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Deck the halls: A holiday safety checklist

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While you're busy shopping for gifts, mulling your cider and setting cookies out for Santa, we know you have no time to worry about holiday home emergencies. But when you mix Christmas trees and electric lights, or bring out candles and mistletoe, you should think twice about how safe your holiday decorations really are. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 14,000 people are treated in emergency rooms each year due to holiday decor-related injuries.

Here’s a checklist that will keep your home safe for the season.

  1. Christmas trees: Make sure your real tree is fresh — the needles should be green and not break when bent. You also can test its freshness by tapping the tree on the ground; if the tree doesn’t lose many needles, it’s fresh. Make sure to stand your real tree away from any heat source (including fireplaces, radiators and air vents). Keep the stand filled with water when it’s inside, and trim low branches so they are out of reach of small children. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.
  2. Lights: Make sure all lights — inside or out — have been checked for safety by an independent laboratory. New and old sets of lights should be checked for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections. Make sure you don’t plug in more than three sets of lights per extension cord and check the wires now and then to be sure they don’t get too hot. Turn all lights out when you go to bed, or when you leave your home.
  3. Tree trimmings: If you have small children, beware of ornaments that are sharp or breakable. Don’t put any tree decorations on the lowest parts of the tree where a small child could reach them.

A few more reminders:

  • Keep candles away from all other decorations, and never use them on a tree or near other foliage.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure all decorations are removed before lighting a fire.
  • If you plan to use fake snow on your windows, be sure to read the label to apply it correctly. The artificial spray can irritate lungs if you inhale it.
  • Finally, greenery — such as mistletoe with berries, holly berry and Jerusalem cherry — can be poisonous, so make sure they are out of reach of children and pets.

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