Don’t get burned this holiday season!

Easy tips from the U-M Trauma Burn Center


The holiday season is upon us which means I’m back on the UofMHealthBlogs to offer some quick and easy fire safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during the holidays!

Let me start by introducing myself. I’m the managing director of the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected centers for treating patients who have suffered from burn injuries. We see an average of 1,400 multiple-trauma and burn patients each year.

Many people don’t know that holiday activities are leading causes of U.S. home fires. That’s right. Activities you do each year at this time could actually be putting your home at risk for a fire.

Christmas trees, holiday cooking, candles burning, decorations and fireplaces can all be hazardous to your home.

But, don’t worry! I’m not saying you can’t participate in all of these wonderful family activities. In fact, most home fires and burn injuries can be prevented just by planning ahead and taking preventive steps.

Here are a few quick and easy tips to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking.

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of U.S. home fires and injuries. Make sure you stay in the kitchen while cooking and watch items on the stovetop. Don’t forget to use a timer to remind you when items are done cooking and be sure to turn off the stove, burners and any other devices.

And don’t forget to watch little ones in the kitchen! Keep pot handles on the stove turned inward to avoid little hands reaching up and pulling hot pots down on themselves.

  • Keep an eye on candles.

The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) statistics show that two out of every five home decoration fires are started by candles. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn and use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t fall over. One-third of U.S. candle fires begin in bedrooms or other areas where people may fall asleep. Avoid placing candles in these rooms and don’t forget to blow them out before you leave a room or go to bed!

You can also consider using flameless candles, but make sure to follow the tip below if you have young children.

  • Make children aware of the difference between LED candles and real flames.

LED candles or candle substitutes are a fantastic and safer alternative to flame candles! But, keep this in mind if you have young children. If children touch and play with the LED flameless candles, they’ll need to be extra careful around real flame candles. Young children don’t understand the difference between the two and could become curious, and touch a real flame like they have done with the LED ones. Talk to them about the difference, and keep them from touching and playing with the substitutes to help reinforce that candles are not toys.

  • Watch fires and fireplace glass doors.

Most people already know to keep young children away from fireplaces, especially when a fire is burning. But what they might not realize is the fireplace glass doors are just as dangerous. The doors seem like they are helping keep children away from a burning fire, but the glass doors themselves can become very hot. Keep little hands away to avoid burns!electrical outlet

  • Beware of electrical problems from holiday decorations.

According to the NFPA, one of every three Christmas tree related fires is caused by electrical problems, and one in five resulted from a heat source that’s too close to the tree. Only leave your tree and decorations lit while you are in the room, and don’t go crazy by overloading electrical outlets or power strips.

Taking these simple tips and precautions can help keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season, and can greatly reduce the risk of a fire in your home. Double check that your fire extinguisher is not expired and is working properly, and is easily accessible should something happen.

I hope you and your loved ones have a safe holiday season!

Take the next steps:

Trauma Burn Center logoFounded in 1959, the U-M Trauma Burn Center was one of the first  dedicated burn units in the U.S. Verified as both a Burn Center & a Level‐1 Trauma Center by the American Burn Association & the American College of Surgeons, it is recognized for the ability to care for the most severely injured patients, and leadership in research, education, outreach & prevention. Each year, an average of 1,400 multiple-trauma and burn patients are admitted to U-M. The center serves as the State Burn Coordinating Center for Michigan & offers award-winning outreach programs.