Staying Safe at Christmas

Christmas Tree LightsThis time of year brings its own unique hazards and it is all too easy for celebrations to end in tragedy. In December 2011, the London Fire Service attended approximately 50 incidents, most of which were at residential buildings. While it is impossible to predict where or why a serious fire might occur, there are many precautions you can take to minimize your risk this Christmas.

Christmas Lights

  • Make sure Christmas lights carry a CE logo. All electrical goods sold in Britain and the EU must carry this quality assurance mark.
  • Do not use indoor lights outdoors.
  • Be sure to replace blown fuses with another of the same rating.
  • Replace blown bulbs. A blown bulb might cause a short circuit.
  • Don’t leave Christmas lights plugged in and switched on when leaving the house.
  • Don’t overload sockets.


Most Christmas decorations are made of light, flammable papers or plastic. To minimize any risk, be sure to keep them away from sources of ignition such as heaters, open flames and lights.

Christmas Trees

Should a Christmas tree catch fire, the effects can be devastating. Flames and smoke from the tree will engulf a room in a few seconds, as the following video shows:

When selecting a Christmas tree, choose one that has been recently cut with a trunk that still feels sticky to the touch. A tree that has been cut and left to stand for several weeks will have completely dried out. Its needles will be easily pulled or shaken from the branches and the tree itself will effectively be tinder and kindling should a fire break out.

If you decide to purchase an artificial Christmas tree, look for one that is marked as fire resistant or fire retardant. Most artificial trees are made of PVC or polyethylene and so will have a certain level of resistance to heat and flames.


Candles are popular all year round, but more so at Christmas time. However, even a small naked flame can be dangerous if left unattended.

  • Always extinguish candles fully before going to bed or leaving the house. Be sure it is FULLY out. Candles left smouldering may reignite.
  • Place candles on a fire and heat resistant surface such as a ceramic plate.
  • Keep candles away from fabrics, furniture, Christmas trees, electrical outlets and cables. NEVER place a candle in a confined space such as a lower shelf.
  • Clothes or hair can easily catch fire if you get too close to a naked flame. Exercise caution.
  • Extinguish a candle before moving it.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.

Plan Ahead

In the event of a fire breaking out in your home, it is vital to evacuate yourself and your family as quickly as possible. Have a fire plan in place and be sure your family know which exits to use. Keep doorways clear at all times. Once you have evacuated a burning building, you should NEVER go back inside to retrieve forgotten items. Doing so puts your life at risk, as well as the lives of fire service personnel.

If you have personal possessions which you want to protect from the threat of a house fire, consider purchasing a fireproof safe. For smaller items or documents, a fire chest would be ideal. Should the worst happen, your sentimental items and valuables will be securely locked away, meaning you can focus on the safety of your family.

Following these simple precautions can help ensure a happy and safe Christmas.