Best Tips for Holiday Decoration Safety

It's the holiday season and people are getting festive. But beware: Some holiday decorations can be fire hazards if you're not careful. Here's how to keep you and your loved ones holly, jolly and safe.

Amid the trees and the lights and the tinsel of the holidays, all the merriment comes with a dose of caution: Some popular decorations pose fire hazards you need to be aware of. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season, read on to learn about a few home fire hazards you can prevent with a little common sense.

Pick the Right Tree

The Christmas tree is probably the most iconic holiday decoration, and also one that could catch fire if not well taken care of. For your first step, if choosing a live tree, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends you find a fresh one to avoid any Christmas tree fires.

Place Your Tree Properly

When you bring your tree home, no matter what kind, keep it at least three feet from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators or even candles. And set it up far from any exits, in case something does happen and you need to get out of the house quickly.

Keep Your Christmas Tree Hydrated

Be sure to regularly add water to your live tree. This will keep it fresh and ensure fewer pine needles fall off.

How often should you water your Christmas tree? Daily is best; always make sure there is water in the base. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a tree that has just been cut can absorb up to a gallon of water per day. Here are some tips to make watering your tree easier.

Exercise Caution When Cooking

Making a holiday meal is a tradition in most households, but it can be dangerous. Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and injuries, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. To prevent cooking fires this holiday season, never leave food cooking on the stovetop unattended. Also, don’t cook when you’ve had a few cocktails.

Here are some more ways to prevent cooking fires.

Check All Decoration Cords and Bulbs

Electrical hazards abound during the holidays because of all the strings of lights and plug-in decorations. Make sure all cords and light strands are in good shape, with no broken bulbs or frayed cords. Damaged cords can cause fires or electrical shocks.

Test Your Smoke Alarm

Tis the season to ensure your smoke alarm is working correctly. The U.S. Fire Administration says a properly functioning smoke alarm reduces your risk of dying in a fire by nearly half. Install fresh batteries, then make sure it’s operating properly by pressing the test button. If you own a smart smoke detector, run a test through its app.

Use Outdoor Rated Extension Cords

There are different types of extension cords for different needs. Make sure you purchase cords rated for outdoor use if you are going to use them outside. These extension cords feature thick insulation to protect them from the elements. They are also rated for more current than indoor cords, which is important if you are using them with several strings of lights. Then they won’t overheat as easily as an indoor-rated cord.

Keep Candles Away From Flammable Objects

Candles sure do create a cozy holiday environment, but they can be dangerous for your household if not monitored properly. Did you know that candle fires are four times more likely to cause fires during the winter holidays, and two out of five of holiday decoration fires are caused by candles?

Typically these fires occur when a candle is unattended and close to flammable materials that can easily ignite, like a tree. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from a flammable source.

Turn Christmas Lights Off When Going to Bed

They may look gorgeous hanging on your house or your tree, but if not used properly these lights can easily turn into a beautiful disaster.

First, evaluate if the lights are meant for indoor or outdoor use — yes, it does make a huge difference. It may be tempting to leave your lights on all night, but the NFPA recommends turning them off when you leave the house and when you go to bed. Your neighbors will appreciate it as well. Don’t forget to check out these other fire safety tips for the holiday season.

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford is a technology and internet safety and security expert for and has contributed her insights to dozens of national publications, both in print and online. Her goal is to make gadgets less mystifying, one article at a time.