Tips for a Safer Holiday Season

With all the shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating and spending time with friends and loved ones, it’s safe to say that the holidays are one of the more stressful periods of the year. It’s also one of the more dangerous.

Fire hazards, choking hazards, dangerous toys, slips and falls and food allergies are all things that modern Americans have to deal with while making preparations for the holiday season. (There are also the occasional consumer riots over things like Tickle Me Elmo’s or Play Station 3’s, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to the homefront.)

The Law Firm of Lewis and Tompkins would like to offer you the following tips in order to minimize the danger of household accidents. These are all simple methods of making sure that your holidays are as safe as possible.

Fire Hazards

Fire is one of the biggest risks for the holiday season. From late November to New Years Eve, there is a 39% increase in household fires. Electric lights and candles abound in the average home during the month of December, to say nothing of either the large tree in the living room or the nine candles placed side by side. You can also factor in that the kitchen is probably the busiest room in the house. Here are a few things to be aware of:

Lights: While many of us prefer the older, bigger holiday light bulbs, you should remember that they stopped making them a long time ago. If you still have a string or two that work, they are probably at least a decade old. Older bulbs and older wiring are more likely to short out, which can cause sparks or fires. Considering that many people string these lights along bushes or trees, the potential hazards are enormous. We recommend making sure that your lights are less than three years old, and that they are the newer, smaller models.

Candles: Nothing makes a home feel more cozy than a few well placed candles. However, The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) reports candle fire incidents occur most often in the bedroom (45.2%), then in the family room (17.5%) and the bathroom (11.2%). The kitchen accounts for 6.3% of candle fire incidents. NFIRS also reports that the materials most often ignited by candles are cabinetry (9.4%); bedding (blankets, sheets, comforters, etc.) (7.7%); curtains and drapery (7.2%); mattresses & pillows (5.5%). In order to enjoy the use of candles as safely as possible, please follow these tips:

  • Never place a burning candle near something that can catch fire.
  • Keep burning candles out of the reach of children of pets.
  • Keep candles away from drafts and vents.
  • Trim wicks to ¼" prior to each use.
  • Don’t burn candles more than four hours at a time.
  • Extinguish taper or pillar candles when they get within 2" of their holders.
  • Always use containers that have been made for candle usage.
  • Discontinue use of a container candle when ½" of wax remains.
  • Keep matches, wick trimmings and foreign objects out of the candle wax.

Fireplace Hazards: The image of stockings hanging on the mantle of a roaring fireplace is one that is quintessentially American. While a fireplace can be an enjoyable addition to the home over the holidays, they are by no means free of danger. A chimney should be professionally swept at least once a year. A dirty chimney can build up with soot, which can catch fire very easily. Fireplaces should also be equipped with screens that can keep sparks from shooting out. This is especially important if you have hung stockings on the mantel. Stockings should also be hung well away from any exposed flame. Also, if the tree is in the same room as the fireplace, make sure that any tinsel or wrapping paper is kept well away from exposed flame.

Hazards for Children

Ornaments: If you have toddlers or children three and under, making sure that the ornaments on your tree are large and preferably unbreakable can go a long way towards making the holiday safe. Smaller ornaments can easily become choking hazards, and glass ornaments are easily breakable. Although this might be time consuming, you should also consider using string to hang ornaments. The hooks that many ornaments use are easily detachable, and can also very easily become choking hazards.

Toys: It would be ideal if every toy manufacturer used the safest materials and made sure that every product was 100% safe. For the most part, many of them do exactly that, but every year there are still toys that slip through the cracks. Every year, a group called World Against Toys Causing Harm releases a list of toys that are the most likely to cause childhood injuries, or even deaths. Similarly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of product safety recalls. Printing out a list of these toys and recalls would be a good idea before you go shopping.

Cooking Hazards

The kitchen is usually the busiest room in the house over the holiday season. Parties and extended family dinners lead to shopping, prep work and cooking. One very simple action to ensure that everything is safe for your guests is to determine whether or not any of them have any food allergies. Knowing in advance can not only make sure that your guests can all enjoy your cooking, but can prevent any bad allergic reactions. Many people suffer severe allergies to holiday staples like nuts, so be careful what you grind up and put in the eggnog.

The Law Firm of Lewis and Tompkins wish you a happy and safe holiday season. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our clients for placing their trust in us.

As always, if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact our offices for a free legal assessment today.

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