‘Tis the season to be jolly, and it’s the time of year for gift-giving, celebratory decorations, great food, and cozy warm homes. However, the holidays can be one of the most common times for fire-related emergencies and personal injuries, as well as a variety of other hidden dangers that can come with the season. Regional One Health offers the safety tips below that you can use this holiday season to keep your home and family safe.

Trees – Dried-out trees are a serious fire hazard, so when selecting a tree, be sure to choose a fresh one. Fresh trees are green and the needles are hard to pull from branches. When setting up the tree, cut a few inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood and keep the stand filled with water to keep the tree from drying out. Trim the tree’s branches as necessary. If using an artificial tree, check to make sure it is fire-resistant. Place trees away from fireplaces and heaters, and do not block traffic or doorways with them.

Lights – Check all lights before use, and be sure that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. Check for broken or loose bulbs and replace as necessary. Be sure your outdoor lights have been certified for outdoor use, fasten them securely, and be cautious when hanging or removing them. Remember to turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house.

Decorations – Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials, and choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or non-leaded metals. Never use candles to decorate a tree. Keep candles away from evergreens and other decorations, use non-flammable holders, and place them where they will not be knocked over.

Fireplaces – Before lighting a fire, check to be sure the flue is open and all decorations have been removed from the area. Inspect your fireplace and chimney prior to use and have them cleaned if necessary. Never burn gift wrapping or other paper, as a flash fire can result when papers ignite quickly and burn intensely. Use only dry, seasoned wood.

In the kitchen – Never leave food cooking unattended. Keep the stove top and oven clean and clear of flammable materials and other clutter. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes and roll up your sleeves when cooking. Fully cook meats and poultry, wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly, and refrigerate leftovers promptly. Use caution and follow instructions when using a turkey fryer. Be careful of scalds and burns while preparing food.

Other safety tips – Be cautious when using heaters, and keep them a safe distance from people and other objects. Be sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly. Remember your escape plan and “stop, drop, and roll” in case of fire. Have a fire extinguisher readily available.

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Fire Administration