It’s that time of year, and the last thing you want is an accident in your home
Having a Christmas tree is an annual tradition for many Canadians. Decorating, lighting it and just enjoying it are activities many of us look forward to year of year.
Of course, one of the downsides of being a personal injury lawyer is my special talent for seeing the danger in just about everything, and your Christmas tree is no exception!
The fact is that Christmas trees can be a source of injury and accidents, so make sure that your family stays safe this holiday season by observing these tips and tricks when it comes to tree safety.
Are Some Trees ‘Safer’ Than Others?
It depends on what you mean by safer, but in general, trees that are stronger and lose less needles are safer, particularly with kids and pets around.
Scotch pine trees, for example, have strong branches and excellent needle retention. They can withstand a lot of ornaments and will leave you with minimal needle vacuuming. White spruce, on the other hand, have VERY prickly needles, which can hurt little hands more easily.
The freshness of the tree is important in terms of needle retention and strength for holding up ornaments, but also in terms of a tree becoming a fire hazard over the holiday season.
You can check to see if your chosen tree is fresh by doing the following: Grasp a random branch, about six inches in from the tip and run your hands over the needles, pulling gently towards you: the needles should be flexible and few should drop off. You might lose a couple, but a dry tree will lose a lot, and is best left on the lot.
General Christmas Tree Safety
When you’re deciding where to place your tree, think about the following:
- Keep the tree away from heat sources: heaters, radiators, vents, even a south facing window. All of these will dry the tree significantly, creating a fire hazard.
- Keep your tree watered and check it regularly so that it doesn’t dry out prematurely.
- Only use light strings that are in good repair: if the cords are frayed at all, best to throw those out and invest in a new set.
- Make sure you position the tree near an outlet or power bar to plug in the lights easily and have access to turn them off when you’re not around, or at night. A short or overheating wire isn’t impossible, even with newer LED light strings. Also, don’t run cords under carpets: it’s best if you can run the extension cord along a wall, to avoid it becoming a trip hazard.
- This probably goes without saying but DON’T use candles or any other open flame around the tree.
Keeping Kids Safe
- Make sure your tree stand is very sturdy, to help prevent the possibility of a child (or cat) toppling the tree.
- Another thing to consider when you choose a position for your tree is to be able to anchor the tree to the wall. Kids are strong and could, with a well placed yank, pull the whole thing down on top of themselves. Even the sturdiest stand can tip if a baby is using the tree to learn how to pull themselves up. Again, the same instructions pertain to cats!
- The shiny ornaments and garlands will be attractive to babies and kids (and cats) alike so keep breakable ornaments, including lights, out of reach. Same with popcorn strings or tinsel. Your best bet, if your child is very young, or you’ll be having little visitors over the holidays, is to use baby gates to protect the tree and keep kids at arm’s length distance.
- Make sure to keep the vacuum cleaner handy so that needles can be swept up regularly: if ingested by a child (or, well, you know) they could get stuck in the mouth or throat and be very painful.
Speaking of the cat…
- Just as with the two-legged variety of kids, you can make Christmas trees safer for your pets by keeping ornaments at the appropriate height and non-edible. You might even consider putting your tree in room where your pets aren’t permitted. This is particularly helpful when you have a tree climbing cat. There’s nothing more eerie than looking at your beautifully decorated tree and seeing a pair of eyes peering back out at you (I know this from experience)
- Make sure that your pets can’t get access to the tree stand and the water. There are stands that are designed to be pet proof. Nothing says refreshing to a dog more than a little tree water, and provided it’s not treated, it probably won’t hurt them, but a lack of water will dry out the tree prematurely, making it a fire hazard.
Skip A Tree Altogether?
If you’re not going to be home for all or part of the holiday season, it might be best to avoid getting a tree altogether, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without some seasonal décor.
You can also make use of mantels, doorways and so on to add pine garlands with holly berries and ornaments. They don’t have to be real pine, either, as there are some realistic looking fakes on the market. Sherry is a pro at creating pots with birch and dogwood branches. She tells me they are both minimalist and elegant, and I’m inclined to take her word for it.
If you have kids and not having a tree is non-negotiable, my recommendations is to bite the bullet, make a pit stop at Canadian Tire, and go with fake for the season.
Whatever you decide about a tree in your home this holiday season, just make sure you keep it and your family safe by following these tips. Have very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us here at Derek Wilson Law!