Home Holiday Safety 101

Discover smart ways to keep your home and family safe throughout the holiday season with Smart Neighbor's Home Holiday Safety 101.

When stores are bursting with shoppers picking out the perfect gift, streets are filled with floats and bands playing catchy holiday tunes and homes are festively lit up, smart neighbors know what time it is – time for Santa Claus to visit! Along with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, dogs, cats, reindeer, etc.

Help ensure your home and guests are kept safe this year by reviewing each of the safety tips below as you survey your home for possible safety improvements.

Be Smart with Interior and Exterior Holiday Decorations

If you’ve got a live Christmas tree, check it daily to ensure it has enough water to survive through the holidays, hydrated to the point where needle loss is minimal. Also, use energy-efficient LED lights on your tree as they stay cooler and are less likely to cause a dried-out tree to ignite. If you plan to use incandescent lights, make sure they are UL-approved. Check each light cord to make sure the insulation and wires are intact and free of being pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture.

If you plan to use spray snow on your tree, widows or other surfaces, read the directions carefully as the spray can irritate your lungs if you accidentally inhale the fumes.

Families with small children should avoid putting lights, breakable ornaments, metal hooks and small decorations that could potentially be swallowed near the floor or on the lower limbs of the tree. If using extension cords, inspect them thoroughly to ensure they are not damaged. Never allow children to play with garland, light strands or extension cords, as they can become entangled or potentially strangled.

Small children can also mistake holiday plants for food. Certain plants that are popular during the holiday season can be poisonous and cause severe stomach problems. Keep mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis out of the reach of the little ones.

If you use an artificial Christmas tree, choose one that is labeled fire-resistant. If your tree includes pre-lit lights, make sure they have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.

Plug outdoor lights and yard inflatables into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). If circuits are not GFCI-protected, portable outdoor GFCIs can be installed without any special knowledge or equipment.

If you plan to hang outdoor lights on your home, trees or shrubbery, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder as metal ladders conduct electricity. Stay at least 10 feet away from electrical power lines when decorating outside your home. Make sure the ladder extends at least 3 feet past the edge of the roof to make entry and exit easier. 

Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many light strands or electrical decorations, as they can overheat and cause fire.

Inside your home, be sure to keep lit candles away from the tree, presents, boughs, ribbons, curtains and other flammable items, and never leave them unattended.  Turn off all electrical decorations before leaving home or turning in for the night.

For additional holiday safety tips, visit the ESFI website.

Smart Home Safety “Turn off all electrical decorations before leaving home or turning in for the night.”

Stay Safe in the Kitchen

Many families spend time together preparing meals and baking scrumptious cakes, cookies and pies this time of year. Help ensure the health and safety of everyone by following our cooking tips:

  • Carefully thaw your holiday turkey in the refrigerator in its original wrapping in a pan or tray that can catch any juices that may drip as it thaws.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap or place them in the dishwasher.
  • Cook the turkey until it reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit. Insert a cooking thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and innermost part of the wing for an accurate reading.
  • If you decide to fry your turkey, set up the fryer at least 10 feet away from your house on a level outdoor location, such as a driveway. Keep the oil level steady throughout the frying process. Only use a thawed, dry turkey as any water will cause the oil to bubble and spill over. The fryer lid and handle can become very hot and cause burns, so handle with caution. Lastly, keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case anything goes awry.
  • Don’t leave food unattended while on the stove or in the oven. Fires often occur when no one is watching.
  • Avoid putting too many pots and pans on the stove at the same time to reduce the risk of a grease fire occurring. Turn the handles toward the back of the stove to ensure they are out of reach of children.
  • Don’t try extinguishing a grease fire by dousing it with water. Turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by placing a lid onto the pot or pan. Keep the lid on until it is cool.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it before a fire occurs. If there is an oven fire, immediately turn off the heat and keep the oven door shut to prevent flames from escaping.
  • Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves and keep long hair tied back to lessen the chances of becoming a fire hazard should they come in contact with a hot burner.

Properly Preserve Leftovers

Turkey sandwiches can be mighty good the next day, or even the day after. Help ensure your leftovers are properly cared for by following these US Department of Agriculture tips:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. Store leftovers in shallow pans or air-tight containers to prevent the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Avoid eating leftovers that have remained in the refrigerator for longer than 3-4 days. To keep them safe for longer periods of time, store them in the freezer.
  • Place leftovers in a cooler of ice or frozen gel packs if you are traveling more than two hours to avoid bacteria growth.

For more information, visit If you have questions about how to safely cook a turkey, call the USDA Food and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

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