Be wise with Christmas decorations

STILLWATER – For many of us, decking the halls is a big part of making the holidays bright, but doing so safely helps guarantee the season will indeed be merry.

“While you’re decorating for the holidays, be aware some hazards could include trees, trimmings, candles, lights and fireplaces,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Live trees should be fresh – green in color and with needles hard to pull off branches or difficult to break when bent. Meanwhile artificial trees should be clearly labeled as fire resistant.

In scouting the perfect location to showcase a real or artificial tree, choose a space well away from fireplaces, vents, radiators and other heat sources, since trees dry out quickly in heated rooms, which could create a fire hazard.

Trees also should be away from foot traffic and doorways. If the tree is large, consider anchoring it to the walls or the ceiling with thin guy-wire, which is almost invisible.

“In addition to locating a safe place to set up your tree, it’s also important to make sure your decorations are noncombustible or flame resistant,” Peek said. “Also, if you’ve got little kids, try to avoid sharp, weighted or breakable ornaments, as well as ones with small pieces or that resemble candy or food.”

When it comes to lights, only use strands that have been tested by a nationally recognized laboratory such as UL. That information should be clearly marked on the label. Also pay close attention to the instructions on the label, including only using indoor lights inside the house and outdoor lights outside the home.

Before stringing lights on a tree or house, check each set for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Repair or throw away any that are damaged.

“Handle light strands carefully. They could contain lead, which could be ingested from hand-to-mouth contact or released into the air as they are being hung or taken down,” Peek said. “That means children should especially avoid touching lights and anyone who does come into contact with them should wash their hands immediately after they finish.”

Extension cords also should be checked to ensure they are in proper working order.

Candles can add a festive flair to the season. If you include any in the holiday décor, keep them on stable, heat-resistant surfaces out of the reach of pets or kids.

“Candles also should be located away from items that can easily ignite, such as trees, other decorations, wrapping paper, curtains and furniture,” Peek said. “Be sure to blow out any candles before you go to bed or leave the room or house.”

Finally, before lighting a fire in the fireplace, remove any greens or other decorations that could ignite. Also, avoid disposing of wrapping paper in the fireplace because it could cause a fire hazard.