Holiday decorations: fire prevention; keeping kids & pets safe

As you decorate your home this holiday season, safety should be your first and foremost guiding principle. Not to harsh your holiday mellow, but this is a big season for in-home fires and accidents. A little pre-planning and a quick review of best practices from the experts can keep your holiday safe and fun.
The Yahoo Network offers a good list of 20 safety tips for decorating with toddlers and babies in mind. And for your pets, check the Humane Society’s tips for keeping your pets safe during the holiday season
According to the US Fire Administration, holiday fires claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. They offer a quick holiday fire safety tip sheet.
The National Fire Protection Association offers a complete Project Holiday tool kit, which includes tip sheets, videos, and reports covering tree safety, candle safety, cooking safety, and overall decorating safety. Below, we’ve posted one of their videos, a demonstration showing how flammable a dry Christmas tree can be as opposed to a tree watered regularly.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following 10 safety tips to prevent holiday decorating-related fires and injuries:
1. When purchasing a live tree, DO check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
2. When setting up a tree at home, DO place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.
3. When purchasing an artificial tree, DO look for the label, “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
4. In homes with small children, DO take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
5. Indoors or outdoors, DO use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.
6. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. DON’T use electric lights on a metallic tree.
7. If using an extension cord, DO make sure it is rated for the intended use.
8. When using lights outdoors, DO check labels to be sure that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
9. Keep burning candles within sight. DO extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
10. DO keep candles on a stable heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains, and furniture.