Following the austerities of 2020, many Americans are embracing the 2021 holiday season with renewed enthusiasm. However, as we return to our beloved traditions and festivities, it’s important to remember safety and take precautions where necessary. Read these six tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season.
1. Take precautions against COVID-19
After canceling their holiday gatherings in 2020, many people plan to resume their annual traditions this year. However, with the enduring threat of COVID-19 and recent emergence of the omicron variant, it’s crucial to take precautions when gathering with friends and family.
According to CDC guidelines, the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 this holiday season is to get fully vaccinated. If you’ve already received your general vaccination, consider getting a booster to increase your resistance to variants like delta and omicron. Additionally, since vaccine eligibility has been expanded to include children over the age of 5, consider vaccinating your kids as well.
The other safety measure you can take is to wear a mask when participating in indoor gatherings. This is especially crucial for those who are unvaccinated. Additionally, those who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people (including wearing a mask), as they may have a higher vulnerability to COVID-19. In contrast, children under the age of 2 should not wear masks due to the risk of suffocation.
2. Don’t take electrical safety lightly
With the abundance of lights and electric-powered decorations, it’s important to be diligent about electrical safety during the holidays. Before hanging lights, inspect each strand and dispose of any that appear damaged. You should also check all lights and electrical decor for current UL listings; if you find any with expired listings, throw them away.
Another important electrical safety guideline: don’t overdo it. Never connect more than three light strands together (unless you’re using LED lights, which pull far fewer amps than conventional lights) and go easy on the extension cords. An excess of extension cords poses a tripping hazard for you and your panel breaker, so avoid overloading your outlets and keep walkways clear of cords.
3. Hang lights with care
When accessing your roof to hang holiday lights, safe practices can go a long way toward preventing injury. Rather than using an A-frame ladder, opt for an extension ladder for more stability. Rest the ladder against the gutters or edge of the roof, make sure it’s positioned at a safe angle and tie it off at the top for good measure. Also, since you’ll be handling electricity, opt for a ladder that has fiberglass rails, which, unlike metal rails, won’t conduct electricity to the ground.
In addition to ladder safety, it’s wise to exercise electrical safety when hanging holiday lights. Avoid using adhesives like nails or staples to attach light strands, as these can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Instead, use UL-approved hangers.
4. Minimize fire risks
As the outdoor temperature lowers in winter, your indoor temperature will rise to create a cozy interior ambiance. However, it’s important to remember that furnaces and fireplaces can bring safety risks if they aren’t properly maintained. Plan to have your furnace and/or fireplace inspected annually by a professional to prevent air quality and fire hazards. Additionally, make sure you know where your furnace filter is located and change it regularly.
Another holiday fire risk factor is your Christmas tree. Just think of it as an oversized piece of kindling in your living room. To prevent a combustion hazard, situate it far from your furnace, fireplace and space heaters, and keep it well-watered.
5. Verify that safety devices are present and functional
With the increased use of heat and light sources during winter, it’s critical to verify that your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are situated and working correctly. Check the batteries and test all units for proper functionality. Also, make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher in the house and verify that it’s in working condition. If it’s more than six years old, replace it with a new one.
6. Give your kids the gift of safety.
The holidays are an especially exciting time for children, so don’t let the presence of potential hazards undermine the magic. Make an effort to keep lights, metal hooks, breakable ornaments and other dangerous decorations out of reach. If you have an infant or toddler, skip the tinsel this year—it’s a known choking hazard.
It’s also wise to keep children out of the kitchen when baking or preparing holiday meals. To minimize the chances for accidents, cook on the back burners as often as possible and turn pot handles inward when using the front burners. Before serving hot chocolate or apple cider to a child, check the temperature; if it’s too hot, add an ice cube to speed up the cooling.
All in all, by taking a proactive stance toward safety, you can better ensure a bright, warm and safe holiday for your family.