The scene we often envision at this time of year is one of family and friends sitting around a blazing fire with a brightly lighted tree, stockings hung from the mantel, and colorfully wrapped gifts adding to the cozy and festive atmosphere of your Jersey Shore home. A setting lovely to imagine–and to experience–but also one which requires awareness and safety precautions. Fires occurring during the holidays claim the lives of more than 400 Americans each year, and approximately 2 to 3 people per hour are treated in an emergency room due to “decorating” falls and other seasonal injuries.

At the time of year when lists–gift lists, menu lists, activities lists, and to do lists, e.g..–play such a large role in our lives, it is also necessary to establish a safety checklist to ensure an accident-free holiday for your family, guests, and even your pets. Suggestions for taking precautions include the following:

DECORATIONS

*Inspect lights for damage and link no more than 3 strands together. Use only UL approved and only as directed–indoor lights should not be used outside. Beware of overloading outlets. Don’t leave on when you’re not home.

*If you prefer a live tree, make certain it is fresh when you buy it and water, water, water!

*Use non-flammable or flame retardant decorations.

*Never leave lighted candles unattended, near combustible materials, or within reach of children or pets. Make certain to extinguish them before retiring for the night.

FIREPLACES

*Place the tree in your Jersey Shore home at least 3 feet away from the fireplace.

*Keep a screen in front of the fire to prevent flying sparks.

*If you hang stockings from the mantel, be sure to remove them when the fireplace is in use.

*Choose your decorating materials carefully, avoiding combustibles whenever possible. Make certain that ribbons and/or greenery are far from the flames.

*Never burn wrapping paper in your fireplace and risk a flash fire.
GUESTS

*When entertaining friends at your Jersey Shore home, be certain that you have childproofed your home–not just to protect breakables but also to protect young ones from matches, chemicals, or medicines.

*Make sure that outside walkways and steps are well lighted at night.

*Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms.

*Add non-slip mats in your tub and shower–and possibly grab bars for the older set.

PETS

*Avoid feeding the cats or dogs which also reside in your Jersey Shore home food such as rich and fatty fowl meat, onions, grapes, raisins, or chocolate.

*Do not give animals turkey bones as they will splinter and cause great damage.

*Keep all trash out of reach. Better yet, take it outside frequently.

*Because the arrival of guests, noise, and constant activity of the holidays can be quite stressful for a pet, be sensitive about giving it a quiet place and time alone. Exercise or play time is also useful, especially before company arrives.

*As with children, keep pets away from lighted candles, fireplace flames, and the kitchen while cooking is going on.

Got all that? If so, relax and enjoy the season!