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Deck the Halls But Avoid the Dangers

Written by Ankin Law Office

Holiday decorations pose increased risks for house fires and personal injuries from burns, electric shock, falls, cuts and abrasions, and poison.

Stay Safe During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, festivities and family gatherings often give way to serious injuries when safety is overlooked. Christmas trees, holiday plants, indoor and outdoor decorations, and family dinners contribute to many injuries caused by hidden dangers.

Holiday Fire Hazards

Holiday lights and decorations add holiday atmosphere and festive charm to a home, but when used improperly they can result in severe injuries, costly property damages, and even death. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are twice as many home accidents and fires during the holiday season than any other time of year. National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) statistics show that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees each year between 2013 and 2017. These fires caused an average of 15 serious injuries, 3 fatalities, and over $10 million in property damages each year.

Christmas Trees

According to NFPA, Christmas trees account for a large percentage of home fires every holiday season, and the results can be catastrophic to people and animals:

  • One out of every 52 reported home fires that start with Christmas trees result in the death of a person or pet
  • Faulty or damaged electrical equipment causes 44% of Christmas tree fires
  • Faulty heat sources like small space heaters cause 25% of Christmas tree fires
  • Candles that are too close to the tree cause 20% of Christmas tree fires
  • Two out of five Christmas tree fires start in the home living room
  • Dried out Christmas trees account for 75% of fires that occur in December and January

Holiday Decorations

Holiday decorations such as Christmas lights, wreaths, garland, tinsel, and tree ornaments can easily start fires. Most of these fires occur when decorations are placed to close to heat sources or candles. Three out of five candle fires start when decorations, curtains, furniture, bedding, or mattresses catch fire. Candles fires around the country peak every December, with two main days – Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Outdoor lighting and extension cords account for many severe falls seen by Chicago slip and fall lawyers during the holidays. Every year, hundreds of people end up in the hospital due to falls from rooftops, trees, and ladders while installing outdoor holiday lights. Falls are also caused by extension cords that present tripping hazards indoors and outdoors.

Holiday Meals

Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day are peak times for personal injuries caused by cooking holiday meals. Each year, home cooking equipment causes 19% of holiday fires, as well as serious cuts and burns to children and adults. Hot grease and oil, faulty extension cords, and unattended stovetops cause the majority of holiday kitchen fires and personal injuries.

Holiday Safety Tips

The holiday season is a busy time when safety is often given little thought. Following holiday safety tips will prevent accidents and injuries that put loved ones and pets in the hospital and cause costly damages to property. It’s important to make holiday safety a priority in the home.

Christmas Trees and Greenery

When purchasing a live Christmas tree, people should choose a tree with green, fresh needles that are not shedding. To minimize the risk of fire, the tree should be given fresh water every day. The tree should be placed at least three feet away from heating sources like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, and candles. According to the USFA, it takes less than 30 seconds for a dry Christmas tree to engulf an entire room in flames. Live trees are highly flammable due to needles and sap.

Poinsettias are popular house plants during the holiday season, but their leaves are poisonous. People should keep these plants away from children and pets who can become very sick by ingesting a leaf.

Lights and Decorations

Before installing outdoor or indoor holiday lights, people should check for damaged cords and faulty plugs that cause electric shock. Faulty extension cords or cords that are not UL-rated for fire safety should be discarded. When hanging light strings, people should not connect more than three strings end to end. Outdoor lighting should be UL-rated and specified for outdoor use. To reduce fire risk, it’s best to attach outdoor lights with UL-rated clips or hangers instead of nails or staples that can damage wiring. 

When installing outdoor lighting around rooftops or in trees, a sturdy, safe ladder is essential to prevent falls and severe injuries. During the holidays, cuts and bruises, puncture wounds, fractures, and broken bones, and head trauma are common injuries seen by slip and fall lawyers.

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