December 10, 2021 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Tips for a Sparkling, Safe Holiday Season

holiday

Make a list. Check it twice. Follow these tips to celebrate safely throughout this holiday season.

As people prepare to celebrate the holidays, new data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) highlights the importance of taking safety precautions to avoid potential dangers associated with common holiday products and traditions. the new CPSC data highlights holiday-related risks, including unsafe toys, decorations, and cooking fires.

“Whether you’re shopping for gifts online or gathering for in-person or virtual holiday celebrations, it is important that everyone takes steps to keep holiday festivities safer,” said CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric. “Avoid a visit to the emergency-room this holiday season by following some simple safety guidelines.”

Unsafe toys, cooking fires, decorating, holiday trees, and candles lead to thousands of injuries and deaths each year. People can celebrate more safely this holiday season by making a list of safety precautions and checking it twice. Here are the latest data and safety tips from CPSC:

Toys

Toy manufacturers and retailers are facing both supply-chain delays and global shipping issues, prompting concerns about a possible toy shortage. This could lead consumers to scramble to buy products wherever they can find them, and create room for unscrupulous sellers to sell dangerous or counterfeit products.  

  • Toy-related injuries and deaths continue to impact thousands of children in the United States each year: CPSC reports that in 2020, there were nearly 150,000 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries and nine deaths among children ages 14 and younger, with most of these deaths associated with choking on small parts of toys.
  • Non-motorized scooters account for 21 percent of all toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries: The number of injuries increased 17 percent in fiscal year 2021, from 35,600 scooter injuries reported in 2020, to 41,700 injuries reported in 2021. 

When cooking, make sure your “holiday style” includes safety precautions as you bake holiday treats and share meals with family and friends, it is vitally important to take safety precautions to avoid dangerous residential fires.

Cooking

  • Cooking fires remain the #1 cause of residential fires. CPSC data show that there are about 360,000 home fires every year, leading to about 2,400 deaths and nearly 10,400 injuries each year.
  • An average of 1,700 cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day each year, more than three times the average number of cooking fires on any other day of the year.
  • Turkey fryers create particular risks. Since 1998, CPSC is aware of 222 fire or scald/burn incidents involving turkey fryers, resulting in 83 injuries and $9.7 million in property loss.

Decorating

Holiday decorations and celebrations are an annual tradition for many families. However, dry Christmas trees, burning candles, and holiday lights can pose a real hazard if not used and maintained properly. 

  • On average, there are about 160 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday seasonwith almost half of the incidents involving falls. In the 2019 holiday season, about 14,800 people were treated in emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries. In the 2019 holiday season, there have been no deaths associated with seasonal decorations.
  • Dry Christmas trees and unattended candles can lead to dangerous fires. From 2016 to 2018, there were about 100 Christmas tree fires and about 1,100 candle fires in November and December each year, resulting in 30 deaths, 180 injuries, and nearly $56 million in property loss per year.

Follow these CPSC safety tips to keep your family safe this holiday season: 

Toys

  • Follow age guidance and other safety information on the toy packaging and choose toys that match each child’s interests and abilities.
  • Get safety gear, including helmets, for scooters and other riding toys – and make sure that children use them every time. 
  • Keep small balls and toys with small parts away from children younger than age 3 and keep deflated balloons away from children younger than age 8. 

Online shopping

Online shopping for toys or other products continues to be a popular and convenient alternative to visiting brick and mortar stores, but particularly in a time of potential toy shortages, it is important that people follow these safety tips: 

  • Always buy from stores and online retailers you know and trust.
  • To avoid counterfeits, scrutinize the product, the packaging, and the label. If the price seems too good to be true, this could be a sign that the product is counterfeit.
  • Look for a certification mark from an independent testing organization and the manufacturer’s label on electrical products.

Cooking

  • Never leave cooking food unattended on the stove.
  • Only fry a turkey outside and away from your home. 

Holiday decorating

  • Make sure your live Christmas tree has plenty of water and look for the “Fire Resistant” label when buying an artificial tree.
  • Place burning candles in sight, away from flammable items, and blow them out before leaving the room.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Making a List, Checking it Twice: Tips for Celebrating Safely this Holiday Season.” November 2020.

Take care to water your tree, so that it doesn’t become a fire hazard

Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms, and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months. NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and the U.S. Fire Administration are teaming up to help reduce your risk to winter fires and other hazards, including carbon monoxide and electrical fires.

Here’s a video from NFPA that underscores just how quickly a dried-out Christmas tree burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute. Compare this to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate.

NFPA 921 defines flashover as, “A transitional phase in the development of a compartment fire in which surfaces exposed to thermal radiation reach its ignition temperature more or less simultaneously and fire spreads rapidly throughout the space resulting in full room involvement or total involvement of the compartment: March 3, 2020.

Take care to water your tree, so that it doesn’t become a fire hazard. This live burn was conducted by the CPSC. Learn how to keep you and your family safe during the holiday season at https://www.nfpa.org/winter.

Holiday decorations

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2015-2019. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries, and $13 million in direct property damage.
  • One in five home decoration fires occurred in the month of December.
  • The decoration was too close to a heat source such as a candle or equipment in more than two of every five incidents.
  • Year-round, more than one-third of home decoration fires were started by candles. Cooking started 19 percent of decoration fires, 12 percent involved electrical distribution and lighting equipment, heating equipment was involved in 11 percent, 8 percent were intentionally set, and smoking materials started 7 percent.
  • Candles caused 45 percent of home decoration fires in December.

Candles

  • Between 2015-2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,400 home fires that were started by candles. These fires caused an average of 90 civilian deaths, 670 civilian injuries and $291 million in direct property damage.
  • On average, 20 home candle fires were reported each day between 2015-2019.
  • Three of every five candle fires started when something that could burn, such as furniture, mattresses or bedding, curtains, or decorations, was too close to the candle.
  • Candle fires peak in December and January with 11 percent of candle fires in each of these months.
  • Christmas is the peak day for candle fires with roughly 2.5 times the daily average.     

Holiday cooking

  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  • Cooking equipment was involved in one of every five (19%) of home decoration fires. This can happen when a decoration is left on or too close to a stove or other cooking equipment. 

Visit CPSC’s Holiday Safety Information Center for more holiday safety tips, as well as a sharable Holiday Safety video, poster, and b-roll that simulates the serious risks posed by using a turkey fryer too close to the home, a dry Christmas tree, and burning candles near flammable items.

Source: NFPA, “Christmas Tree Fire Turns Deadly and Devastating in Seconds,” December 9, 2015.

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