Holiday decor safety tips

Are you overlooking hidden holiday safety hazards in your home?

Decorating for the holidays is one of the most treasured parts of the season. Many family traditions are tied to the annual trappings through picking out Christmas trees, hanging ornaments and putting lights around the house. 

While these activities can be a lot of fun and help add to the holiday spirit, some decorations can pose quite a threat when not handled properly. To make sure your family has a safe and happy holiday season, be sure to look out for these hidden safety hazards:

1. Outdoor lights
Sparkling Christmas lights adorning the outside of people's homes are a quintessential part of the season. Though there's plenty to love about these beautiful displays, they carry a great deal of risk with them, too.

"People can fall trying to hang outdoor Christmas lights."

One of the biggest dangers during this time of year comes from hanging or removing the lights from the house. According to the most recent report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, falling while hanging decorations is the largest cause for holiday-related injuries in November and December. People fall off ladders or the roof while trying to put their lights up if they aren't doing it correctly. It's important to not rush when walking on the roof or climbing a ladder. Ladders should also stand flat and even before anyone tries to climb them, and all warnings and instructions for use should be followed exactly to prevent unnecessary harm during the holidays. 

Even though outdoor lights are a long-standing tradition, there are still new trends and products that change how people decorate each year. The Federal Aviation Administration has stated concern over the use of laser lights in recent Christmas displays, according to Mashable. These lights are powerful enough that they can distract pilots. Be sure to follow the FAA laser regulations when choosing how to adorn your yard and home. 

2. Indoor lights
Strings of lights are common for indoor decorations as well, and can bring their own set of risks to the home. Malfunctioning or damaged indoor lights can lead to electrocution or house fires, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International. More than 1,100 home fires a year are attributed to lighting and electrical decorations that are put up for the holidays. 

To cut down on these risks, make sure that there are no visible frays to any wiring on your lights. Use LED bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, as they don't generate as much heat. You should also make sure not to overwhelm your electrical outlets or power strips by plugging in too many appliances, and turn off or unplug your lighting displays before you leave the house or go to bed. They should only stay on when someone is home to monitor them in case anything starts to go wrong. 

"Trees that dry out are much more prone to fires."

3. Christmas trees
An even bigger fire risks then indoor lights are Christmas trees. The ESFI reported that an average of 260 house fires are started by Christmas trees each year, causing numerous injuries and millions of dollars in damages. 

Keeping living trees well watered will help reduce fire risks. Trees that dry out are much more prone to fires than ones that are properly hydrated. They also need to be kept far away from heating sources or lit candles. Give at least 3 feet of space to ensure that the tree doesn't come into contact with a possible fire starter. 

4. Poisonous plants 
Seasonal plants are often centerpieces for holiday decor. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are all staples of a traditional Christmas display. These beautiful decorations are dangerous for pets and young children, however. Ingesting the leaves or berries from these plants can cause a number of illnesses, some of them fatal, for dogs, cats and kids alike. 

To keep your loved ones safe, keep live plants out or reach for any of your little ones. You can also opt to use fake plants instead – you may enjoy more peace of mind knowing that even if a crafty cat is able to reach your supposedly inaccessible shelf, it still won't face any dangers from what it finds. 

5. Candles
Whether your family lights the menorah, the mishumaa saba or seasonal scented candles, there's always an added fire risk when you have open flames burning. Never leave candles near a flammable source, like Christmas trees, curtains or walls. You should also never leave them unattended, so be sure to put them out when you leave. Electric candles can be a great, safe alternative to flame during the hectic holiday season so that nothing gets accidentally overlooked. 

Enjoying the beautiful decor of the holidays is an important part of the season, but your family's safety should be the highest priority. Take the time to ensure everything is displayed and operating correctly so that you can have a safe and happy holiday.