The Dangerous Side of Holiday Decorating: Keep Your Family Safe

Christmas lights - watch for overloadsIt’s time. It’s time to start opening up those bins and getting ready to decorate your home for the festivities to come. Decorating is always the part we love and hate at the same time because we know whatever we put up, we are going to eventually have to take down and there has always been a tiny worry of injury when decorating, whether it’s the tree in the house or the lights and extras on the outside of the house, it’s never really been a big deal.

Seeing an increase in our holiday injury emergency room runs prompted me to take a look at some statistics on the subject and what I found was very eye opening. For the years 2004-2008 the Electrical Safety Foundation provided these statistics :

Decorating Statistics

  • In 2004-2008, an estimated 1,170 home fires per year began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of 8 deaths, 54 injuries, and $19.1 million in property damage.
  • Christmas tree and holiday decoration fires result in twice the injuries and 5 times more fatalities per fire than the average winter holiday fire.
  • On average, 260 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year, resulting in 12 deaths, 24 injuries and $16.4 million in property damage.
  • An additional 150 home fires per year begin with holiday lights and other decorative lighting, causing another 8 deaths, 16 injuries, and $8.9 million in property damage each year.
  • Candles started 45% of home decoration fires.
  • December is the peak time of year for candle fires.
  • Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day are the top 3 days of the year for candle fires.
  • Roughly 5,800 people per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for falls associated with holiday decorations. More than half of these injuries were caused by falls from ladders or roofs while decorating outdoors.
  • CPSC estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. 50% of these injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over extension cords. 13% of these injuries involve children less than five years of age; electrical burns to the mouth accounted for 50% of the injuries to young children.

Household Injuries and Accidents:

  • More than 30,000 non-fatal shock accidents occur each year.
  • Each year in the U.S., more than 100,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to a scalding injury.
  • Hot tap water accounts for nearly 1 in 4 of all scald burns among children and is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations than any other hot liquid burns.
  • Each day, nearly 7 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for electrical shock or burn injuries caused by tampering with a wall outlet.
  • In 2007, over 98,000 children ages 14 and under were treated for burn injuries in hospital emergency rooms.
  • The most common causes of product-related thermal burn injuries among children ages 14 and under are hair curlers, curling irons, room heaters, ovens/ranges, and irons.
  • In 2009, ranges and ovens were involved in an estimated 17,300 thermal burn injuries seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. 36% (5,600) of these burn victims were under the age of 5.
  • Heating equipment accounted for 58,660 injuries reported to hospital emergency rooms in 2009. Space heaters accounted for 19% of the total injuries, but more than two-thirds of the thermal burn injuries.
  • For every 10 poison exposures in children, approximately 9 occur in the home.

Fatality Statistics:

  • Each year, there is an estimated average of 60 electrocutions associated with consumer products. The three most common product categories associated with electrocutions are small appliance, power tool, and lighting equipment.
  • Every year in the U.S., more than 2,600 people are killed in home fires.
  • In the U.S., injury is the leading cause of death among children and young adults, and nearly half of these accidents occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council.
  • Worldwide, accidental injury kills more than 2,000 children each and every day.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 70 percent of child-related electrical accidents occur at home, when adult supervision is present.
  • Fires and burns are the third leading cause of unintentional death among children 14 and under.
  • On average, 184 people die each year from non-fire, carbon monoxide poisoning associated with consumer products. The two most common product categories associated with non-fire carbon monoxide deaths are engine-driven tools (38%) and heating systems (38%).

So as you can see, Decorating can be dangerous business and should be given the proper respect and preparation it deserves. Mixing people, electricity, water, and fire are not a good mix.

Be safe, be prepared and Happy Holidays.

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


5 Responses to “The Dangerous Side of Holiday Decorating: Keep Your Family Safe”

  1. larissa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I had no idea there were this many accidents relating to holiday decorating. I am so glad this was posted as it had never been brought to my attention but after reading, it definitely seems like I need to keep an eye out whenever decorating and having areas designated specifically for kids!

    • Thanks for your comment Larissa. It’s great that, in addition to parents, we are reaching professionals like yourself who can now better protect their clients. We often don’t learn about the risks in the house until something goes horribly wrong – so we are happy at Pediatric Safety to give our reader’s an understanding in advance. Please stop by again!

  2. Dani says:

    We’ve stopped using candles altogether. It’s a shame, because no artificial lights have quite the same atmosphere as a candle, but it’s not worth risking our home and our lives. And with children in the house now….no way.

  3. Jerry James says:

    Hii Greg Atwood,

    Yes, You are absolutely right. Electricity is a key part of our regular life and there is little you can do around the home without it. Since it is a regular part in our life then we should have some knowledge about basic precautions for handling electricity and electrical equipment in our homes. In particular, the dangers that electricity and electrical equipment can pose to our children.

    Safety is the main issue and we all should take care of that . thank you for this post and make us to know more about the safety issues.

    Jerry James

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