the house front door decorated with Christmas wreath, lights and a snowman

At Home

Prevent Home Hazards During the Holidays with these Safety Tips

The holiday season is an exciting, but extremely hectic time. Running from mall to mall, gift shopping, decorating, and entertaining can mean losing sight of some important safety precautions to take around the home. So, before you untangle the jumble of holiday lights, pull out your festive decorations, and set your sights on cooking a spread that would make Martha Stewart blush; take some time to be vigilant. Make sure you and your family understand how this jubilant time of year can increase the risks to your home’s safety and security. Follow these simple steps to keep your home hazard-free and your holidays safe and merry!

Children baking with their parents in the kitchen at home

’Tis the Season to Cook Safely

Did you know that cooking fires are a leading cause of home fires in Canada? Every year, they destroy thousands of homes across the country and cause serious injuries and death (according to the Government of Canada). Here are a few basic tips to help keep your family safe:

  • Never leave your stove unattended and turn it off if you leave your kitchen.
  • Don’t pour water on a grease fire. Smother the flames by sliding a metal lid over the pan.
  • Dispose of grease safely as it can cause build-up in your pipes and lead to sewer back-ups. To discard of left over oils and fats, let it cool and harden, and then scrape it (along with food scraps) into your Green Bin. Larger amounts of grease should be disposed of by collecting it in a sealed container and dropping it off at your nearest household hazardous waste depot (check your municipality for your nearest location).
  • Do not use turkey fryers indoors.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Safety

Fire Friendly

  • Inspect and clean chimney flues frequently and ensure the flue is open before lighting a fire.
  • Use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  • Never burn wrapping paper in the fireplace as it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Don’t use Christmas trees as firewood. Use only seasoned and dried wood.

The Basics

  • Install new batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and test to ensure they’re working properly (this should be done at least twice a year).
  • Make sure that all family members can locate and operate fire extinguishers.
  • Create or review a fire evacuation plan with your family members.
  • Plan ahead when entertaining. Don’t drink and drive, and make sure there is a designated driver or alternative transportation options for guests.

Deck the Halls Carefully

Mother helping little girl decorate Christmas tree

It’s Easy Being Green

  • Make sure natural trees you choose for decorating are fresh (you can tell if it’s fresh if the needles are hard to pull off) so it will be less of a fire hazard.
  • Water fresh trees daily so they don’t dry out.
  • Check to see that artificial trees are labelled as fire resistant.
  • Place trees away from heat sources and secure them in a sturdy stand.
  • Discard your fresh tree as soon as the holidays are over, or when the needles start to fall (check your municipality for disposal days and recycling programs).

Bling it On with Care

  • Check your decorations to make sure they are flame resistant.
  • Keep sharp or breakable ornaments and those with small parts away from young children.
  • Hang fragile ornaments on higher tree limbs and out of young children’s reach.
  • Don’t leave wrapping paper, metal ties, bags, and ribbons around children as they could pose a choking or suffocation hazard.

Jewish holiday hannukah symbols - menorah and wooden dreidels. Copy space background.

Candle Caution

  • Never leave burning candles unattended and always place them out of reach of children.
  • Don’t use lit candles to decorate trees.
  • Keep candles in sturdy holders on a flat surface and away from anything flammable like curtains.
  • Extinguish all candles before you go to bed. You may wish to opt for battery-powered candles instead as a safer alternative.

Merry and Bright

  • Inspect your holiday lights and throw away any that are broken (check with your municipality to see how to dispose of them safely).
  • Use lights that have the accredited certification agency mark such as CSA, cUL or cETL.
  • Ensure that indoor lights and decorations are only used inside. Not all lights are designed to handle the elements.
  • Don’t plug too many lights into outlets or extension cords.
  • Never run extension cords under rugs or furniture as it prevents the cord from releasing heat, which could cause a fire.
  • Don’t leave cords hanging anywhere where they can be pulled down, and keep them out of the way to prevent tripping, overheating and fraying.
  • Throw away cords that are frayed or have exposed wires.
  • Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lights before you leave the house or go to bed, or use a timer to switch lights on and off automatically.

man hanging a wreath on the second floor window

Rockin’ (Cautiously) Around the Outside of Your Home

  • Take basic precautions if you use a ladder to decorate the exterior of your home:
    • Inspect the ladder for loose or missing screws, hinges, and/or bolts before using.
    • Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder (metal ladders conduct electricity) and open the spreaders and shelf fully.
    • Ensure the ladder is placed on a firm, non-slippery surface to provide a stable base.
    • Wear appropriate footwear with grips for climbing.
    • Decorate with a friend or family member who can spot you and help your from losing your balance.
  • Make sure exterior cords and decorations are marked for outdoor use and keep them clear of snow and standing water.
  • Never decorate near power lines.

Are you taking the right steps to help protect your home and valuables this holiday season? Share your holiday home safety tips (and let us know how you plan to spend the holidays!) in the comments below.