Five safety tips for Christmas

Christmas is coming and we're all gearing up for the festive season. December is inevitably a busy time, but amidst all the preparations it's worth remembering a few important safety tips. There are a number of fire and electrical hazards which can arise over Christmas and New Year, but by following our simple precautions, this Christmas should be one you'll remember for all the right reasons.

1. Check lights and trees. Always use lights that carry the British Safety Standard sign, also known as the kitemark. Check lights are in good working order before re-using them, and that all bulbs are lit. LED lights are cooler to the touch and are less likely to start a fire, so if you're replacing decorations, it's worth investing in these (LED lights are cheaper to run too). Don't place lights near paper decorations or anything that can catch light easily, and always switch them off at night. Real trees should be kept well-watered – dry, brittle branches can ignite in seconds. Take a look at this video posted by London Fire Brigade for a shocking example of a Christmas tree fire.

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2. Be vigilant with candles and tea lights. The glow of a real flame is a seasonal look we all love, but be sure to extinguish all candles before going to bed or leaving the house. Never place candles near a Christmas tree or any flammable materials such as Christmas cards or tinsel.

3. Don't overload plug sockets or adaptors. Many of us have plug-in decorations as well as Christmas lights both inside and outside the house, but too many lights can create an electrical overload and a consequent shock or fire hazard. Follow instructions and if you're in any doubt at all, speak to an electrical expert.

4. Test your smoke alarms. You should always test smoke alarms monthly, but if you've forgotten this task for a while, now is the season to get back into the habit. Replace batteries if necessary, and consider having mains-operated smoke alarms fitted, as these offer greater reliability.

5. Party safely. Most fires start in the kitchen, so if you're cooking for guests, don't get distracted and leave pans burning on the hob. As host, it's probably best to go easy on the booze until all the food is cooked and served! When you're clearing up in the early hours, check all candles are extinguished, lights are turned off, and that there aren't any cigarettes smouldering. If you have an open fire, ensure that a robust fireguard is fitted.

Christmas fire safety advice for offices and workplaces

It's not just domestic dwellings that are at risk during the Christmas season. Offices, factories, retail outlets and restaurants are just as likely to be putting up Christmas trees and lights, and our five tips apply just as much in these settings (yes, even number five – especially if your office party is being held on the premises!).

What's more, many workplaces are left empty for several days over the holiday period, and so it's vital that your company's fire wardens perform a careful check before locking up. Bosses have a legal requirement to make sure their premises are adequately protected. If you're unsure of your duties under the law, speak to us about our competitively-priced fire safety audits and fire risk assessments, and don't hesitate to get in touch for any other information about fire and electrical safety in your home or workplace.