Have you checked every bulb?

It’s that time of year again. When we will start out with the hope of making this holiday season the best it has ever been! In my house I know the time has come when my wife starts hounding me to start pulling the multiple tubs of decorations from the attic, closet, and every other nook and cranny we have them stored. It’s a painful task that I start with dread each year. It doesn’t take long before my “Director of Winter Wonderland” has me motivated and cheerful though. She lights the fire and I start singing every tune at request.

Although slow to start, I really do enjoy the holidays and all the ­memories they bring. We have ­traditions that I hope will carry on throughout the rest of our lives.

But I want to talk to you about starting a new tradition. This year put safety at the top of your new ­tradition list. I don’t want the twinkling lights you see coming from the top of a fire truck or ambulance. Christmas ­memories should bring back happy thoughts, not memories of an accident that could have been prevented.

Let’s get started with trees and lights—that tangled mess of danger-prone holiday decorations. According to the United States Fire Administration, Christmas trees start an average of 260 house fires each season, resulting in more than $16 million in property damage. Another 150 house fires are sparked by holiday lights and ­decorative lighting, ­costing $8.9 million in ­damage. Typically, all of these fires are more severe and ­damaging, resulting in twice the ­injuries and five times the fatalities per blaze compared to average winter home fires.

Unsafe practices while putting up decorations are to blame for even more injuries. Ladders, freezing cold hands, staplers and slippery, icy conditions are just a few. Are you thinking about one of the scenes with Chevy Chase from Christmas Vacation? “Russ, we checked every bulb didn’t we?”

Nearly 6,000 individuals visit emergency rooms each year as a result of falls. Four thousand more are treated for injuries associated with extension cords.

Gifts trigger injuries, too. Toys that are not used as intended or used without proper supervision lead to avoidable accidents. Electrical shocks, burns, or injuries from sharp, pointed, or moving parts are to blame for many of these injuries ­according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I know you have too many lists to take care of this time of year, but take a minute and read the following safety checklists:


★ Make sure an artificial tree is labeled “fire resistant.” Be aware that “fire resistant” does not mean “fire proof.” Exercise caution when it comes to your tree.

★ Make sure a live tree is fresh and green. Dry, brittle limbs and ­shedding needles are a breeding ground for sparks. Water a live tree regularly to prevent it from drying out.

★ Place any type of tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents and radiators.


★ Do not overload electrical outlets. Most lights are designed to connect no more than three strands. Inspect the wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch.

★ Never leave lights on overnight or when no one is home.

★ Only use lights that have been approved by an independent ­testing laboratory.

★ Replace any strands that show signs of damage, such as bare or frayed wires, broken bulbs or loose connections. Faulty lights can send an electrical charge through a tree and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with a branch.


★ Select gifts that are age ­appropriate for the recipient. Toys recommended for older children pose too many risks for younger children to use safely.

★ Educate children on electrical safety when using any new toy or product that requires an electrical connection.

★ Review all instructions and safety guidelines included with new ­products before you allow the child to use it. This ensures the safety of the child and protects the integrity of the product.

Jim Miles is a safety instructor and Certified Loss Control Professional for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He can be contacted at jmiles@aiec.coop.
Jim Miles is a safety instructor and Certified Loss Control Professional for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. He can be contacted at jmiles@aiec.coop.

I remember last Christmas Eve after putting the kids to bed my wife and I were sitting in our living room by the light of our tree just thinking how beautiful it was. She had done it again! Year after year she wants it just right. I struggle and sometimes complain, but without out all of her ­planning and decorations it wouldn’t be the same. I know that when ­morning comes and our kids spring out of bed, it will be the best Christmas they have ever had. From my ­family to yours, we wish you a safe and ­wonderful Holiday!