles should be kept well away from curtains and draperies and never put candles in windows or near exits.
- Keep a candle's flame away from clothing and other flammables.
- Candles should never be left burning unattended or within reach of children and should be totally extinguished before you leave your home or go to sleep.
Consider how safe your decorations are, and remove items that could cause potential risks to your family, small children and pets. Ask yourself these questions as you decorate a tree or place items around the house:
- Are fragile glass ornaments or decorations that children might mistake for candy out of reach?
- Is tinsel hung on low branches of the tree? This may be a choking hazard.
- Are you using older ornaments made of toxic materials such as lead-based paints?
- Are you using ornaments or garland made of a metal substance? They are potential electrical shock hazards.
- Before you began decorating did you read all the instructions regarding installation and maintenance of the electrical decorations you are using?
- Have you checked the markings on your electrical decorations to determine the maximum number of decorative light strings that may be connected together?
With all the decorations and the increased risk for fire that they pose during the holidays, please make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
Tips and Precautions for Toy Safety this Holiday Season
One of the best things about the holiday season are the smiles on the faces of tiny t ots when they see the year's new toys. It's important for parents and gift-givers to take the time to read age-appropriate labels when choosing toys, as this information could save a child's life or save them from injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 144,000 children are, treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for toy-related injuries.
Last year the CPSC required labels to be put on all toys marketed for children from 3 to 6 years old if the toys pose a choking hazard to children under age 3. These labels let you know that a toy is not safe for younger children and why. Before CPSC issued these requirements, it was more difficult for consumers to know whether toys for older children could be a danger to younger kids.
The following tips will help consumers choose appropriate toys for children this holiday season:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skill, and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.
- For infants, toddlers, and all children who still mouth objects, avoid toys with small parts which could pose a fatal choking hazard.
- For all children under the age 8, avoid toys that have sharp edges, points, or long strings.
- Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under age 8.
- Be a label reader. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide.
- Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, nose, and other potential small parts.
- Discard plastic wrappings on toys immediately, before they become deadly playthings.
By using common sense and these safety suggestions, holiday shoppers can make informed decisions when purchasing toys for children.
BB Gun Safety
This holiday season many young boys will become the proud owners of their first BB gun. Parents need to know when they five their children BB guns, that many have a velocity faster than low-grade handguns and that the pellets can penetrate a child's vital organs. Medical journals estimate that as many as 30,000 BB gun-related injures occur each year. Children are more vulnerable to BB gun injuries than adults, because their muscles are less developed and may not protect internal organs. That is what happened when in the summer of 1999, two young boys, aged 6 and 8, went into a field of tall grass outside their central Ohio village, each carrying their BB gun. The boys sat down to rest with their guns across their laps, when one of the boys turned and brushed the trigger of his gun. Tragically, the shot hit the other boy in the chest, and the pellet punctured an artery and lodged in his lung. He died a short time later.
This incident might seem like freak accident, but serious injuries form BB guns are common, said a physician at Children's Hospital in Columbus. People worry about assault weapons, but BB guns cause thousand more injuries each year and some result in death.