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In Iowa’s Interest: Staying Safe This Holiday Season by Senator Tom Harkin

December 11, 2009
Northern-Sun Print
The holidays are a special time when we gather with loved ones and celebrate the season.  Unfortunately, there is also a sharp increase in accidents during this time of year, especially house fires.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more and cause over $990 million in damage.  Fortunately, there are some simple precautions provided by the USFA that you can take to help keep your family, friends and home safe this holiday season.  These include: Preventing Christmas Tree Fires - Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house.  A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. *Select a Fresh Tree for the Holiday - Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.  The trunk should be sticky to the touch.   *Caring for Your Tree - Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.  Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.  Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.  Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. *Disposing of Your Tree - Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove.  When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.  The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service. *Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree - Never go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.

Holiday Lights - Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.  Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. *Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets - Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.  Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.  Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch. *Never Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended

Holiday Decorations *Use Only Nonflammable Decorations - All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.  If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant. *Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace - It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire. Avoid Using Lit Candles - If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.  Never leave the house with candles burning. For more information you can contact the USFA at or at (301) 447-1000.  The American Association of Pediatrics also has many helpful tips for keeping your children and home safe during this season.  More information can be found at From my family to yours, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.



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