Tips to keep safe during the holidays

Orange County Fire Authority firefighters douse a staged Christmas tree fire during a holiday safety demonstration on Dec. 12 in Irvine, Calif.
Orange County Fire Authority firefighters douse a staged Christmas tree fire during a holiday safety demonstration on Dec. 12 in Irvine, Calif. The Orange County Register via AP, file

With the holidays upon us, many Centre County residents will decorate their homes and open their doors to family and friends for celebration of the season. To ensure Pennsylvanians have an incident-free holiday, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has offered some tips on how to avoid dangerous situations that can potentially dampen the holiday cheer.

On Tuesday, state Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay and Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller released a list of suggestions that focused on fire prevention and liquor consumption safety, as well as home security.

From 2010-2014, fire departments around the country responded to more than 200 structure fires per year that began with Christmas trees. The fires were responsible for $16.2 million in property damages and an annual average of six deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

To avoid a tree fire, Solobay said to choose artificial greenery that is flame-resistant, but if a real tree is chosen, make sure to keep the tree sufficiently watered.

With either type of tree, make sure to replace any strings of lights that have broken cords or light bulbs and avoid connecting more than three strands of lights.

Holiday candles offer a warm glow, but failing to take the proper precautions can pose a potential fire hazard, according to Solobay.

“One way to avoid this hazard is to purchase artificial candles, which can look realistic, while giving you peace of mind this holiday season,” Solobay said. “If you’d like to use real candles, always make sure to use precaution and blow them out if they will be unattended.”

If homeowners are leaving for an extended period of time, Miller suggested concealing any unwrapped presents that can bee seen through a window and to avoid posting travel information and photographs on social media until after returning from the trip. Taking these precautions will avoid making it known that a home is unoccupied, which can prevent theft attempts.

Miller also reminded party hosts and those consuming alcohol to do so safely and responsibly. She advised hosts to stop serving liquor at the end of a part and switch to coffee, tea or soft drinks. Those consuming alcohol should not drive impaired, but she urged hosts to arrange for a ride or offer any inebriated guests a place to stay.

“The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy getting together with family and friends,” Solobay said. “By applying a few common sense safety ideas, you can make sure your holiday gatherings remain happy ones you will want to remember for years to come.”

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi