18 Must-Read Holiday Safety Tips

It's better to be safe and merry than sorry


By now you should have finalized a theme for your Christmas decorations at home. As early as September, it's common to see twinkling lights and charming decor in houses as the streets slowly become merry and bright. Putting up lights, decor, and ornaments has always been tradition and if you're involving the young ones in the process, it's best to practice safety first. Remember, lights can electrocute, garlands get tangled, and broken accessories can wound. Stay happy and safe this holiday season by keeping these tips in mind: 

1. Double check all your string or fairy lights before putting them up. Look for loose connections, busted bulbs, and detective cords as these are signs that they are no longer safe. Discard wires that are worn out, cut, or exposed. Inspect all bulbs and remove as needed. If you can’t find individual bulbs with an equivalent wattage, let it go and replace the whole string of lights.

2. For newly purchased lights, look for a QC (quality control) or safety tag. This proves that the item was tested and that it passed quality control. Opt for the LED type as aside from emitting less heat, it's also a safer option for your tree and the home in general, in the long run. 

3. Like lights, it’s important to discard broken ornaments. Be wary of sharp edges and shards as these could not only injure kids and pets, it can also be a choking hazard.

4. For new decor, avoid breakable and sharp kinds. Choose non-toxic, non-lead, non-combustible materials. As much as possible, avoid tiny, bite-size decor that look like food and candy to keep your curious kids and pets from putting these in their mouths.

5. For cat owners, stay away from metallic garland or tinsel. These kinds can potentially block their intestines when ingested and can only be remedied with surgery.

6. Replace existing ornament hooks with string or ribbon. Steer clear of wire and plastic hooks for your child’s safety.

7. Before putting up your decor, make sure your kids and pets are secure. Let the kids stay in one room to avoid tangled wires and tripping over decor. You can ask the older kids to help with the setup.

8. When displaying the tree, it's safe to place it in a corner so that less sides will be accessible to the young ones. Place the lights and fragile decor on top so the kids and pets won't be able to reach it. Better yet, raise the whole tree in order to keep hands and paws away from the bottom. Make sure that the base is mounted on the pedestal securely to avoid tipping over in case the lower parts are accidentally tugged on.

9. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling lights and decorations as they may have leftover lead. Don't forget to turn off all Christmas lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

10. Candles are also a staple holiday décor. Never leave lighted candles unattended—especially with kids and pets around. Keep them on higher shelves, away from reach and from anything that can burn. Although less dramatic and unscented, consider using LED candles so that you won't be too worried about leaving them turned on all night.

11. Keep lighters and batteries safe where the kids can’t reach and play with them.

12. For those in colder areas, skip the poinsettia if you have kids and pets. These are poisonous when eaten. If necessary, have them in higher areas where the little ones won’t be able to reach them.

13. When decorating an outdoor area, make sure you use decor that are specified for outdoor use—especially when working with electrical decorations. When mounting lights, be very careful of damaging the cords. Plastic hooks, twist ties, and insulated staples are preferred over nails or tacks. Safely attach your string lights to your house, trees, and what not.

14. Don't forget to have smoke detectors checked and tested. It’s safe to have a functional device that will sound an alarm in case sparks fly.

15. If you need to use a ladder when installing decor, inspect it first. It should be stable with no loose or missing screws and hinges. If possible, have someone hold your ladder to the ground to keep it in place while you are using it. When installing lights, it’s best to use a wooden or fiberglass ladder instead of a metal one as metals conduct electricity.

16. Chances are, you would need an extension cord for all your lights. Make sure that you choose the heavy duty kind even for indoor use, and more importantly weatherproof extensions specified for outdoor use.

17. Do not overload extension cords, know their ampere rating and capacity. It is advisable to link three string lights per extension—unless otherwise specified. Read labels for both cords and lights and take note of wattage levels before plugging anything in.

18. As a safety precaution, cover unused sockets of the extension cord with baby safe outlet plugs. These are basically plastic plugs that cover the holes where you usually plug into. Keep the extension cord out of your children's or pet's reach by mounting it on the wall where it cannot be moved and toyed with. 

Interior designer Vera Villarosa-Orila is an alumna of the University of the Philippines and is one of the go-to designers for the Real Living Makeovers. You can get in touch with her through e-mail: vera.villarosa[at]



Do you have questions or concerns about your home's layout, furniture, and color scheme? Send your questions to reallivingonline[at] with the subject: Expert Advice. We might answer and feature your queries online.

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