The holidays are a time for celebrating. Many decorate their home, invite family and friends over, probably make plans for a delicious holiday spread, and prepare to revel in all the season has to offer. It truly is a wonderful time of year. However, there is often a lot of time, planning, and decorating that goes into making holiday events a success. Educating and preparing yourself before you take on the holiday tasks will help keep you and your family safe this holiday season.

Electrical/Lighting

Even though many people might not think about it, electricity plays a huge part in your holiday season. The most notable is decorative lights. There is a lot of different exterior and interior lighting options for the holidays. On the exterior, several people choose to set up outside lighting displays. For the interior, many light their tree(s) and have extra lighting in decorations.

For the exterior, if you plan to put up lights outside, be sure you are using lights that have been certified as safe for using outdoors. Attach lights to your home and/or other outside structures with the correct hooks and clips that are designed for that purpose. Do not nail or tack light strands as it can expose wires and create a fire hazard. To avoid possible shock, all the outdoor electric decorations should be plugged into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).

For interior lighting, start by checking trees, garland, or any decorations for damage to the lines, such as frayed cords or broken and missing light bulbs. Try to find decorations that are made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials to avoid fire dangers. Keep your kids and pets safe by keeping them away from strands of lights and other electrical decorations. It is always a great idea to turn off your lights while you are away from home or when you go to bed. There are a variety of timers that will help automate this task.

Fireplaces

Warming yourself by the fire is great this time of year and the warm glowing fire creates a cozy holiday atmosphere. It is always a good idea to have your fireplace and chimney flue inspected before lighting the first fire each year. Make sure your flue is open before starting a fire to avoid smoke in the home. Also, keep anything flammable a safe distance from the fireplace. Do not burn large amounts of wrapping paper as it can result in a flash fire that burns quickly and causes intense heat.

Trees

Christmas trees tend to be the heart of a holiday celebration. Everyone gathers around this focal point to give gifts to one another. They are beautiful and give families a chance to show some personality. Due to this, there are a lot of options available for trees. If choosing an artificial tree, be sure to look for a label that says “fire-resistant.” If purchasing a live or real tree, check for freshness by looking at the quality of the needles. The needles of a fresh tree will be hard to pull from the branch and should not break when you bend them between your fingers. Dry trees are more likely to become a fire risk.

Once your tree is selected, it is important to find the perfect place in your home to display the tree. It is important to remember a few things as you are pondering tree placement. Keep the tree away from fireplaces, any type of radiators, and portable heaters. These can dry out any tree and cause a fire concern. Look for a location that is out of the main traffic of your home and make sure you are not blocking any usable doorways. Also, consider spaces that keep trees away from small children and pets. Keep cords neat and tidy as well to avoid any tripping hazards.

If you have chosen a live tree, cut a couple inches off the trunk before placing it in a tree stand. This will allow for better water absorption. Always keep water in the stand base to keep the tree from drying out. This drying process can happen faster during the winter months when your heat is running. Also, be sure the base is steady so that your tree does not tip.

Decorations

You most likely have a vision of what you would like to make your home look like for the holidays. Creating this ambiance with seasonal decorations makes the holidays even more enjoyable. As you start to make plans, choose decorations that are safe for your situation. Look for flame-resistant and non-combustible décor if you have lights nearby. If you have small children or curious pets in your home or coming to visit, do not use any sharp or breakable decorations or décor with small parts that are in reach. Any decorations that resemble anything edible, such as cookies or candies, should also be kept up high or out of sight lines.

Entertaining

Whether you are hosting a holiday gathering or just attending, there are a few things to consider that will keep everyone safe and create an enjoyable experience. Entertaining is a major component of the holidays. For many, sharing a meal with family and friends is a way to show love. As the meal is being prepared, remember to keep an eye on the oven/range. This appliance is used much more during the holidays and is the leading cause of home fires in the United States due to unattended cooking. This would be a good time to review your fire escape plan with your family, including checking your fire alarms. Also, be aware of hot zones in the kitchen and educate kids about staying safe and keeping areas clear.

Security

The holidays are known for gifting to neighbors, family, and friends. Sadly, this invites theft. It is important to think through extra security during this time of year as temptations are higher. If you do not already, lock your home and vehicle doors. Make sure your security system is functioning properly. When having gifts delivered while you are away, make arrangements to have them placed out of eyesight or have a trusted friend or family member put them in a secure place. If you will be traveling for the holidays, let key family members or friends know and keep your travel plans off social media. Leave a light or two on inside the home and have a close neighbor or family member stop by to check on things to create a presence.

Creating life-long memories and spending time with loved ones during the holiday season is an incredible experience. From holiday lighting and decorating to meals and gifts, those memories will be cherished. Decorating outside and inside your home helps elevate these holiday events. Prepare ahead of time so you can relax and truly soak in the holiday moments with family and friends.