The “Peace on Earth” Guide to Holiday Decoration Safety

Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit faster than a yard full of twinkling lights. But decorations come with their risks too! String lights can become a fire hazard if they’re not properly hung. And meanwhile, rooftop decorations pose some dangers of their own, especially if you’re not being safe when you put them up. Here’s how to avoid the threats when you put up the seasonal decor for a worry-free holiday!

hanging ornaments

 

  • Buy a fire-resistant artificial tree. Sorry, Christmas tree purists. The real thing just can’t match the fire protection of a verified fire-resistant artificial tree. Look for a label that indicates the tree is fire-retardant.
  • If you must go for a real tree, look for a fresh one. The fresher the tree, the lower your chances of your living room catching on fire. For maximum safety, purchase a live tree from a Christmas tree farm. Otherwise, look for pre-cut trees with bouncy, springy needles that stay on the branches when shaken.
  • Water real trees often. To keep your tree from drying out over the holiday, make sure to water it frequently. It will also keep it looking pretty and fresh too!
  • Display trees in a safe location. Christmas tree fires caused an estimated $14.8 million in property damage between 2011 and 2015. The lesson here is to put your tree up in the safest way possible. That means keeping it away from radiators, heating vents and fireplaces.

cat mesmerized by lights

  • Protect pets from holiday decor. Cats and Christmas trees are sort of like oil and water. That is, if one desperately wanted to attack the other. Keep kitties and all species of pets safe by anchoring your tree to the wall. And leave tinsel off the tree this year. Cats love to chew on it.
  • Check lights for safety. Before you hang any lights anywhere, check for fraying wires, cracked sockets and any other damage. Discard broken lights in favor of new ones.
  • Don’t overload extension cords. Don’t plug more than three sets of lights into the same extension cord. In other words, don’t pull a Clark Griswold.
  • Use heat-free LED candles as an alternative to the real thing. An open flame beside your Christmas tree or curtains? You’re pretty much asking for disaster. Instead, invest in flame-free LED candles for maximum safety. No one driving by will never know the difference!
  • Never climb on the roof to hang decorations. Use a ladder and keep two feet on it at all times. Nothing will ruin the holidays faster than putting your foot through the attic ceiling.

There you have it: everything you need for the most peaceful holiday yet. Now if only there was a guide like this for surviving your relatives!

Winter Storm Preparedness Guide

It’s 24 hours before the big storm is supposed to strike—is your home ready for the weather? Winter storms can bring extended power outages, and of course, may keep you homebound for a few days. And naturally, wind and ice pose a threat to your home and physical safety as well. Here’s what you need to do when ice, snow and sleet are in the forecast to make sure you’re covered before the first snowflake falls.

a lonely house covered with snow

Make Sure You Have the Necessary Supplies

If you live in an area where snow is commonplace, then you probably already have a lot of these in your garage or shed. But for those of us who are new to this whole snow thing, a freak storm can seriously catch you offguard. At a minimum, you’ll need the following:

  • A snow shovel for digging out your car and your sidewalks.
  • Rock salt and sand for walkways and stairs. Make sure it’s petsafe if you have critters or young kiddos running around!
  • An ice scraper for your car windshield. (Don’t be like this guy!)

You also might want to have a few things to keep yourself comfortable in case the power goes out or in the event that you’re trapped at home for a few days. That means:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Firewood or another independent heat source
  • Flashlights
  • Candles and matches
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Bottled water

snowy houses in the sunshine

Get Your Home Ready

Okay, now that you’ve braved the lines at the grocery store, it’s time to get your house ready for the deep freeze ahead. A couple of tasks you might want to consider:

  • Install storm windows outside or place insulating plastic film over the interiors of windows.
  • Trim dead branches that could pose a hazard in the wind.
  • Wind up hoses and bring in outdoor chairs and toys.
  • Cover your houseplants or bring them inside.
  • Turn your faucets to a slow drip to prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Make sure pets are inside before precipitation starts to fall.
  • Park your car in the garage if hail or sleet may be an issue.

