It is the time of year to haul out the Christmas decorations from your loft or storage room, and get creative about what your Christmas tree is going to look like this season. While there are no hard or fast rules about how you want your Christmas tree to look, keeping these safety tips at the top of your mind while trimming your tree will allow you and your family to sleep better this holiday season without worrying if the tree will spark a fire.

Fresh or Fake?

When choosing an artificial tree, be sure that it is certified as flame retardant. Look for the UL Mark on the tree boxes or product description tags in stores and online. And for real trees, they should be fresh with a steady base. Check that the needles are soft and pliable with a green sheen. Dry and brittle needles are a fire hazard. Remember to water your real tree daily to keep the tree from drying out.

Lights and Decorations

There is a difference in specifications for indoor and outdoor lights, so make sure you choose the right lights for your intended purpose, and read the labels before buying them. Indoor-use only light strings bear UL’s green holographic label, and the UL red holographic label means they are certified for both indoor/outdoor use.

Inspect your used decorations or ornaments for any signs of wear or breakages such as jutting, frayed wires, loose connections or cracked bulbs. Get instructions to remove and fix broken bulbs. Don’t attempt to repair any frayed or damaged wires, instead dispose of the whole string and replace with a new set.

Lit candles and trees don’t mix, so unless you want to start a bonfire outdoors, stay away from using candles to decorate your tree. And remember to switch off your Christmas tree lights before going to bed or whenever you leave the house.

Keep your home well-ventilated while applying decorative snow sprays. Many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride and these solvents may result in nausea, lightheadedness and headache when inhaled.

Location, location, location

Place your tree no less than three feet away from heat sources such as heaters, lamps or candles. And make sure it is placed away from hallways or doors so that your home’s exits are not blocked.

After the Celebration Dispose of the tree following the bulk collection guidelines used in your location, or send it to a recycling program after Christmas. No matter how busy you are, don’t leave your tree inside or outside of your house as dried-out trees can pose a fire hazard.

Remember to keep the outdoor Christmas lights safely stored away as well after the festivities to prevent further wear and tear to them. Avoid packing them away in one tangled heap – coiling them carefully around pieces of cardboard (or a similar material) will make decorating easier next year!

Useful Information

Keep the American Association of Poison Control Centers (800) 222-1222 number handy to get immediate expert guidance for emergencies related to poison exposure. It could be through swallowing, splashed on the eyes, inhaled, or injected. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you have an active child or a playful cat, refer to these links to get helpful tips on how to make your tree child-proof or cat-proof.

According to National Fire Protection Association, between 2011-2015, Christmas tree fires caused an average of six deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually. 42 percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December, and two of every five (37 per cent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room or den. Keep yourself and your family safe, don’t end up being a part of any future holiday fire statistics.