Fort Riley, Kansas



Winter holiday hazards to watch out for

By Alex Bender | GARRISON SAFETY OFFICE | November 03, 2017

     Team Riley, the winter holiday season is upon us and now is the time to start planning for adding festive touches to the interior and exterior of your home. But, before you stock up on lights, tinsel and those festive decorations and adornments, the Fort Riley Garrison Safety Office wants you to be aware of some of the dangers holiday season and decorating can bring.

     Although we find holiday decorating to be a fun and festive activity, it can also be quite hazardous and may result in injuries. Everyone should be able to enjoy this time of year and not spend time recovering from a preventable injury or visit the hospital for a devastating fall or burn.



     Current estimates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show 15,000 people are injured during holiday decorating and visited emergency rooms during November and December because of holiday decorating. Injuries from falls were the most common, accounting for 34 percent of holiday decorating-related emergency room visits. Lacerations made up 11 percent of visits and back strains made up 10 percent.



   In accordance with Fort Riley regulation 420-4 paragraph 12-3(f) seasonal decorations wired for illumination will be constructed of noncombustible materials only and will bear an approval label, such as the Underwriters Label. Such decoration will not be provided with any type switch between the convenience outlet and the device and shall be plugged in only during such time as a responsible adult is present on the premises. Decorations other than noncombustible types such as Christmas trees are prohibited within 10 feet of any exit.



       National Fire Protection Agency reported U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 210 home structure fires per year that began with Christmas trees in 2010 to 2014. These caused an annual average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries and $16.2 million in direct property damage.

       Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than most fires. Almost two of every five — 38 percent — home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room or den. All of the fatalities and three-quarters of the injuries resulted from fires started in this area. Seven percent were chimney or flue fires.

        Do you want to prevent a holiday decorating-related injury this year? Check these tips below:



                Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection and read warning label.

                A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. To check for freshness, remember: A fresh tree is green.

                Fresh trees have needles that are hard to pull from branches.

                When bent between your fin­gers, fresh needles flex and do not break.

                The end of the trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.

                When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.


                Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.

                Remember, heated rooms can dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards.

                Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose a fresh end to help with wa­ter absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water throughout the holiday season.

                Place the tree out of the way of traffic, do not block doorways and be sure to check water level daily.



                Heed the warning labels on ladders and always face the ladder whether climbing or dismounting. Never overreach while on a ladder climb down and move the ladder.

                If you are using an extension ladder ensure when you lean the ladder against a vertical wall, the footing of the ladder must be 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of ladder height. For example, a ladder height set at 20 feet high, so the base of the ladder distance is 5 feet from the wall. If you climb the roof then you must have the ladder extend 3 feet above the highest point and be anchored to prevent the ladder from accidentally shifting or falling while you are climbing or descending.



                Indoors or out, use only lights that have been tested for safe indoor or outdoor use. You can identify this by the safety label located on the lights from the Underwriters Laboratory, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association.

                Underwriters Laboratory uses a red holographic label to identify indoor and outdoor approved lights and the green holographic label identify outdoor use only lights.

                Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets, do not attempt to repair them.

                Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind and weather damage.

                Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.

                Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.

                The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted. To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a tree, never fastened onto it.



      Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled. To avoid injury, read container labels and follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

      For more information on holiday safety, contact the Fort Riley Garrison Safety Office at 785-240-0647.