Christmas tree safety tips

It's time to put up those Christmas decorations! In December 2009 a mobile home was damaged in a fire in western Prince Edward Island. Lights on a Christmas tree are being blamed for that fire that occurred a little after 5 a.m.

In North American there are about 500 fires each year that start from Christmas trees. A report in 2010 from the US-based National Fire Protection Association say that the average 260 house fires involving Christmas trees cause 14 deaths, 26 injuries and $13.8 million in direct property damage every year.

Whether your choice is a fresh or an artificial tree you should be aware of some areas of safety concern. These would include the following:

  • When buying a live tree check freshness by running your hand over a branch. If the tree is fresh then only a few needles will fall off. These needles should bend and not break. Another test for freshness is to bang the trunk on the ground a couple of times. If a lot of needles fall off then look for another. The trunk will often have resin on it, making it sticky and fragrant. Cut one to three inches off the trunk to help the tree absorb water. If you are not decorating right away then leave it outside.
  • Your tree should be kept well away from any heat source and out of the main traffic area. If you can set it back a bit then it is less likely to be bumped and have decorations falling and possibly causing injury to one of your customers. Small children are drawn to those shiny objects. Even the most diligent of parents can be looking away at a crucial moment. Remember your duty of care is extremely high when it comes to the safety of children.
  • Use a good tree that will hold plenty of water. A 6' tree will use a gallon every two days so it is important to Keep water in the stand at all times. Some people put some bleach in the water. Others will use a commercial preservative, corn syrup or plant food.
  • Whatever type of tree you use be sure to pick a solid tree stand. Once the tree has been decorated it could go off balance quite easily. Spending a bit more for a more sturdy variety will likely save time, reduce frustration and help you keep your money for other seasonal expenses.
  • When spraying with artificial snow follow the directions carefully and avoid inhalation. Again, this is a product that you would not want a small child to be ingesting.
  • If you do choose an artificial tree it should be have a label stating it is fire retardant. Be careful to not use electric lights on a metal tree as a short could cause electrocution.
  • Each year check your lights and replace any strings that are broken or frayed. Be careful not to link more then three strands together. Consider using the newer LED lights. There is less heat, they require less electricity and you might need fewer strings.
  • Position your tree so that your cords are a short distance to the plug in. The smaller the light, the cooler the heat. Make sure all your new lights have a safety certification - Underwriters Laboratories (UL) should be shown.
  • When purchasing your ornaments consider each decoration as to how breakable, percentage of lead content and attraction to small children and pets. The newer ornaments that are ball-shaped will have a seam if they are unbreakable. There is now special wires or wraps that can be purchased to help you tie the more fragile ornaments securely into the tree.
  • You might decide to do an additional tree. A children's tree with child-proof ornaments made of fabric, plastic or other unbreakable materials is becoming more popular. This could be the more prominently displayed tree and would help to prevent mishaps with the more traditional adult-oriented tree.
  • Be careful with candles. Never use a lighted candle on a tree. Keep all candles in nonflammable containers. There are many good simulated candle lights that will flicker and give almost the same effect as a true candle.
  • When decorating trees outside then be sure to plug into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters. Only use outdoor lights for the outdoors. All outdoor lights should be fastened securely to building walls, trees, or other above the ground supports to protect the lights from wind damage. There are hooks available from hardware stores to help hang the lights or you can use insulated staples. Consider the possibility of high winds or other extreme weather. Secure for the worst conditions and rest easy about the safety of your outdoor lighting.

Whether you are decorating for your home or the business all of the above should be considered. With everything very securely and safely done you can sit back and enjoy the holiday season.