Krista Barton, Township of Langley public life safety educator, is urging residents to take a few simple steps to ensure the holiday season is a safe and happy one.

Staying safe at Christmas

Township's public life safety educator offers a few tips to keep the season festive while reducing risk

With trees to trim, treats to bake, and gifts to wrap, there is a lot to do during the holiday season.

But by making time to be prepared and taking a few precautions, you can help give your family the best gift of all — their safety.

“This is a very busy time of year and it is easy to get caught up in everything there is to do at Christmastime,” said Krista Barton, Township of Langley public life safety educator.

“However, with all the fun and festivities comes some potential hazards.

“By taking a moment to slow down, think, and plan, you can reduce the chances of your home and the people you love coming to harm.”

When it comes to decorating the Christmas tree, safety starts before you even bring it home. Begin by picking a tree with needles that do not fall off when touched.

Fresh, green trees are more fire-resistant than those with dry, brittle needles.

Before placing the tree in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk to allow it to absorb water and be sure to add water to the stand daily.

Keep the tree at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces or candles, and make sure it is not blocking any exits.

To light the tree, use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, Barton said, noting that some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.

Replace any strings of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Do not connect more than three strands of mini string sets and read the manufacturer’s instructions to find the maximum number of LED strands that can be connected.

Never use lit candles to decorate the tree and always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

“Dried out trees are fire hazards and they should never be left in the home or garage or placed against the side of the house,” Barton said. Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry.

A number of groups offer recycling programs where trees can be chipped by donation. Check the Dec. 19 and 26 and Jan. 2 Township Pages for dates and locations.

During cold winter months, it is important to maintain furnaces, chimneys, and other heat sources to ensure they are functioning safely.

The furnace should be inspected and serviced and chimneys and vents should be cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.

When heating your home with a wood fireplace or stove, make sure the wood is dry and seasoned, Barton said, and ensure the fireplace screen is metal or heat-tempered glass.

Check that the screen is in good condition and secure in its position in front of the fireplace and teach children to stay at least three feet away from the fireplace, wood stove, or other space heaters.

“If you are using a portable space heater it is very important that it has an automatic shut off,” Barton cautioned.

“Make sure it is plugged directly into an outlet, not a power bar, and that it is placed at least three feet from anything that can burn — that includes bedding, paper, walls, and even people.”

Residents are also reminded to test all smoke alarms to ensure they are working and change the battery if needed. There should be a smoke alarm on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every bedroom area.

“For the best protection, they should be interconnecting so when one sounds they all sound,” Barton said.

She added that carbon monoxide alarms should also be placed on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area and tested regularly.

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