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Christmas is the most magical time of the year, but if you’re not careful it can also be an extremely hazardous time of the year as well. Emergency Rooms see an influx of patients for injuries that more often than not, can be completely preventable. Two of the most common holiday hazards include falls or decorating mishaps and Christmas tree fires. Thankfully, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself and your family from these holiday hazards.

Careful with Those Christmas Lights

Whether you just want to put a couple of strands of lights up around the house or you have more elaborate plans in mind Clark Griswold style, don’t fall victim to one of the most common holiday injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that during last year’s holiday season there were 14,700 holiday decorating related ER-treated injuries. That’s an average of 240 injuries per day! Just imagine the number of other injuries that go unreported.

Holiday Hazards 1

Before you even break out the ladder ask yourself a few questions. Can you afford to hire some help? If you are planning an over-the-top light display you may want to enlist the help of professionals with the right equipment and know-how. Next, take a good hard look at your physical abilities, and be honest with yourself. Anyone with balance issues or those who are taking blood thinners or medications that can increase the risk of bleeding should avoid the task. Finally, always keep the weather in mind. Do you really need to hang lights when it’s 10 degrees outside, icy, or snowing? Respect Mother Nature and wait. If you are in tip-top condition and are ready to tackle your home decorating project here are a few ladder safety tips to help you keep your footing.

Ladder Safety 101

  • Always place the ladder on firm, stable ground.
  • Double check the maximum load rating on your ladder to make sure it can support your weight and the weight of the load you are carrying.
  • Always have someone stand at the bottom of the ladder to hold it in place and keep it from tipping over. This can be especially important in the windy Amarillo conditions.
  • Maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing and be sure to keep your body near the middle of the step.
  • Properly carry lights and decorations up the ladder, do not wrap them around your body, especially your neck.
  • Wear proper footwear, shoes with leather soles are not sufficiently slip resistant.

Getting up to the top of the house is only half the battle though! Be sure you remember how to use staple or nail guns, or any equipment you may not be familiar with using on a daily basis. Practice and get your bearings about you before you start stapling away 20 feet in the air. It’s also important to double check to make sure all the lights you are using are rated for outdoor use. Never use damaged, frayed, or broken lights or wires. Finally, it should always go without saying but never drink and decorate.

Now that you’ve tackled the great outdoors, it’s time to move inside and nothing says the holidays are here like a Christmas tree! However, Christmas tree fires can be one of the most serious and deadly holiday hazards. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that between 2011 and 2015 there were over 200 reported structure fires that began with the Christmas tree. On average, one out of every 32 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death. That’s compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.

There are easy precautions you can take so that you don’t become a statistic of holiday hazards:

Pick the perfect tree

If you are picking out a fresh Christmas tree look for one with green needles that do not fall off when touched. If you are going with an artificial tree, make sure that you select one that has been deemed flame-resistant.

Picking the perfect spot

Whether the tree is natural or artificial it is important to make sure that the tree is at least three feet away from any type of heat source like a fireplace, radiator, candles, heating vent, or lights. Also be sure that the tree is not blocking an exit.

Lighting the tree

No matter what type of tree you have selected NEVER use candles to decorate it! Always use lights that have been tested by a qualified testing laboratory. Some of the most common labels to look for include: UL or ETL/ITSNA. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use and should not be mixed together. Replace any string of lights that looks worn or has loose bulb connection. Finally, always remember to turn the lights off when you leave home or go to bed for the night.

Holiday Hazards 3

Caring for your tree

Before you place a natural tree in the stand, cut off 2 inches from the base of the trunk. After that one of the most important things you can do is keep the water coming! Make sure there is always a continuous source of water so the tree does not dry out. A good rule of thumb to remember is that fresh trees can absorb one gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter.

Disposing of you tree

The longer a tree stay up, the greater a fire hazard it becomes. It is recommended that you dispose of your tree within one month of purchase. Never store it in your house or garage or burn it yourself.

Have you Fallen Victim to One of These Holiday Hazards?

No matter what time of day or night you need help The ER on Soncy is here for you.

We are a full service ER with state-of-the-art imaging equipment, a laboratory, and a highly qualified staff. We are open 24/7 and that includes the holidays! So if you or a loved one suffers a holiday mishap we are ready to take care of you and treat you like family.


National Fire Protection Association
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission