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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Holiday Safety with Clark W. Griswold

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be easy to get caught up with the decorating and festivities this time of year. With all the excitement (uh, stress?) of the holidays, it can be easy to overlook the safety hazards of the season. Today we’re looking at some holiday safety tips.

Now, a regular safety article would be so boring and un-Dabs-like. To keep you (and me) awake, we’re going spice this article up by illustrating holiday safety through the lens of my favorite holiday movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Let’s face it. The only thing keeping Clark alive is sheer luck.

An American classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation truly is the gift that keeps on giving year after year. The Mathematician and I have a tradition where we watch this movie on Thanksgiving night. I notice something new every single year. Whether it’s the Bullwinkle cup full of eggnog, the light bulbs under the dog food in the shopping cart or Eddie’s dickie, there are so many hidden gems. But this year, it occurred to me that this movie perfectly illustrates many common safety concerns. So buckle up!

Holiday Lights

Clark’s quest to upstage all his neighbors and take out the electric power grid in the Midwest is fraught with peril. Pretty much everything Clark does in this endeavor increases his chances of an untimely demise. ☠️

Not an ideal way to store your exterior lights…

Safety tips for holiday lights:

  • Use lights with the UL seal of approval, purchased from a reputable store.
  • Ensure exterior lights are certified to be used outside.
  • Inspect your lights (new or old) for fraying, loose plugs or kinking. Trash any strands that aren’t up to snuff.
  • When replacing bulbs, unplug the strand first. Make sure you’re replacing like with like as far as the bulbs.
  • String no more than three strands together and no more than one extension cord per outlet.
  • Ensure your exterior outlets are GFCIs, which protect against electric shock where water might be present. If they aren’t GFCIs, consider having an electrician come out to upgrade them. (Call me if you need a recommendation!)
  • NEVER use staples or similar to hang up lights!!
Too many plugs strung together = safety risk!

Product Recommendation: If you are tired of physically flicking on your light display every night, you can purchase this outdoor yard stake with six outlets. It will turn your lights on a dusk and leave them on for a period of time you specify. It has mixed reviews, but ours is 7-8 years old and going strong. Set it and forget it, my friend.

Ladder Safety

When I worked at Chrysler, I wasn’t even allowed to use a ladder because I hadn’t been certified. . .to use the ladder. This requirement somewhat backfired as HR could frequently be found standing on our swiveling office chairs to hang stuff up or retrieve items. But the point is made – ladders are not to be trifled with.

According to the CDC, more than 100 people die and thousands more are injured each year falling from ladders. As much as we like to think we are invincible, our human bodies are fragile and a short fall can cause devastation if you fall a certain way.

Ladders are no joke.

Ladder safety tips:

  • Select the correct ladder type for your job. This most especially applies to using one that is the correct height! If you are over-reaching or can’t reach from the second step from the top (A-frame) or fourth step from the top (extension), you need a different ladder!
  • Inspect your ladder before using. Is everything in good condition? Are any of the connections loose or unstable?
  • Position the ladder in a safe location. Avoid any unstable ground or areas where people or pets might run into the ladder.
  • Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times. (e.g. two feet and one hand on the ladder)

Decor Retrieval

Storing your holiday gear up in the attic? Let’s not forget this little gem where Clark falls through his ceiling. Be careful going in and out of the access point to your attic and for Pete’s sake – keep your weight on the joists!

My question is – what happened to the half naked woman that was on Russ’s ceiling in the scene with Grandpa?

Tree Safety

The artificial vs. natural holiday tree debate rages on, year after year. We personally have an artificial tree because I don’t want to go through the hassle of picking one out, dropping $100 on the experience I didn’t want in the first place only to have it scatter needles all over my family room. (The Grinch is strong in this one.) To each their own!

For some people, it’s the thrill of finding that perfect tree each year. For the rest of us, it’s the thrill of figuring out where we put it in the basement…

While fire risk with holiday trees are low, fires do still happen. Put the below tips into action to mitigate your risk.

Tree safety tips:

  • Place your trees at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, candles, space heaters or radiators.
  • Ensure your tree is securely anchored and won’t tip over.
  • Don’t place the tree in any location where it will block doorways or access to egress points. If you need to make an emergency exit, you don’t want the tree blocking your way.

For artificial trees, you may wish to ensure your tree is “fire resistant.” Do your research on this one as the chemicals that make the tree fire-resistant can also be quite nasty.

While rare, tree fires do happen!

For natural trees, the biggest risk is a dried-out tree catching fire. When you purchase the tree, check that the needles are green and not falling off. Water the tree every day or get yourself a fancy gismo (like this $150 “tree butler” – how fancy😁) that will do it for you to prevent the tree from drying out. If your tree does dry up, it’s time to put it to the curb because it’s now a safety hazard.

Small Friend Safety

I’m talking about children and small pets! Our small friends don’t always know better and the holiday decorations are so bright and shiny!

One big risk to both children and pets are holiday plants. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are all toxic if ingested. If this is a concern in your home, go artificial or place the plants out of reach.

The holiday tree can also be what attorneys call an “Attractive Nuisance”. (This moniker was also the name of my law school bowling team!) It’s something that can be dangerous that also has some sort of appeal.

Be on the lookout for sharp or broken ornaments or decorations. Also, anything with small removable parts or anything the looks like CANDY! If smells good and looks like candy, that is a losing combination for our small friends.

Cats and trees . . . not a winning combination.

Well, that wraps up our exploration into the many safety violations of Clark W. Griswold. I hope you and yours have a fantastical holiday season. And if isn’t everything you dreamed it would be . . . there’s always Tylenol.

As always, I’m here to help with all your home ownership questions. Reach out if I can help in any way!

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