20 essential safety tips for the holidays

Expert tips to ensure your family stays safe this holiday season

1. Keep doors and windows closed and locked even if you’re away from your home for just a few moments.

2. When you’re out for the evening at a holiday party, leave a light and a TV on in your home.

3. If you’re going away on vacation, stop newspaper delivery services, have someone collect your mail, hire a snow-shoveling service and set up indoor lights with automatic timers.

4. Make sure the Christmas tree doesn’t obstruct doors, windows and hallways.

5. Keep the Christmas tree away from heat sources such as the fireplace, space heaters, radiators and all electrical devices.

6. Holiday decorations should be fire-resistant, noncombustible and nonconductive. For example, the combination of glass-wool and spray-on snowflakes creates an extremely combustible decoration (see more safety tips here).

7. Keep smaller decorations away from pets and young children to prevent choking.

8. Test the sturdiness of your Christmas tree so it doesn’t topple over onto children or pets.

9. Choose an artificial Christmas tree that is labeled “fire resistant.”

10. Real Christmas trees should be trimmed two inches at the trunk, and placed in water or moist sand so they don’t dry out and cause a fire hazard.
11. Keep discarded wrapping paper away from the fireplace, candles and heating devices.

12. Keep Christmas stockings away from the fireplace when it is lit.

13. Shield the fireplace with a screen to keep kids and pets away, and to keep hazardous sparks from flying out.

14. Christmas lights should be carefully scrutinized before use: make sure wires, sockets and connections are damage free.

15. Careful where you hang your lights: indoor lights are not safe for outdoor use (and vice versa). For example, electrical lights can be hazardous on metallic trees (see more safety tips here).

16. Turn off Christmas lights before you go to bed or when you’re away for extended periods of time.

17. Be extra careful not to leave candles, fireplace, stove or heaters unattended.

18. If someone comes to your front door seeking donations, ask to see identification, if the donation is tax deductible and if they can provide a receipt. Politely decline if you don’t like their answers.

19. Buckle up and drive slowly or stay off the road. Roads are slick in these cold winter months, and impaired driving rates peak during holidays.

20. If you’re driving, avoid all alcoholic beverages, and encourage driving friends and relatives to do the same.

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