How to Prevent Common Holiday Home Hazards

Deck the halls, bake the cookies, and trim the tree – with extreme caution, of course! When decorating for the holidays, it’s important to practice safety measures to prevent injuries or damage. Here are some simple tips to keep your home full of more cheer and less chaos.

Holiday Season Safety Tips

Check your lights

Stringing colorful lights on the tree is one of the most quintessential traditions of the season. However, it’s crucial to always inspect the lights before you hang them up and, more importantly, before you plug them in. Be sure to check for frayed wires, cracked bulbs, and broken sockets, all of which can cause a fire or electrocution. Many families also decorate the outside of their homes with dazzling lights. In addition to checking the lights before hanging them outdoors, be sure your gutters are cleared of debris, leaves, and other flammable objects.

Practice ladder safety

Speaking of hanging lights – and even the star atop the tree – don’t do it alone! Practice ladder safety to avoid slips and falls. Ensure the ladder is in good condition and securely placed on a firm, flat surface. For extra safety, have someone hold the ladder still and hold onto any supplies you may need so your hands aren’t too full. Close ladders and stow them in a secure place when they’re not in use to avoid kids climbing up them without supervision. If it’s in your budget, consider hiring a professional crew to hang your lights and set up your delicate decorations.

Cook with caution

Cooking-related fires spike on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in the U.S.

Remember kitchen safety to avoid injury or illness.  

  • Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended.
  • If kids are helping in the kitchen, give them age appropriate tasks, keep them away from hot surfaces and sharp knives, and make sure they are always supervised.
  • Use a timer and follow recipes closely to ensure the best possible main dishes, sides, and desserts for your family and guests.
  • If you’re preparing meat for your festive spread, always use a meat thermometer to ensure it is thoroughly cooked through and safe to eat. Undercooked meat, especially poultry such as turkey and chicken, can cause severe food poisoning. Wrap up leftovers and store in the refrigerator within 2 hours of serving.

Prep your fireplace

During the cold Wisconsin winters there are few activities better than cozying up in front of the fireplace with a blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. If you have a wood burning fireplace take precautions to keep your home safe.

  • Make sure the chimney is swept before lighting your fireplace.
  • Clean the flue and ensure it’s open so smoke and gases can disperse as they should.
  • For an added layer of safety, place a wired screen in front of the fireplace to prevent flying sparks and airborne embers.
  • Only burn split, dried hardwood – not the wood from your holiday tree, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, nor wrapping paper. These materials are not meant to be ignited in fireplaces and can therefore burn intensely and cause unpredictable, fast-spreading flash fires.

Keep an eye on candles

Candles are another beautiful, pleasantly aromatic, celebratory décor that involve fire. That being said, never light candles near your holiday tree, as an open flame near a dry tree is a major fire hazard. (Hint: You can tell if your tree is drying out if its needles are shedding.) Instead, keep candles on sturdy tables or countertops with a stone coaster underneath them. The National Fire Protection Association reports that one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles and that two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source. As with anything that entails flames, never leave candles unattended, especially with children or pets at home.

Prevent moldy trees

Did you know that holiday trees produce mold that can trigger allergic reactions? If you get a real tree each year, thoroughly shake it, hose it down, spray it with a mold-resistant sealant and let it fully dry before bringing it inside to decorate. If you prefer artificial trees, watch out for dust that accumulates while trees are in storage. It’s highly recommended to keep an air purifier in the room to help clear the air of pesky substances that cause sneezing and wheezing.

Keep your home safe this holiday season. For more tips on how to prevent home hazards, no matter the season or occasion, contact your local Rural Mutual agent.