NORTHBROOK, Ill., November 17, 2009 -- Surveys from the National Retail Federation and Information Resources, Inc. suggest that uber-competitive bargain-hunting will dominate as this year's trend among families who have spent the year making only purchases of necessity. But if cost is the only concern for these spending-savvy "frugalistas," it could mean they may compromise safety.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are working together this season to remind consumers to think about savings and safety to enjoy true peace of mind. With the NFPA reporting that December and January are the peak months for the overall number of home fires, deaths and injuries, safety is an issue than can often be overlooked with detrimental consequences.
For families, money savings can come in the form of reusing old decorations or shopping at thrift stores and deep discounters. It is also a time of year when families are celebrating and cooking more at home. But if not done carefully, seemingly cheerful activities could quickly put a damper on holiday spirits. Old products like light strings can become worn after years of use. If not carefully evaluated, items like these can pose a risk of fire or electric shock.
"Decorating the tree, lighting the menorah and other holiday traditions are what every family wants to remember," said John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at UL. "Unfortunately, all can be a fire hazard or cause an electric shock or injury, so families should take a few minutes to think about the most precious gift of all when celebrating with loved-ones: safety."
Safe & thrifty gifts
- Shop at retailers you know and trust. Some products found at deep-discount stores may pose potential safety hazards, especially if they do not bear a recognized safety certification mark, such as the UL Mark (the letters "UL" inside a circle).
- Just look for UL. Products that bear the UL Mark mean representative samples have been tested to UL's rigorous safety standards and found to be free of foreseeable safety hazards.
- Examine packaging. Parents should thoroughly examine new products, especially if they have young children at home. Pay particular attention to products in boxes or packages that do not offer a brand name and manufacturer's information.
- A fresh tree is key. "If the needles are not fresh, there is a greater risk of fire," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications, NFPA. "While Christmas tree fires are rare, a person dies in one of every 18 reported, so it's clear they can be deadly." Ask your tree lot attendant to make a fresh cut to the base of the tree and place it in water as soon as you get home. Position the tree in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water and check moisture level daily. Dispose of your tree after approximately four weeks.
- Light it right. Carefully inspect each electrical decoration - new or old -- before plugging it in. Look for cracked sockets or frayed, exposed wires that could become a shock or fire hazard. Replace damaged items with new, UL-LISTED decorations.
- Holiday lights - indoor or outdoor? Indoor-use only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label. Indoor or outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label.
- Exercise candle care. If you have children and pets, place candles out of reach and away from heavy traffic areas in your home. Never leave a room with candles lit.
- Stand by your pan. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking, frying or broiling.
- Practice makes the holiday perfect. Use the holiday season as an opportunity to practice a fire escape plan with your children. Every family member should know at least two ways to get out of each room in the home.
- Gift donations. If you plan to give to those in need, think safety. Consider donating toys your children no longer play with - but are in good condition for second-hand use. Before donating toys with electrical components, make sure they do not have frayed or bare wires/cords as they can potentially cause fire or shock hazards.
"There are many opportunities for stress and seasonal mishaps. Checking your home and holiday gifts for the UL Mark will help keep your family safe to provide peace of mind," says Drengenberg.