Christmas Family Risk Factors

Holiday and seasonal traditions can be fun but they can also increase risks. Be sure to play it safe this holiday season.

Festive candles and lights, electrical cords, trees and seasonal plants, and even baking and food serving activities all pose potential risks for injury or loss. Be sure you're being as safe as possible while enjoying your Christmas and New Year festivities!.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) has some very helpful recommendations to follow for holiday safety concerns!

The Big One - Christmas trees

Here's some tips to make your Christmas tree poses the least risk during the holiday season:

  1. You should be sure to pick out as freshly cut Christmas tree as possible. As they get dry they can easily catch fire. When you set up your tree, trim 1 - 2 inches from the bottom of the tree to open the pores improving the tree's ability to absorb water from the bowl. Be aware that live trees need A LOT of water so you need to  check the water levels and refill the bowl frequently
  2. You should place the Christmas tree in a stable and secure stand specifically designed to hold the size of the tree you have selected. Be sure you do not place the Christmas tree near any type of heat source such as fireplaces, radiators or an oven or stove. Never use candles to decorate a tree or place them adjacent to it. Avoid going near your tree when using an open flame such as a candle, lighter or matches.
  3. When your Christmas tree becomes dry and needles begin to fall off excessively, it is time to dispose of the tree. DO NOT burn old trees or its needles in your fireplace! You should take the tree to your local  recycling center or consider having a community pick-up service take it away.
  4. If you are using an artificial Christmas tree, be sure that the packaging indicates that it is manufactured with fire-resistant, flame proof materials.

Decorations and lights

The Devil's in the details

  1. Be very careful that you don't overload electrical sockets by plugging excessive amounts of cords into a singular outlet. You should never leave holiday lights plugged in when you or someone else is not at home to monitor them. You should even unplug them when you are sleeping. Make sure that all cords and devices have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval seal. Take the time to carefully inspect previously used light strands that have been in storage to be sure there are no cracks or bare spots in the wiring. Don't be frugal, just throw away damaged chords.
  2. Make sure light strands on your tree are fastened securely to the tree. Inspect the strands to be sure no bulbs are in physical contact with needles or branches other tree decorations. You should also monitor all wires routinely for warm or hot spots. Unplug and do not use any wire strand that seems warm or has hot spots.
  3. Indoor lights should never be installed or used in outdoor conditions. The insulation and connectors on indoor lights are not designed to tolerate the outdoor elements. If these types of lights get damp or wet, there is significant risk of electric shock
  4. You should remove all outdoor lighting as soon as the Christmas season is over. Even though specially outdoor decorations are resistant to the elements, they are not designed to remain safe after prolonged exposure.
  5. Make sure that your tree or other holiday decorations do not block any exit paths such as doors or fire escapes.


Extra care is necessary during the holiday season

  1. You should never put wrapping paper, plastics or other product packaging in the fireplace. Dangerous coals and embers can be generated by this, and might lodge in the chimney. Some materials can give off toxic fumes that may cause injury or death with in your house!


Be sure to keep your house safe when guests are visiting during the holidays.

  1. For your guests who smoke, make sure you provide large ashtrays in safe places for them to use. Keep your eyes open for any cigarette butts discarded in unsafe places. Be aware that cigarette fires are a leading cause of fire fatalities in the home.
  2. Be very careful to not leave the stove unattended when doing holiday baking or cooking. It is very easy, during the distraction of holiday entertaining, to forget items on the stove or in the oven, If they burn, they can become potential fire hazards

Children and pets

Make sure the little ones aren't in danger during the holidays

  1. Take extra care to be sure that ornaments, lights and candles not accessible to small children and pets. Very small ornaments or decorations present potential choking hazards for small children. Breakable / fragile ornaments can be knocked down, which can result in cuts or become foreign bodies. It only takes a few seconds for children or pets to take the entire tree down and can cause serious injuries.
  2. Many Christmas plants and standard decorations can be toxic or physically dangerous. Mistletoe, Poinsettias and holly berries may be poisonous if ingested. Older types of tinsel may contain lead and should be discarded. Fire logs designed to produce multi-colored flames in the fireplace contain heavy metals, which if ingested can cause serious gastrointestinal and possibly neurological problems.


Even if they are small or confined by a glass,they are still open flames.

  1. Candles should not be allowed to burn down too far or drip hot wax. All candles should be placed in stable, non-combustible enclosures away from other decorations or other flammable materials.
  2. Be sure to clean and trim candlewicks to 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch before use. Overly long or crooked wicks result in uneven burning and dripping. Make sure to place candles at least three inches apart to prevent them from melt into one another. Keep  the base and containers that candles are kept in free of old wick trimmings, matches or any flammable material that might ignite.
  3. DO NOT leave candles burning unattended. Put out all candles if you are leaving the room or going to bed.


Be sure you and all of your family practice safety this holiday season. Get into good habits for the New Year by teaching family members what to do in a fire and emergency scenarios. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers like police, fire and poison control center posted near the telephones or other centralized areas in your home. Test and check smoke detectors, C0 detectors and fire extinguishers to be sure they are all in good, working condition.

Give some thought to installing a professional alarm system so that, in the event of an emergency, an outside service can be contacted to notify the fire, police or local EMS.

These tips and safety ideas were inspired by the article "Celebrate the Season of Light Safely." www.iii.org. Web. 7 Dec 2010.

We hope you all have a very safe and happy holiday season. Please call us at the Liveoak Agency to discuss your current insurance policies, and any changes that might be necessary!