Preventing Holiday Hazards


November 23, 2015

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By Sue Torbik

While there's probably no danger of Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, the holiday season offers challenges you don't encounter during the rest of the year. Why not resolve now to keep yourself and your family safe over the winter holidays? Here are some areas you can concentrate on:

A Fresh Tree Is a Safe Tree

- Dry, dead trees are a fire hazard, so avoid selecting a tree that has already turned to a piece of firewood before it even gets to your living room. Buy a fresh tree or troop out to the tree farm to cut it down yourself. It will last longer and be safer by staying alive and moist. If you buy a pre-cut tree, hold it upright and bounce it off the ground a few times; if a spray of needles comes off the tree, pick another tree (and maybe another tree lot).

- Cut two inches from the bottom of the trunk to allow the tree to absorb moisture and water the tree daily. Be sure the tree is in a safe, non-tip stand and that it's not positioned near a fireplace, radiator or other heat source. If your tree is especially big you may need to rig guy wires to be sure it's secure.

Decorations and Fire Prevention

- Check all light strings (both old and new) for broken sockets or frayed wires before putting them on your tree. Don't overload sockets or extension cords�"no more than three strands of lights per socket or cord.

- Whether on your tree or in your home, use care with decorations that look like candy; small children may be tempted to take a bite. This raises the possibility of cuts, poisoning or choking hazards. This caution also applies to small "button" batteries.

- Candles are an ever-popular holiday tradition but the flames can be dangerous. Be sure candles are placed in secure, non-flammable bases and that they're positioned so that they can't easily be knocked over. And never leave candles burning while unattended.

Fireplace Safety

- A roaring fire in the fireplace makes a wonderful backdrop for the holidays, but be sure it's safe. Keep the area in front of the fireplace clear so that any sparks that make it through your fireplace screen will extinguish harmlessly on the hearth.

- Never burn gift wrap in the fireplace as it may spark a flash fire that will either send large amounts of sparks through the screen or go upward and ignite creosote deposits inside the chimney.

Party Time!

- The holidays are a great time for visiting friends in their homes or hosting them in yours. If the party's at your house, be sure there's ample room for guests to walk around without upsetting the tree or other decorations.

- Offer non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverage options, and stop serving spirited drinks two to three hours before the party is set to end. Make sure each group has a designated driver, or call a local cab company to get your guests home safe. Another option: if your guest list is small, plan a party that includes an overnight stay and brunch the next day.

- Bring out your inner Paula Deen or Emeril Lagasse by offering plenty of food choices to your guests. But if the food has been sitting out at room temperature for two hours or more, bacteria may develop that would cause food poisoning. Make this your mantra: when in doubt, throw it out! No matter how good your prize-winning prosciutto wraps are, they're not worth the misery of food poisoning.

And don't forget that even over the holidays, GEICO is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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