AG: Avoid common holiday hazards


This year, hang the stockings by the chimney with care. And take care with the Christmas tree, the outdoor lights and all the other decorations too.

Holiday-related injuries or fires affect thousands of Americans each December and cause millions of dollars in property damage. Most incidents are avoidable, though, if consumers follow a few simple safety precautions when preparing for the holidays.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert with safety recommendations for Arkansas consumers who are decorating for the holidays.

“All of us would prefer to spend our holidays with our loved ones rather than having to deal with issues from accidents related to holiday decorations,” McDaniel said. “Such accidents are easily avoidable if consumers recognize the hazards and use caution.”

Because consumers typically light more candles this time of year, December is the peak time of year for home candle fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. About 11 percent of all candle fires in December begin with holiday decorations.

McDaniel listed these tips to help Arkansas consumers keep their holidays safe and free of injury:

Candles and fireplaces

• Always put out candles before leaving the house, leaving a room or going to bed. Never leave a candle unattended.

• Place candles on a stable surface so that they cannot be easily knocked over.

• Keep candles away from other items that can burn easily, such as Christmas trees, decorations, giftwrap, curtains or furniture.

• Use nonflammable candleholders.

• Before lighting a fireplace, check to make sure the flue is open, and remove all decorations, wrapping paper and greens from the fireplace area.

• Keep a screen in front of the fireplace at all times when a fire is burning.

Trees

• When buying a real tree, make sure it is fresh, meaning that it is green and has needles that are difficult to pull from the branches. The trunk end of a fresh tree should be sticky with resin. The tree should not lose needles if tapped on the ground.

• Make sure to keep live trees away from fireplaces, radiators and heaters. Otherwise, the heat may cause the tree to dry out and increase fire risk.

• Always keep the tree stand filled with water.

• Before purchasing an artificial tree, make sure the tree is labeled as “fire resistant.”

Lights

• Check each set of lights, no matter whether new or old, to make sure there are no cracked or broken sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard problem lights or repair them before use.

• Use lights that are labeled as having been tested for safety by an independent testing laboratory.

• Never use more than three standard-size light sets per extension cord.

• When using Christmas lights outdoors, make sure the lights are certified for outdoor use. Always fasten the lights securely to protect from wind damage.

• Never use nails or tacks to secure outdoor lights. Only use insulated staples or hooks.

• Turn off lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Decorations

• Only use noncombustible or flame-retardant materials to decorate a tree.

• Keep decorations with small, removable parts or decorations that are breakable out of the reach of children.

• In homes with small children, avoid decorations that resemble candy or food and might cause a child to eat them.

For more information about this or other consumer-related issues, visit www.GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 482-8982.