Health Department, Safe Kids Kansas remind residents to deck the halls safely for holidays

Keep safety in mind when decorating for the holidays.

Keep safety in mind when decorating for the holidays. by Karrey Britt

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department along with Safe Kids Kansas reminds parents and caregivers to take a few precautions during the holidays.

Decorations, especially candles and electrical lighting, can be a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that decorations, excluding Christmas trees, are the item first ignited in an average of 1,170 reported home structure fires per year. Half of these fires occurred because the decoration was too close to a heat source. Forty-five percent of these incidents were started by candles. The top five days for home candle fires were Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Halloween and Dec. 23.

Pay attention to labels when choosing your lighting. “Decorative lighting should be labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab,” said Cherie Sage, director of Safe Kids Kansas. “If it’s not labeled for outdoor use, don’t use it outdoors.”

The National Fire Protection Agency said that Christmas trees, both natural and artificial, are the item first ignited in an estimated 240 home structure fires per year.

If you decorate a tree, Safe Kids Kansas recommends these precautions:

• Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.

• Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times or consider an artificial tree. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent. LED lights burn cooler than incandescent lights and pose a lower risk of fire.

• Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.

• Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

• Never leave burning candles unattended. Don’t put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes. Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach. Battery-operated flameless candles are an alternative that does not have a fire risk.

Tips to prevent accidental poisoning:

• Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended. Don’t forget to store all medications, including those for children, out of reach.

• Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow sprays are also harmful if inhaled.

• Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful if eaten. If a child eats any part of a non-food plant, call the Poison Control Center] at 800-222-1222.

For more information, visit www.safekids.org.

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