Decorate with care this holiday season

special to the Herald-LeaderDecember 15, 2013 

Hannan, Sherri

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In addition to food, family and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.

Once all of your decorations are up, it is important to keep a close eye on both children and the decorations to ensure a safe holiday season.

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

 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.

 Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.

 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.

 Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees. Candles caused an estimated 12,900 home fires in the United States between 2005 and 2009. There are approximately 450 home fires involving Christmas trees, holiday lights and other decorative lighting each year, according to data from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association.

Never leave lit candles unattended. Do not put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes, and be sure to keep matches and lighters locked out of children's reach. If you would like decorative lighting, make sure it is labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab, and only use it outdoors if it's labeled for outdoor use. Using battery-operated flameless candles is an alternative that does not pose a risk.

Young children have a tendency to put everything in their mouths. Help prevent unintentional choking during the holidays by keeping small decorations out of reach of young children.

For more information about safe decorating during the holidays, contact Safe Kids Fayette County at (859) 323-1153 or visit SafeKids.org.

Sherri Hannan; Safe Kids Fayette County coordinator.

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