Keep Your Home and Loved Ones Safe This Holiday Season

Christmas ornamentThe holiday season is fast upon us, with a flurry of shopping, home decorating, and festive parties. It is a joyous time, certainly, but it presents some unique challenges, too. Please take a moment and review this checklist to help keep you and your loved ones safe in the coming weeks.


  • When buying a cut tree, remember that fresher is always better. And even if you cut the tree yourself, recut the trunk at least two inches above the old cut as soon as you get it home; this allows it to continue to pull moisture into its foliage.
  • Keep the trunk in water immediately after it is recut. Check the water level daily — never let it get below the bottom of the trunk.
  • Trees that aren’t watered regularly are disasters waiting to happen. Take a look at this incredible video from the National Fire Protection Association that demonstrates the flammability of a dry tree compared with one that has been watered regularly.
  • If you buy an artificial tree, look for the words “fire resistant” or “fire retardant” on the label.
  • Use only flame-resistant materials to trim a tree, and buy tinsel or artificial icicles made of plastic or nonleaded metals. Avoid ornaments that are sharp or breakable. If you have children, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of reach, and avoid those that resemble candy or food.
  • Never use electric lights on an artificial tree made of metal. The tree can become charged with electricity from defective lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside. LED lights produce almost no heat, making them safe to touch and greatly reducing the risk of fire.
  • Artificial snow sprays can irritate the lungs if inhaled. Follow directions carefully.



  • Poinsettias are mildly poisonous to dogs and cats, but holly is far more dangerous: When ingested, it can cause pets to suffer nausea and vomiting. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And just one or two bites of a lily can result in severe, acute kidney failure in cats.
  • Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener often found in baked goods, candy, and chewing gum, has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs. Turkey and its skin can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis.
  • Some dogs and cats may mistake the pan at the base of a Christmas tree as a water bowl. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and pets could end up sick if the water isn’t kept fresh or hidden.
  • Check out the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Holiday Safety Tips page for more pet-friendly advice.

(Photo: Flickr/Hades2k)

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