With Halloween behind us, the holiday season is officially here. This festive time is filled with celebrations, winter greens, and twinkling lights. While these beautiful decorations can fill our hearts with such joy, they can also be dangerous.

No one wants to be a downer, but being informed about the risk of holiday fires, as well as the ways to prevent them, can help ensure that your family stays safe and that your home is protected. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has some excellent fire prevention tips and activities for all ages. 

Safer Decorations

There are few things more heartwarming than a beautifully decorated home during the holiday season. There’s just something so comforting about the glow of the lights and the cozy atmosphere they provide. Unfortunately, when used incorrectly, they can also put your family (and guests!) at risk:

  • 43% of Christmas tree fires are caused by lighting and electrical problems.
  • 40% of Christmas tree fires start in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Candle fires are most likely to occur on Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.

So, do you have to skip the decorations this year? Of course not! You can still enjoy all of your traditions. With that being said, there are critical elements to keep in mind:

  • Holiday lights: check them carefully for any signs of damage before use. 
  • Christmas trees: keep them well-hydrated by refilling the water in the stand every day. 
  • Menorahs: choose a safe spot away from children, pets, and fabrics. 
  • Avoid using extension cords, especially in high traffic areas. 
  • Never leave lit candles unattended—not even for five minutes.

You might be tempted to skip checking a giant strand of lighting (just like Rusty in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!) and you might think it’s okay to leave a lit candle for a few minutes to check on the turkey, but don’t skip these steps.

It’s much easier to spend five minutes looking for wiring issues or 10 seconds relighting a candle, than it is to cope with the aftermath of a fire.

Be Safe in the Kitchen

Cookies. Pies. Stuffing. Eggnog. There’s so much to love about this time of year, and a lot of it involves food and drinks. There are people who travel miles and miles to get home for that amazing holiday feast, and you want everyone to enjoy it—which is why you need to keep safety in mind.

More than any other days of the year, cooking-related house fires most commonly happen on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day! Here are some helpful tips to remember.

  • Don’t leave the house with a turkey in the oven. This might be a tough one, but the grease from the drippings can spill and cause a fire.
  • Never use a slow cooker that is damaged (especially the wiring). If you’re a fan of This is Us, you saw how devastating the resulting fire can be. 
  • Avoid overfilling a pan or fryer with too much oil. 
  • Keep pot and pan handles facing the inside of the stove so that kids and pets can’t reach them.
  • Always use the ventilation hood to direct steam and smoke outside of your home.

With a little planning and forethought, you’ll get through this season of cooking and baking safely—and probably carrying a few extra pounds.

Fire Escape Plan

It feels like there was a greater emphasis on this in years past, but it’s just as important as ever. Your family needs to have a plan in case a fire breaks out, and you need to make sure everyone knows what to do. Sadly, home fires are more common and more deadly during the holiday season. Having a strategy can save lives. 

  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month. 
  • Find all possible exits in your home. 
  • Create a plan with your family and discuss with any guests who come to visit.
  • Draw a floor plan for young children and have them point out the exits.
  • Practice the escape plan regularly.
  • Choose a meeting spot outside of the home.
  • Assign “buddies” so that young children have a companion in the event of a fire.
  • Make sure your house number is visible from the road. You want emergency crews to easily be able to find you, if necessary.

You’ve heard the sayings, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” They both apply here—you don’t want to learn this lesson the hard way. Not to be dramatic, but a few extra minutes of preparation could save you from a lifetime of heartache.

In all likelihood, you won’t have to deal with a house fire this holiday season, but if you do, being prepared can make all the difference. Be mindful while decorating and preparing meals in the kitchen. Make sure your smoke detectors are functional and come up with an escape plan for your family and guests. You’ll all have peace of mind so that you can focus on more important things, like sipping hot cocoa during a Hallmark movie marathon.