The Secret Dangers of Holiday Decorations and How to Spot Them

We’re making a list and checking it twice — a safety list, that is. With all the excitement that comes with the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that sparkly home decor can increase the risk for a home fire. We’re looking at serious numbers here as FEMA reported that $2 billion in property loss occurs each year from winter home fires. In fact, the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.

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Most people may look at this picture and see a cozy breakfast room with a festive touch. As property managers, we see something different. We want to know if that artificial tree is flame retardant, or if there are any hidden heat sources within three feet of the tree. We can’t help ourselves!

With the holiday season in full swing, we obsessively put together a comprehensive list of potential fire hazards that decorations pose. Check out the tips below to ensure you and your loved ones enjoy a happy and safe holiday season!

Keep an eye on lit candles

Maybe it’s the nostalgic aromas they exude or the cozy ambiance they create in a room. Whatever it is, we love candles. We can’t get enough of them! However, an open flame is always trouble around flammable trimmings. It’s crucial that you keep candles away from other decorations and combustible items.

Candles start one-third of home decoration fires according to the NFPA. It only takes seconds for one to spread; make sure you never leave a lit candle unattended and remember to blow it out before exiting the room. It’s also a good rule of thumb to keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns.

Everything but the flame

So you love candles just as much as we do, but maybe your landlord doesn’t allow candles, or you have children and pets who increase the risk of an accident. No worries! There are tons of flameless candle decorations that look like the real thing.

Need some ideas? These battery-operated tea lights are mess-free and the perfect size for candles holders. Some faux candles have real scents and can be controlled by a remote. You can also find lights that flicker like a real flame. Versatile LED lights make it easy to stay safe without compromising holiday cheer.

Rocking around a *SAFE* Christmas tree

We encourage residents to spruce up their homes and make them their own, but we want to stress the importance of maintaining decorations in the safest conditions. We recommend looking for a UL label on decorations indicating they have been tested for fire safety. Flame resistant or flame retardant decorations will also help decrease the risk of winter flames. However, “flame retardant” is not equivalent to “fire-proof,” so the NFPA suggests keeping trees and decorations at least three feet away from a heater. They also include fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles, or heat vents as potential risks. A heat source too close to the Christmas tree causes one in every four winter fires. Though not as common as candle fires, Christmas tree fires can be more deadly.

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Keeping a real tree fresh

All trees, real and artificial, inside homes should be supported by a stable platform to avoid accidents. There are extra precautions to keep in mind if you have a real tree. On average, 1 of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in death. Just like any other plant in your home, a fresh-cut Christmas tree needs TLC. Watering it every day will not only prolong the longevity of the tree; it’ll increase the time it takes to burn if flames ignite. A drier tree will give off more heat which will cause the fire to spread more quickly. Here, a UL expert along with Ask This Old House host Kevin O’Connor demonstrate how quickly fires can spread inside a home and review detailed advice on how to prevent holiday fires.

Even if you water it every day, a real tree will only last up to four weeks at most. Remember to remove your tree after it turns dry to avoid a dangerous fire. Not fully convinced? The NFPA published this video showing a side-by-side comparison of a Christmas tree not watered regularly next to a tree that was. You can see how rapidly the flames spread when a tree is dry.

Use lights safely

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Twinkling lights can warm up a room; but to prevent a holiday nightmare, everyone should read instructions carefully before using them. Some are only for indoor or outdoor use, so make sure you check before you hang them with clips.

Maintenance is vital for light decorations. Whether they’re brand new, or you just recovered them from last winter’s storage, inspect your lights for frayed wires. A string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections should be thrown out and replaced. It’s okay to go all out and deck the halls with tons of lights — but remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper number of light strands to connect.

We know it’s tempting to fall asleep in the cozy ambiance that winter lights create. But make sure you turn off all lit decorations when they’re not in use and before you go to bed. Although there are not open flames involved, the heat produced inside of electric lights could start a fire if bulbs burst or wires fray.

Even after all these preventable measures, we know that accidents happen. So we encourage you to test your fire alarms regularly–once a month– and report any issues of building risk with property managers. A safe home is a happy home, so making sure our properties are safe is the top priority. Here at Atlas Lane, we wish you the safest and happiest of holidays.

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