Keep safety in mind as you celebrate Christmas

’Tis the season to be jolly, what with tomorrow being Christmas. In between all the yuletide joy, however, remember to give some thought to safety considerations, so your holiday season will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Everyone is encouraged to take extra precautions when using candles in homes, businesses and places of assembly during the holiday season. City of Tacoma Fire Marshal Ralph Johns states that fires started by candles are more common during the holidays. Candle fires reach their peak on Christmas Day followed closely by Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Be especially cautious of candles being sold that look like holiday decorations you can hang on a tree – don’t light these candles anywhere on or near your Christmas tree! These items are indeed candles and not holiday decorations.

Candle fires also increase during power outages. As we head into the winter season and potential severe weather, it’s best to be prepared with flashlights and other battery-powered lights rather than to rely on using candles.

Johns also recommends taking basic fire safety precautions all year long. Smoke detectors should be on every level of your home, including the basement, and in every bedroom. Detectors should be tested monthly, batteries replaced annually, and make sure children and holiday guests know the sound of the smoke detector by pressing the test button on the device.

He offered the following safety tips:

– Use candles only in rooms where there is a responsible adult to control and oversee the flame.

– Always keep a burning candle within sight and extinguish it when leaving a room or going to sleep.

– Do not use candles in sleeping areas.

– Keep candles away from items that burn, such as clothing, books, papers, Christmas trees, decorations, window blinds and curtains.

– Keep candles away from high-traffic locations where they can be easily knocked over, including any area accessible to children or pets.

– Place candles on stable surfaces in sturdy holders that grip the candle securely and won’t tip over.

– Place candles in candle holders that can’t burn and are big enough to collect dripping wax.

– Use extreme caution if you carry a lit candle, holding it well away from clothing and any combustibles that may be near the path along which you walk.

– Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn to within two inches of the holder, and votive and container candles before the last half-inch of wax begins to melt. Avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them.

– Never touch or move a votive or container candle when the wax is liquid.

“Applying a little common sense, and a little extra vigilance for the safety of our companion animals, will help make the holidays happy,” said Bob Walter, education director for The Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County, referring to some of the hazards pets face during the Christmas season.

The Humane Society offers the following tips to keep your four-legged friends safe:

– Unusual foods can cause stomach problems. Avoid feeding people food, especially fatty foods, gravy and chocolate. Never feed your pets poultry or fish bones, and remember to dispose of them properly, or they could become lodged in your pet’s stomach or intestines and require surgery.

– If you have guests visiting, give your pets a quiet place to rest during the hectic holiday celebrations. Be watchful of open doors and make sure pets are wearing their licenses in case of escape. Protect your pet from enthusiastic youngsters who might not know how to gently play with them.

– Protect your pet from holiday temptations such as Christmas trees, which should be secured with a strong anchor, cord or rope. Check around the tree daily for pine needles. Ingested pine needles can cause vomiting and diarrhea and even puncture an intestine if sharp enough. Avoid additives to the tree water. Watch the water used at the base of your tree. Many commonly added fertilizers are poisonous to animals, while stagnant water can breed harmful bacteria.

– Holiday plants such as mistletoe and holly are extremely poisonous. Poinsettia and azalea plants can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. It’s best to keep all plants and flowers inaccessible to your pets.

– String-like ornaments, such as tinsel and ribbons, must be avoided. If these are ingested, they can cause serious damage to your pet’s intestines. Instead, use wide ribbons and swags that are not so dangerous. Select non-breakable ornaments, especially for those lower branches.

– Electrical cords are extremely dangerous if chewed, causing serious shocks and/or burns to the mouth and can even cause death.

– Prevent your pets from ingesting chocolate, avocados, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts, alcohol and coffee. These are all potentially deadly items for pets to eat.