Ten Tips for Christmas Tree Safety
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD
It's that festive holiday time of year again, bright shiny ornaments, loads
of lights twinkling on the Christmas tree, and lights and decorations on the
house and in the yard.
But, did you know that Christmas trees are involved in about 400 residential fires
annually, resulting in an average of 40 deaths, 100 injuries and about $13.3 million
in property damage and loss? To prevent tragedy from happening in your home,
take the following tips to safely choosing and caring for your Christmas tree.
- If you prefer a natural tree, choose one that is as fresh as possible.
Freshly-cut trees pose less of a fire hazard than those which have begun to
dry out. Signs of a fresh tree include flexible needles that bend but not
break and a trunk that contains sap.
- Never place a tree near fireplaces or other heat sources. Even a
television can be a drying heat source for a natural tree. Do not use
lighted candles on or near the Christmas tree.
- Fresh trees should be used in a stand containing a
water reservoir. Keep
the stand filled with water to avoid drying of the tree. Your tree stand
should also be large and sturdy enough to prevent accidental toppling of the
tree by pets or children.
- Do not place breakable tree ornaments or those with small, removable
parts near the bottom of the trees where they can pose a choking hazard for
babies or small children.
- Use safe, low-energy lighting on your tree. Be sure
that your lights have been certified by a safety testing laboratory (for example,
Underwriters Laboratory, or UL). Replace your lights if any of the cords are
damaged or frayed. Always turn off lights before going to bed or leaving the
- Never overload extension cords by attaching more than three strings of
lights to one cord. Place extension cords along walls to avoid trips and
falls, but don't run them under carpets or rugs.
- If you're purchasing an artificial tree, buy one that is
flame-resistant. If it contains a built-in light set, look for the seal of
an approved safety testing laboratory.
- Never use electric lights on a metal tree. If the lights are defective,
they can charge the tree with electricity, possibly resulting in severe
injury or even electrocution.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy at all times and be sure everyone knows
where it is located.
- Finally, when the tree becomes dry, dispose of it properly. Don't leave
a dry tree in your house or garage.
REFERENCES: NationalSafetyCommission.com. Christmas Tree
Tips.Last Editorial Review: 12/16/2010
CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC Gives Consumers a Holiday Home Decorating Safety Guide.
Previous contributing editor: Dennis Lee, MD