Tis the season to be jolly…and safe.

Though candles and decorative lights are essential to many holiday festivities, Dr. Tait Olaveson, Medical Director of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, wants to remind everyone that those open flames and decorations can also be dangerous. No matter what holiday you’re celebrating this December, he said, remember to unplug the decorations and blow out any candles before leaving the house or going to bed.

“Decorations have the potential to overheat if they are plugged in for too long and overloaded outlets have the ability to catch fire,” he said. “Keep you and your family safe by giving your electric decorations and outlets a break by unplugging them at night and throughout the day.”

Dr. Olaveson recommends the following tips when using electric decorations this holiday:

  • When hanging lights or working with electric decorations, only use a wooden or fiberglass ladder. Metal ladders can conduct electricity.
  • Only use plastic hooks or clips to hang lights. Metal staples or nails can puncture wires and conduct electricity.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions, especially regarding the recommended number of light strings that can be connected together.
  • Always make sure decorations are not damaged in any way before plugging them in.
  • All electrical accessories – light sets, extension cords, decorations, etc. – should be certified as tested for safety by engineers at Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • When decorating outside, only use lights and extension cords rated for outside use. These will bear a red UL holographic symbol, while indoor items have a green UL hologram.
  • Not all decorative lights can be used indoors and outdoors interchangeably. Only use them in approved areas.

Candles hold an essential role in many religious holiday rituals and traditions. It’s important to be aware, however, that candles are also a leading cause of fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than a third of home decoration fires are caused by candles. But Dr. Olaveson believes that most of these fires can be prevented.

“The areas around candles should be free of flammable materials and hanging decorations. If this is done properly, there should be nothing that could potentially catch fire if the candle tips over or sparks,” he said.

Other candle safety tips include:

  • Candles should be kept in a location where they cannot be touched, handled, or knocked over by children or animals.
  • Never leave candles unattended for even short periods of time. Candles should be extinguished when you leave the room.
  • Always use a candleholder. Candleholders should be very stable and not collect hot wax.
  • Consider using electronic candles or wax warmers.

Lastly, if you’re decorating a live Christmas tree this year, make sure that it isn’t blocking any exits and that it stays watered.

“Even though Christmas trees are only put up for decoration, they should be taken care of, nonetheless. If you aren’t sure that you have time to take proper care of a live Christmas tree, it is probably best to get an artificial one,” said Dr. Olaveson. “A Christmas tree that has died or been allowed to dry out can turn into an inferno in under 30 seconds if it catches fire.”