Twinkling lights, glowing candles and elaborate outdoor displays all provide much anticipated cheer during the holiday season. Unfortunately, in addition to putting smiles on faces, holiday decorations also lead to thousands of emergency room visits each year.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays and forget to take the necessary precautions to stay safe,” said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12,500 emergency room visits nationally result each year because of injuries from falls, cuts and shocks while stringing lights.
Additionally, candles start about 11,600 fires each year, with many of these occurring during the holidays. Candle-related fires result annually in about 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss.
What’s more, Christmas trees are involved in another 300 or so fires each year, resulting in an average of 10 deaths, 30 injuries and more than $10 million in property loss and damage.
To help Arkansans keep the holidays merry and injury-free, McDaniel issued this week’s consumer alert with safety tips for Arkansans to use when decorating trees or enjoying other holiday staples such as candles, lights and fireplaces.
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.”
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and don’t break when bent between your fingers. The trunk end of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, space heaters and radiators.
- Keep the tree stand filled with water.
- Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards.
- Only use lights with fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets.
- Replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to ensure they are certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into homes.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples or hooks to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks.
- Turn off holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
- Choose tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
- Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid a child swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
Candles and Fireplaces
- Always use non-flammable candle holders.
- Place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- Do not leave candles unattended.
- “Fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires, contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
For more information on this or other consumer issues, contact the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General’s Office at (501) 682-2341 or (800) 482-8982 or visit our website at www.ArkansasAG.gov.