ALTOONA – Holiday decorations, especially candles and electrical lighting, can be fire hazards, and Safe Kids Blair County reminds parents and caregivers to take a few precautions when decorating for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza and other winter festivities.
“Never, never leave lit candles unattended,” says Sherry Turchetta, R.N., Safe Kids Blair County coordinator. “Don’t put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes. Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach.”
Safe Kids Blair County works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Altoona Regional Health System is the lead agency.
In 2002, candles started 18,000 home fires in the United States, and twice as many home fires in December as in any other month, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“Decorative lighting should be labeled with the UL seal of approval from Underwriters Labs,” Turchetta said. “If it’s not labeled for outdoor use, don’t use it outdoors.”
If you decorate a tree, Safe Kids Blair County recommends these precautions:
— Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
— Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree near a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent. LED lights burn cooler than incandescent lights and pose a lower risk of fire.
— Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
— Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
Safe Kids Blair County also offers these tips to prevent accidental poisoning:
— Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
–Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow sprays are also harmful if inhaled.
— Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful if eaten.
— For more information, or to find out whether other decorative plants and products are hazardous to children, call your Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.
For more information about home safety, visit the fire prevention and safety tips pages online.