FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 5, 2013) -- Getting caught up in the hectic holiday festivities can cause many people to get careless, but by staying alert and aware people can ensure that their gatherings and merriment will be full of comfort and joy, not ending in a holiday tragedy.

While decorations can bring the holidays into a home, they can create safety concerns, and statistics show that mishaps occur more frequently during the holiday period. But with a little common sense and advanced planning, people can create an accident-proof holiday for children, pets and guests.

From space heaters to ladder safety, there are many things to consider during the holiday season, and officials around the installation want to be sure that everyone stays as safe as possible during this special time of year.

"Tis the season to be jolly, as the holiday standard goes," said Maryk Hawkins, fire prevention and inspection. "In many homes, this means a log on the fire, a trimmed tree or a menorah glowing brightly. But what you may not realize is that they also bring an increased risk of fire in the home."

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season, due in part to an increase in cooking, heating, holiday decorations and winter storms.

"When decking the halls, choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant," said Hawkins. "Not all holiday lights are made equal, so be sure that you know whether yours are for indoor or outdoor use, and replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged."

For those living in on-post housing, ornaments and decorations must be noncombustible, and though decorations are encouraged there are a few rules that residents must adhere to.

"People must use plastic clips for hanging outdoor lights. Nails, spikes, building staples or any other type of fasteners that leaves permanent damage are prohibited," said Matthew Roe, Corvias Military Living communications specialist.

Corvias also does not allow any decoration on the roofs of homes and asks that people do not put decorations, such as trees, in front of any doorway.

One out of every three home Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, according to the U.S. Fire Protection Association, and although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death.

When picking out a live Christmas tree, Hawkins said people should choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched, and before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2 inches from the base of the trunk.

"And always make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles or heat vents," she said.

In accordance to Corvias rules, live Christmas trees are not allowed to remain in homes longer than ten calendar days.

Overloading electrical outlets with strings of lights, whether on a tree or outside, can also be a major danger, so Hawkins advises people to check strands of lights to determine the number of strands that may be connected, and to connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.

"Lights could short and start a fire," said Roe. "So holiday lights for our residents must be turned off by 10 p.m. and all holiday lights should be taken down no later than Jan. 9."

Hawkins also suggests that to keep electrical hazards as low as possible, people should plug electric-powered space heaters or portable fireplaces into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.

"Portable space heaters are so easy to knock over in the dark. They should be turned off when you go to bed," she said, adding that two of every five home decoration fires are started by unmonitored candles.

"Lighting candles, whether for decorating or religious rituals, should always be done with caution," she said. "Candles should be in sturdy holders and placed on an uncluttered surface. Lit candles should not be placed in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire. And never leave a lit candle unattended."

Nearly half of holiday decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source and left unattended, she continued.

"Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires, though. So, when cooking for holiday visitors, people need to remember to keep an eye on the range to keep something from overheating, or children and pets from touching things that are out of bounds."

Page last updated Thu December 5th, 2013 at 00:00