Whether you are spending the holidays at home or out-and-about, staying safe should be your top priority. Here are some helpful tips to help you make the most of this special time of year.
1. Choose the right tree
Both natural and artificial trees are made of flammable material. If choosing a natural tree, fresh-cut is the way to go—just make sure that you keep it hydrated. The telltale sign that your tree needs more water? Its needles come off easily. Set up your tree in a safe location that is far away from the fireplace or any heating systems.
If possible, opt for LED lights—they give off much less heat and are energy-efficient, so they save you money. Prevent overheating by replacing any damaged strings of lights or frayed extension cords. Don’t even think about candles! Any decorations on or near your tree should be non-conductive and, above all, non-combustible.
Last but not least, unplug everything before leaving the house or going to bed!
2. Be safety-conscious when decorating your home
If you tend to go all out on your holiday light displays, don’t skimp on outlets—one just isn’t going to cut it. Be power smart and balance the electrical load on the circuit.
Save yourself the headache and look for lights with a CSA, cUL or cETL logo. Make sure to take a look at the Healthy Canadians website for the latest safety notices and product recalls. The last thing you need is your impressive light display setting your house alight.
Keep an eye on all of your ornaments, especially around young children. Regardless of what they’re made of, they may be harmful or pose a choking hazard.
3. Amateur home chefs, be on your best behaviour
The kitchen inevitably turns into your second home over the holiday season. Good meals don’t just make themselves; they require careful care and attention. Make it through the hustle and bustle of the season by using a timer to help remind you that an element is on or the oven is running. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing in the kitchen and try not to leave any dishcloths lying on the counter near the stove.
Always keep a large lid, baking soda or, better yet, a fire extinguisher on hand to help smother any small kitchen fires. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the hood fan or try to put out the blaze with a glass of water. This will only fuel the flames and spread the fire. If you don’t think you can get the fire under control quickly, first get to a safe place and then call the fire department.
Speaking of—have you checked your fire extinguishers lately? This is a great time to check their expiry dates and ensure that they are being stored safely. Make sure that they are easily accessible and that everyone in the house knows where to find them.
4. Oh, fireplaces!
The fireplace truly makes this time of year come alive, even if it’s just displayed on your TV or laptop! However, nothing screams holiday cheer quite like an electric, wood or propane fireplace. To enjoy the comfort and warmth of your fireplace to the fullest, avoid decorating it. That’s right! Fire is meant to burn in the fireplace, not around it. Find somewhere else to hang your garland, decorative greenery and Christmas stockings! The mantel really isn’t the best place.
Has your chimney been swept? Before lighting a fire, make sure that the chimney flue is clean and free of any debris. Install a spark arrestor in front of your fireplace if it doesn’t already have a set of glass doors. But, be careful, the glass can get piping hot! The glass doors on a gas fireplace can reach a whopping 200o Celsius (400o Fahrenheit). Keep small hands or curious pets at a safe distance.
Any house with a wood or propane fireplace must have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor, especially near any bedrooms. CO detectors only last around 10 years, so make sure that you replace them as needed and test them regularly.
5. Don’t flaunt your holiday haul
So, you’ve spoiled yourself this Christmas with a brand-new flat-screen TV or high-end computer, and your kids are getting the latest video game console along with some other big-ticket items. Hold off on shouting it from the rooftops or you just might find yourself without. Consider shredding the original boxes to make their contents unrecognizable and wait until after Christmas to recycle them.
6. Keep your holiday travel plans on the down-low
Holiday safety 101: keep your travel plans offline. If you are planning to travel during the holiday season, be sure to keep your travel plans off of your social media networks. You never know who may have access to this information (date of departure and duration of your trip). Wait until you are back home to brag about the amazing time you had.
Call on a trusted neighbour to help keep an eye on your home and create the illusion of being lived in. Ask them to pick up your mail, clear your walkways and make it look like someone is home. While watering your plants or taking care of your pets, have them turn the lights on and off and occasionally open and close the curtains or blinds. Putting the lights in some of your rooms on timers is also a good way to make it seem like someone is home at different times of the day. If you leave the house for a few days, make sure to unplug your TV, computer, toaster and microwave. Always remember to leave your heat on low over the winter so that you don’t come home to frozen pipes! Another option is to have your fuel oil or propane automatically delivered to your home since you won’t be consuming nearly as much.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!