Holiday Hazards & Safety Solutions

Even though stockings may be hung by the chimney with care, that doesn’t mean a home is safe from holiday hazards.

“To get into the holiday spirit, many families celebrate with decorations and additional heating sources they might not use at other times of the year,” said Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert. “Though it is great fun to celebrate, families also need to take the proper precautions to prevent fires and injuries.”

While decking the halls this season and preparing for parties, Hanson recommends keeping a watchful eye on the following:


Whether they are on a menorah or just used as festive lighting around the house, be sure to keep a watchful eye on candles. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and $539 million in estimated direct property damage each year.

To keep your home safe, never leave burning candles unattended and place them away from the reach of children. Make it a part of your routine to check that all candles are extinguished before you go to bed. Keep fire extinguishers close at hand. If you are intimidated by conventional home fire extinguishers, consider First Alert’s Tundra Fire Extinguishing Spray, which offers an easy-to-use (just point and spray) and easy-to-store alternative.


According to the USFA, Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage.

If there is a fire, the Christmas tree often is the first thing to ignite – especially if it is dried out. Make sure that you have a sturdy stand for the tree so that it is not in danger of falling over on children or pets. Place Christmas trees away from heating sources and candles. In addition, assign a member of the family to be on water duty and make sure the tree always has plenty to drink!


More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. (USFA)

When using a fireplace, be sure to use a sturdy metal screen to avoid sparks and embers from escaping. Make sure your chimney is clean (have a professional check each year) and that your flue is open. As an added precaution, check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before the holiday season by testing function and replacing batteries as needed. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced an alarm, change it. Smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years, and CO alarms every five years.


Be very careful, especially when using older lights. Every year more than 50,000 home fires are started by electrical problems (Home Safety Council).

Be sure to use appropriate indoor or outdoor lights that have been tested and approved by an independent laboratory (typically indicated on the product packaging). If you live in an older house, it might be a good idea to get a professional check-up from an electrician before loading up outlets.

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The First Alert Web site has more safety tips and information.