It’s not a bad idea to have your roof and heating system inspected this time of year, as well. This will help you avoid leaks and heating loss during extreme weather events. If you have time, clean your gutters, as well, since they provide vital leak protection by funneling runoff and snow melt off your roof and down to the ground.

cozy slippered feet by the fire

Stay Safe During the Storm

A lot of these suggestions seem obvious, but it never hurts to repeat them, since every year someone ignores common sense and gets themselves into serious trouble. For one thing, stay off the roads if they’re not safe to travel on. The local news can help you stay updated on road conditions in your area, but if you can avoid leaving home, do it.

Also remember not to overdo it when you’re outside shoveling. Clearing snow by hand is exhausting, draining work, especially when the weather outside is frightful, and it can be easy to overexert yourself or hurt your back. So go easy with the shoveling. Do it in shifts if you have to.

When you do go outside, make sure to wear several layers of warm, dry clothing, including mittens or gloves and a water-repellent outer layer.

For more tips on winter storm safety, Ready.gov has a huge checklist of safety guidelines. Stay warm and keep safe everyone!

Get a Safer Home in 10 Minutes With These Security Checks

Most of us don’t like to spend a lot of time obsessing about our home security. After all, there’s enough to worry about without adding a fire or a burglary into the mix. But as much as we’d like to forget all about it, security checks are an important part of your home maintenance routine—and for good reason! In 2015, there were 365,500 home fires and and 1,579,527 robberies. In fact, the FBI estimates that there was one robbery every 20 seconds! Stop and think about that for a minute. That means in the time it takes to read this article, there will be almost eight separate burglaries. That’s more than enough reason to be a little extra vigilant!

However, we realize that security isn’t exactly the most entertaining home project. After all, if it was, you’d have already done it! To make it just a teensy bit more enticing, we’ve found the most adorable, heart-warming video for you as a reward for reading the article. So take a few minutes to perform the following safety checks—we promise, it will be worth it!

big clock on the wall

Drop Your “Spare-Key-Under-the-Mat” Habit

Criminals don’t have the best reputation for smarts, as evidenced by this robber who tried to burgle a police convention. But even they know enough to pull up the mat and check for a spare key. Every year, thousands of burglars use this trick on targeted homes, and lots of them get away with it. Outsmart the robbers—give your keys to a family member or neighbor instead. New in town? Use a doorknob lock box to hide a key. Just don’t put it over your front door: you’re basically advertising that you’re away from home. If you absolutely must stash a loose key on your property, try attaching it to the top of a wind chime. Any robbers who do happen to find your spare will trigger a pretty obvious alarm!

Inspect Your Window Locks

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 40% of home robberies occur as the direct result of an unlocked door or window. Basically, the burglar walks right up to a home, tries the window and climbs right in. Don’t make it so easy for them! While you probably stay on top of your front and back door, windows are a lot easier to miss. Give all the window locks in your home a quick check right now (don’t worry, we’ll wait). Concerned that you’ll forget to lock them again in the future? Try one of these smart sensors and get notified every time someone unbolts one.

Test Your Smoke Detectors

Be honest with yourself, when was the last time you tested your smoke detectors? If it was less than a month ago, go ahead and sit this one out. If not, you’ve got your work cut out for you. The US Fire Administration says you should check your smoke detectors once a month to make sure they’re still working properly—malfunctioning smoke alarms are the cause of three out of five fire-related deaths. And most of the time, testing them takes literally 30 seconds. You just press the test button until you hear the alarm. Pretty simple. But in case you need some extra help, here’s a little how-to from YouTube’s expertvillage.

Check Your Circuit Breaker

Chances are, you don’t think too much about your circuit breaker until you trip a fuse. But your breaker’s main job is to monitor the flow of electricity into your home. If the voltage becomes too high at any point, it automatically cuts the power to protect you and your family. So it’s definitely worth evaluating whether yours can still do its job. There are a couple of different ways to do this. If your circuit panel contains arc fault circuit interrupters (also know AFCIs), there should be a test button located next to each breaker. Press the test button, and the breaker should trip, which is how you know it’s working. Otherwise, you’ll have to use a separate voltage tester to test the circuit breaker. You can get one from a home improvement store. It’s a little more work, but using it does make you feel kind of like a ghostbuster, so it’s not all bad.

Okay, ready for your reward? Here it is: This happy lizard drinking from his dish!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uCThvsLOL0

Wasn’t that great? You totally earned it!