The winter holidays are a time for relaxing, entertaining, and spending time with family and friends. Safety might be the last thing on your mind this season, but nevertheless, it is something that should always be a concern. There are a few easy preventative measures you can take that will keep everyone safe and comfortable (and out of the ER) on Christmas Eve.
Fire is common to many holiday celebrations: Hanukkah is the celebration of lights, with candles playing an important role, and many families will also use candles in their windows for Christmas. No matter what the holiday, a few basic steps will keep the fire where it is supposed to be and prevent it from spreading.
* '''Don't leave your lights on''' when you aren't there to appreciate them.
** Lights can be a hazard for electrical fires and can ignite a tree if it is dry or artificial.
* '''Choose your decorations carefully'''.
** Look for "flame-retardant" or "fire-resistant" labels on any decoration. This is especially important if you decide to use an artificial tree.
* '''Don't burn wrapping paper.'''
** The chemicals used in the paper can give off sparks and dangerous gasses.
* '''Use caution with candles.'''
** Always make sure your candles are stable in their holders or in your menorah.
** Never leave burning candles unattended.
** Never allow small children to play with candles; do not leave them where children might knock or pull them down.
** Never light candles on a Christmas tree or bring lit candles near it.
** Never place candles near an open window or drafty area, and don't place them near curtains.
* '''Fireplace maintenance is important.'''
** Make sure your fireplace is clean and your flue is in good working order.
** Keep appropriate cast-iron, brass, or steel fireplace tools handy at all times; you don't want anyone trying to "make do" with a broom or anything else that might ignite.
** Never leave a fire burning when you are out of the house or asleep; extinguish all fires when you are finished enjoying them.
** Keep a small fire extinguisher near the fireplace, easily accessible; familiarize yourself with the directions on how to use it.
* '''Water your tree.'''
** It's so important, it's in here twice.
Before you start covering your entire house in Christmas lights like Chevy Chase in ''Christmas Vacation'', read through these important safety tips.
The holidays can be a stressful time for your pets. If you go to a lot of parties, they might miss your company, and if you have a party or two at your house, all the strange people and sounds might frighten them. Keep your pet healthy and happy through the new year with some of these ideas.
* '''Pets and Decorations'''
** Pets, especially dogs, seem to love creating chaos, which may spell disaster for your carefully decorated tree. Make sure that there is nothing at dog-mouth level (this is especially true of edible decorations like popcorn, cranberries and gingerbread cookies).
** Make sure that any other decorations are safely out of harm's way.
** If you have holiday plants around the house, keep them where your pets cannot reach them. If you have cats, better to not buy plants at all: poinsettia, yew, holly, and mistletoe are all highly toxic. Most species used as Christmas trees will also cause a number of unpleasant symptoms if eaten.
* '''Outdoor Safety'''
** Winter wonderlands can be a lot of fun for your pet, but there are a number of dangers present in the great outdoors.
** Antifreeze is dangerous to pets, even in small amounts. Don't let your dog or cat lick anything off the driveway or garage floor.
** Salt on the sidewalk can severely irritate a dog's paws (especially if he or she has any open cuts) and may be toxic if your dog licks his or her paws after a walk. Although they may appear a little silly, booties for dogs are good protection from road salt.
** Make sure your dog is warm when you go out. If you have a breed with short hair, or an especially small animal, a winter coat can protect him or her from severe cold and wind.
** Dry your dog off thoroughly after walks in the snow.
* '''Surprise Pets'''
** '''Never give a pet as a gift''' unless the recipient knows that he or she will be receiving one and confirms that it is OK.
** Unwanted "Christmas puppies" are cute when they are little but often wind up in shelters when they are full-grown adults.
* '''Be Prepared'''
** Keep your first aid kit handy, as well as the phone number of your veterinarian's office.
** If there is an animal emergency hospital or clinic near you, find out if they will be open on Christmas and New Year's. This way, if your usual vet is closed for the holidays, you will have somewhere to go just in case.
** If your pet is expecting a litter and your vet will be away over the holidays, make sure you go over what you need to do to help her deliver.
With all of the gift-giving taking place, new toys will be found everywhere. Utilize these helpful tips to keep your little ones safe.
The holidays are surely a time for partying. But, ''please'', do it responsibly.
Food and Drink Safety
Consuming over- or undercooked foods can pose a health hazard. Be sure to read up on these safety tips so that no one gets sick!