First, a few statistics: Each year, approximately 33 million Real Christmas Trees are bought in the United States. According to the NFPA data, of all the Real Christmas trees decorated during the holiday season, fewer than one-one-thousandth of a percent (0.001%) are involved in a residential fire (National Fire Protection Association , n.d.).
One fire caused by a dried out Christmas tree is one too many, but with a few precautions you can enjoy a safe holiday.
Inside The Home
Pick and cut your own tree at a tree farm if possible so you know it is fresh. Once in the tree stand, it is important that you keep the base well watered. Use modern lighting, which does not generate heat as the older string lights did in the past.
Do not allow a space heater to blow directly on the tree, and do not allow children or pets to play with the lights. A pet can easily chew through an extension cord or a light cord, which is bad for the pet and, of course, could cause sparks to ignite the tree or packages under the tree. Do not string extension cord so they become a trip hazard.
Are the holidays the only time you light your fireplace, and if so make sure you have it checked first? It may need to be cleaned because of creosote buildup, and if you do not have a suitable chimney cap birds may have built a nest near the top, which could catch fire.
Do not burn wrapping paper, cardboard or any material other than real wood in your fireplace. Some manufactured fireplace logs may be suitable for burning but read the label carefully, and always opt for real wood if available.
Use timers on your lighting, even through today’s lights do not generate nearly as much heat as those in the past, and are typically low voltage it is never a good idea to leave electrical devices operating when you are not home or for long periods if you are home.
Know when packages are expected to arrive, so you can retrieve them quickly or have a friend, relative, or neighbor pick them up for you. The same would apply to mail in the mailbox. Criminals sometimes actually follow delivery trucks and steal packages soon after they are delivered, so do not let packages sit too long on the front porch.
Away From Home
Know the store hours of your favorite retailer and know what time they may close certain entrances/exits. You do not want to arrive at the store just as it is getting dark and park close to an open entrance only to find you cannot exit that way when it is dark out. This would force you to walk further across a darkened parking lot possibly, so know before you begin shopping.
Stay off your cell phone as you walk to your car. You do not want any distractions. Situational awareness is important. Criminals choose people that appear distracted. You are easy to approach unseen if you are absorbed in your cell phone.
Carry our car keys in your hand and hit the unlock button only once as you reach for the door handle. This only unlocks the driver side door. By unlocking all doors you may allow a criminal to open the passenger door as you slide in the driver’s side. If you have, packages put them in the trunk if you have one, and before unlocking all the doors check the area for anyone lurking. Use the alarm button on your remote to sound the horn if anyone approaches you.
This time of year, it is hard to avoid shopping when it’s dark, so it is wise to always have someone with you. Visiting the store at 2 am may allow you to shop in a less crowded store but on the same token, less people around in a dark parking lot means the chances of being assaulted or robbed has increased.