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Simple Tips for Life’s Unpredictable Moments

14 Ways to Keep the Holidays Safe

Stay focused with our important tips that will take you safely into the New Year.

It’s easy to get busy and distracted during the holidays. That’s why accidents, including fires, spike during this season. These important tips can help keep everyone safe.

1. Be cautious with candles.
The top three days for candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Help reduce the risk by setting candles at least a foot away from anything flammable. Roughly three in five candle fires start because they’re too close to items such as curtains and gifts. Never leave a candle unattended and remember to blow out all candles when you leave the house or go to bed. Or, choose battery-powered LED “candles” — they flicker realistically.

2. Set timers when cooking.
A main cause of holiday-season residential fires is food left unattended. Use more than one timer to track a multitude of frying, boiling, and baking activities. Label each timer with a sticky note: When one goes off, you’ll know it’s the sweet potatoes that need attention, not the pumpkin pie.

3. Update alarms.
Replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries once a year. If it’s been a while since you checked your units, this is the time to do it. In the future, test them every month.

4. Be generator-smart.
If you lose power during the holidays, take your backup generator outdoors before starting it. Otherwise, you risk poisoning yourself and your guests with carbon monoxide.

5. Examine eaves.
While hanging outdoor decorations, inspect your gutters for damage or sagging. Also check for any debris to prevent ice buildup that can force gutters to pull away from the house and potentially cause thousands of dollars in damage.

6. Buy or check your fire extinguisher.
If you don’t already own a fire extinguisher — or the one you have is more than six years old — get an ABC unit, which can handle all three classes of fire, and keep it in or near the kitchen. If you have an expensive TV or a computer, consider a carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguisher, which is less likely to harm electronics.

If you and your fire extinguisher can’t tackle a blaze, head outside immediately and call 911 from your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone.

7. Skip the ribbons on presents.
Gifts wrapped with colorful ribbons (or yarn or string) look like toys to pets. If swallowed, those colorful adornments could mean a trip to a pet emergency clinic. Get more pet holiday safety tips from the ASPCA.

8. Keep your tree watered.
A cut tree can seal up with sap in minutes. Keep your tree drinking water by giving the trunk a fresh cut when you first get it home. Make sure it stays watered — a dry tree is a fire risk. Get more tree care tips from the National Christmas Tree Association.

9. Mask high-priced gift boxes.
Don’t announce your new flat-screen TV to burglars by putting the intact box out by the trash. Break it down for recycling, turn it inside out, or tear it into pieces that will fit inside a garbage bag.

10. Keep kids away from the stove.
Before holiday guests arrive, use masking tape to mark a 3-foot safety zone around the stove to show kids where they aren’t allowed to roam. If you don’t want tape on the floor, appoint an adult to act as a kid wrangler.

11. Properly dispose of live trees.
Never toss an evergreen tree or wreath into your fireplace. They’re hazards because they burn so fast. Burning greens can also lead to creosote buildup, another fire hazard. Better choices are to recycle evergreen boughs as garden mulch or let your community compost them.

12. Keep copies of important documents.
Make copies of both sides of the cards you commonly carry, such as driver’s license, credit and debit cards, and insurance identification. If your wallet is lost or stolen while traveling during the holidays, you’ll be prepared to notify the card issuers.

13. Pack a winter car kit. 
Get ready for winter driving by outfitting your vehicles with blankets, flashlights, nonperishable foods, bottled water, and sand or cat litter (for traction, if needed).

14. Designate a driver.
Celebrate holiday parties safely by knowing ahead of time how you will get home.

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