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Tips for keeping your home safe during the holiday season

By Robin De Ryckere and Tierney Bagley

Last year, I hosted the family Christmas dinner at my home. Wanting to create a serene and classy atmosphere, I proudly decorated the mantle with festive greens and crystal candlesticks holding tall tapers burning bright. I especially loved how I cleverly nested all our holiday cards into the greens. It looked fun, festive and quite beautiful. Hors d’oeuvres were served in the living room, followed by dinner in the adjoining dining room while candlelight danced off the ceiling and walls. When dessert had been cleared from the table and we were wondering why we allowed ourselves to eat so much, my daughter suddenly screamed, “Mom, the mantle is on fire!” My once-tall tapers had burned down to stubs. The greens and holiday cards became kindling, and my beautiful mantle was erupting into a bonfire right before our eyes. My guests grabbed their half-filled water glasses, and we all jumped up to douse the flames on what could have been a potentially catastrophic event. Thankfully, we averted disaster. Don’t let this happen to you. Here are some tips to help keep your home and loved ones safe during the holiday season.

Lighting & Decorations

  • Prior to hanging, carefully inspect your light strings for frayed cords, cracked bulbs, tight kinks or anything that could potentially turn into a hazard.
  • Keep your holiday lights away from flammable materials.
  • Do not connect more than three strands of lights, or connect multiple strands to one outlet
    in order to avoid overheating.
  • Replace old lights every couple of years.
  • Hang ornaments out of reach of children and pets, and ensure stockings, garlands or other decorations aren’t hanging too low.
  • Check and double check that every candle and fireplace has been extinguished before you go to bed or leave your home.
  • When hanging lights outside, make sure the ladder is set on a sturdy and level area.

Home Security

  • Unplug all holiday lights before leaving your house.
  • If you are traveling, set a timer for your lights so your house doesn’t look empty.
  • Do not post your travel plans on social media.
  • Ask a neighbor or family member to watch your house and check for mail and packages while you are gone.
  • Track your packages or have them delivered to your work office so they are not stolen from your porch.
  • Keep high-value gifts out of sight of would-be burglars.
  • Do not hide spare keys in an obvious or common place.

Christmas Trees

  • The fresher the tree you buy, the better. The fresher (greener) a tree is, the less likely it is to dry out and catch fire.
  • Buy a tree stand that holds water and fill it daily to prevent your tree from drying out.
  • If you are buying a synthetic tree, make sure it is labeled “fire-resistant.” 
  • Set your tree up away from fireplaces, heaters or exits.

The Kitchen

  • Guests and other duties can cause distractions. Make sure to set a timer or designate someone to attend to food
    on the stove or in the oven.
  • Keep dish towels or oven mitts away from the stove or any open flame.
  • Always ensure an easily accessible fire extinguisher is on hand.


  • Certain foods are exceptionally dangerous for your pets. Don’t feed them treats such as chocolate, desserts/sweets, gravy and meat fat, and yeast.
  • If your vet’s office is closed for the holidays, keep an emergency veterinary clinic’s phone number handy.
  • Ensure your tree is properly secured; otherwise, pets can easily knock them over.
  • Keep light strands out of your pets’ reach and throw away cords that have been chewed
    or otherwise damaged.
  • Make sure potpourris and other small decorations are out of reach to avoid chewing and choking.

While common sense typically prevails, the holidays can be chaotic and distract even the most focused from the task at hand. Hopefully, these tips can help you enjoy your time with friends and family.