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Remember Home Safety during this Holiday Season

Los Angeles AFB, Calif. -- Each year, the winter season brings out holiday keepsakes from the attic, closet or garage which have been stored for the past 11 months. Putting up decorations and preparing holiday treats are customs which we carry out without giving a second thought. With our hectic daily schedules, we can forget to use our common sense for home safety. 

Don't let your holiday dreams turn into a nightmare. Here are some safety tips to remember for your home and your loved ones. 

"Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree, Thy leaves are always lovely" - What's under your Christmas tree? Presents for your family? Decorated tree skirt? Blinking lights? Animated ornaments? 

The most important thing under your Christmas tree should be a pan of water. A dried out tree can turn into a towering inferno within seconds and engulfing the room within minutes. Don't let a simple matter such as remembering to water your Christmas tree ruin your holiday dreams. Check the pan often for the water level, especially with a newly purchased tree which is often thirsty after a long trip from the tree farm and has been sitting in the lot for days, sometimes weeks. Run your fingers through the branches. If the needles feel "crispy" and break off easily, the pan may be empty. It could also mean a broken branch. Trim it and discard it with the other garden greens. Don't throw it into the fireplace as it will ignite in a flash and may cause injuries or set the hearth on fire.
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" - Decorate your tree, inside your home and exterior with lights that have been safety tested by government approved agencies. Check the wires and connections for any exposed metals or cracked light bulb sockets. If there are any damages, don't use them. Don't be a scrooge. Go out and buy a new set. A penny saved is not a penny earned. It could cost the lives of you and your loved ones.

 When connecting multiple strings of lights, do not exceed the recommended number of sets. It's an easy mistake to overlook when you need "just one more" to complete the decorating. Do not use indoor lights and indoor extension cords outside. Cold weather, sun and moisture may damage the wires and can cause shortages, which may lead to fire or electrocution. And do not staple-gun the string of lights while plugged in. It may seem like a great idea to be able to see the effects of the lights, but it's a very good way to electrocute yourself if the staple should pierce the plastic covering and touch the wires inside. 

Ladders should be used with caution when putting up decorations whether indoors or out. Always set them on level grounds. Never stand on the top step or higher than recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure the hinges are "locked" in place before stepping on them. Put one foot on the bottom step and "test" the ladder for steadiness. When using an extension ladder, it should be at an angel of at least 45 degrees from the level ground. If possible, have someone hold the ladder steady for you. And don't over reach while up on the ladder. The foot of the ladder may slip, or it may tilt, causing you to fall. Reposition the ladder instead so that you are not performing any acrobatic tricks. 

"Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly" - Watch out for the holiday plants. Those beautiful berries on mistletoes and hollies are highly poisonous to children and pets when eaten in large quantities. Contrary to popular myth, flowers on poinsettias are not deadly. According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it will, however, cause gastric irritation when consumed by pets. All kinds of lilies are toxic to children and pets too. And don't let your pet drink the water from the Christmas tree bowl. Try to use decorations made out of fire-resistant materials. Never decorate your Christmas tree with candles or position candles close to curtains, furniture, air vents, propane tanks or where children and pets might knock them over while playing. Also, any live-branch garlands and wreaths should be sprayed lightly with water to keep them from drying out. 

"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" - Spoiled foods can quickly spoil everyone's holiday plans. Take care during food preparation and while serving the holiday meals to avoid food poisoning. Avoid cross contamination. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food. Rinse and wash cutting boards, knives and kitchen counters often. Don't prepare salads and other foods which are served uncooked on the same cutting boards or cut with knives where raw meat was prepared without washing the surfaces first. The juice from the raw meat may cause bacteria to grow. Always rinse fruits and vegetable with 'drinkable' water before serving. Even ready-to-eat salad packages may contain dirt, small insects, insect eggs, parasites and bacteria. Don't serve them straight from the bags. Thoroughly rinse them as well. Do not leave cooked food out on the dining table longer than necessary. Perishable food such as meat, seafood, cream and egg products should not stay out for more than two hours at room temperature. Store them properly in the refrigerator or the freezer once the meal is over and don't let food sit out. As the food cools, bacteria will start to grow and multiply. If you're not sure if the food is still safe or not after a party, throw it out. Don't risk it. Spoiled food can cause light to severe illness to death. 

Did you know that many of the favorite human foods can cause harm and even death to your pets? ASPCA advises treats such as "gum and candies solely or largely sweetened with xylitol may develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures." Chocolate can also be deadly depending on the amount and type. Chocolates "can contain high amounts of fat and caffeine-like substances known as methylxanthines." Dark chocolates are more toxic to pets than light chocolates, but even a small amount can kill your pet. Other every-day food such as onions, garlic, chives, oranges, grapefruits, peaches, cherries, apples and avocados are also on ASPCA's caution list for pet poisonings. 

Thoughts of accidents and poisonings are the last things anyone would want to think of, especially during the holiday season. But a little bit of common sense and preparation can help avoid the unthinkable. Test all the fire alarms in the house for their proper function and invest in a portable fire extinguisher. Have the telephone numbers to your doctor, veterinarian, police and fire departments, poison control and other emergency agencies handy by your telephones or set it on speed dial. Remembering to practice some simple safety measures can help ensure a festive holiday season and years of happy memories.