Christmas Tree Fires
You’d think by now we’d have this whole Christmas tree safety thing down. But each year, hundreds of house fires start at the Christmas tree, resulting in about 15 deaths and $13 million in property damage. You can avoid Tannenbaum tragedies by taking some very simple precautions, such as selecting a fresh tree, watering it once a day, and keeping it away from fireplaces and heating fixtures.
Outdoing our neighbors with Clark Griswold–like holiday lighting displays is as American as greasy fast food and suburban sprawl. Just try not to make house fires a part of your annual holiday tradition. Avoid Christmastime conflagrations with simple measures, such as using indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside, checking for cracked or broken sockets and frayed wires, and limiting yourself to three strands of lights per extension cord. During the two months surrounding the holiday season, more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday decorating each year.
Oh by gosh, by golly, it turns out that holly and mistletoe can actually kill you. The pretty red berries of the holly plant are extremely poisonous, as are mistletoe’s toxic berries, leaves, and stems. Keep these plants—as well as Jerusalem cherries and bittersweet—well out of reach of children, as well as your pets.
Hanging the stockings by the chimney with care is a well-known Christmas tradition. But use just as much care when firing up your fireplace this holiday season. On average, fires in and around a chimney or fireplace occur more than 25,000 times each year, leading to 10 deaths. So before you gather ‘round the hearth, make sure your damper is open, and cover your fireplace with a protective screen or grate. Also, don’t place your Christmas tree anywhere near the fireplace, and, as tempting as it might be on Christmas morning, don’t toss ripped-up wrapping paper into the fireplace; it may create enough sparks and embers to ignite a blaze.
Unfortunately, sometimes the holidays entail leaving the safety and comforts of home to visit family in their abodes. So, whether you’re driving over the river and through the woods—or taking the interstate—to grandmother’s house this holiday season, be sure to proceed with caution. A lethal combination of drunk driving, wintry weather conditions, and road-weary travelers results in approximately 400 highway deaths each year between December 24 and December 28, and the number rises again on New Year’s Eve. So if you must take to the road around the holidays, figure out who will be your designated driver now. Better yet, take a cab.
In the mad dash to get Christmas dinner ready for family and friends, it’s easy to overlook the oven mitt you left precariously close to the stovetop or the big, boiling-over pot of potatoes that’s causing your burners to erupt into a full-on fire. The inherent stress and chaos of preparing holiday meals is probably why kitchen fires flare up even more than usual this time of year. Since most cooking fires involve the stovetop, keep anything that can catch fire away from it. And if you’re simmering, baking, or roasting food, check on it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
Aside from back injuries and achy muscles, shoveling the driveway for arriving holiday guests can put you at an increased risk of cardiac arrest. According to several studies, the number of people who die of heart failure due to exertion tends to spike in the week following a blizzard. If you lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle, shovel snow slowly and in short intervals, especially if you smoke or have a history of heart disease.