Learn how to decorate, heat, and cook in your home safely this winter.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is providing safety tips and resources to prevent household fires and accidents caused by improper cooking, heating, and holiday decorating practices. Cooking and heating are the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, while 25% of winter fires are caused by decorations. It is imperative to learn how to avoid preventable accidents and celebrate safely during the season.

“Statistics show that incidents of home fires and electrical accidents increase during winter months,” said ESFI President Brett Brenner. “ESFI is urging consumers to take steps to make heating, cooking, and decorating safety a holiday tradition and priority.”

ESFI’s website holidaysafety.org offers a variety of free resources and information that can be shared with your family, community, and workplace. Follow these basic guidelines to help prevent serious electrical and fire hazards as you enjoy the season:

Heating Safety

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn off when leaving a room or sleeping.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.
  • Never use a cooking stove to heat your home or dry clothes.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces on the ground.
  • Have a qualified service professional inspect your heating system annually.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Never use a space heater or appliance with a damaged cord.

Cooking Safety

  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.
  • Always unplug countertop appliances when not in use. 
  • Make sure you have and test GFCI receptacles in your kitchen to prevent shock and electrocution.
  • Double-check that everything is off when you finish cooking.
  • Prevent fires by keeping your oven and stovetop clean of grease and dust.
  • Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly and vacuum the refrigerator coils every three months to prevent potentially dangerous dirt build-up.
  • Never leave the kitchen while cooking.
  • Never cook while sleepy, drinking alcohol, or taking medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking.
  • Never use a cooking stove to heat your home.
  • Children should be closely supervised and kept at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
  • It’s easy to forget about something that’s cooking, especially when you’re entertaining guests. Use a kitchen timer to make sure your dish doesn’t become a fire hazard.

Decorating Safety Tips

  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. Around 210 home fires a year are caused by Christmas trees, so be sure to water your tree daily.
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a fire-resistant label.
  • Carefully inspect decorations before use. Cracked or frayed sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections may cause a shock or start a fire.
  • Only use electrical decorations and lights that have been approved for safe use by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
  • Keep all decorations three feet away from heat sources, including space heaters and fireplaces.
  • Avoid using candles when possible. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
  • Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together and consider purchasing LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than incandescent lights.
  • Follow the use and care instructions that accompany electrical decorations and always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Keep young children away from holiday lights, electrical decorations, and extension cords to prevent electrical shock and burn injuries.
  • Avoid plugging too many decorations into a single outlet. Overloaded outlets can overheat and cause fires.
  • Make sure cords are not pinched in doors, windows, under heavy furniture, or rugs that could damage the cord and cause a fire.
  • Always unplug decorations using the gripping area. Pulling on the cord could damage the wire and present a shock or fire ha