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DCP offers tips for a safe holiday season

Published 10:32 am, Sunday, December 15, 2013
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Hanging holiday lights, assembling lawn displays and decorating trees and shrubs can cause more than a few sore muscles, the state Department of Consumer Protection warned.

Falling from a ladder, cutting oneself on a broken bulb or wrenching a shoulder while unloading the attic are the cause of pain, missed workdays and visits to the emergency room for thousands of consumers each year.

In November and December 2012, about 15,000 holiday decorating injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments nationwide, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- totaling about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season.

In 2012, the most frequently reported holiday decorating incidents seen in emergency departments involved falls (34 percent), lacerations (11 percent) and back strains (10 percent). Although some adults may want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while holiday decorating, the department suggests that they first consider the tasks that need to be done before deciding to imbibe. For example, leave the drinks until after the roof lights have been installed and tested, and the ladder safely put away.

Fires are another holiday hazard. Each year from 2009 through 2011, fire departments nationwide responded to about 200 fires in which the Christmas tree was the first item that ignited, causing 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss. During the same time period, candle-related fires resulted in 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss.

Buying a live tree? Check for freshness and keep it watered. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and the 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. Have the seller of the tree cut about one inch off the bottom of the trunk before you take it home. Once home, put the tree trunk in a pail of lukewarm water and keep it there until you move it into its tree stand, which should also be full of water. Setting up a tree at home? 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 daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.

Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, the label does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.

Decorating a tree in a home with small children? 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. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.

Candles

Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room or leave the house.

Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture. Keep them out of drafty areas.