Fire Safety Tips for the Holidays

Published on December 13th, 2016

The Christmas season is a time for joy and celebration. Unfortunately, it also is a prime time for fires. Decorative lighting, candles, Christmas trees and boughs, extension cords, holiday cooking and social gatherings, all increase the potential of fire. As the holidays approach, review safety measures that will eliminate potential fire dangers at your house of worship.

Following are ways you can minimize the threat of fire at your facility.

Access to exits

  • All exit doors should open in an outward direction and be equipped with panic hardware.
  • No locks or fasteners should prevent escape from the inside of the building.
  • Keep all exits free of obstruction at all times.
  • All exits should be clearly marked with a lighted exit sign and powered by an emergency source.

Fire-extinguishing equipment

  • All fire extinguishers should be checked and tagged annually by a qualified servicing contractor.
  • All fire extinguishers should be properly mounted on a wall in a visible location.
  • Each floor level (including balconies) and kitchen areas should be equipped with a proper fire extinguisher in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association standards.
  • Fire extinguishers should be placed so the maximum travel distance does not exceed 75 feet.
  • Employees and facility leaders should be periodically instructed in the use of extinguishers and fire protection procedures.


  • Use only U.L. approved lights and extensions cords.
  • Inspect electrical lights and extension cords for cracks or frayed wires. Replace if necessary.
  • Do not use indoor lights and extension cords outdoors.
  • Outdoor lighting should be weatherproof and clearly identified for outdoor use.
  • Do not overload extension cords and do not connect more than three sets of lights to one cord.
  • Extension cords should have a grounding conductor.
  • Never run an electrical cord under carpeting.
  • No bulbs should come into contact with needles or branches.
  • Never use candles near flammable material, trees, boughs or artificial trees.
  • Turn off all holiday lights and decorations when unattended.

Christmas trees

  • Do not purchase a live tree too early or leave it up longer than two weeks.
  • Live trees should be fresh with high moisture content.
  • Check trees and boughs for freshness by testing the needles. Needles should bend easily and not break or fall off when tapped or shaken.
  • Cut several inches off the tree trunk and use a sturdy water-holding stand.
  • Tree stands should be clean and free of old mineral deposits to improve the trees water intake.
  • Place trees away from fireplaces, appliances, wall furnaces and other heat sources. Heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
  • If necessary, secure the tree with wire to keep it from tipping.
  • Check water levels in tree stands daily.

Clean-up and disposal

  • Remove outdoor lighting and extension cords as soon as the season is over. Even outdoor lights are not designed to withstand prolonged exposure to winter weather.
  • Dispose of trees after two weeks or as soon as needles become brittle and begin to fall off.
  • Dispose of trees properly by contacting your local municipality for tree collection and recycling sites.
  • Never burn trees or boughs in furnaces or fireplaces.

More safety resources

To help your organization identify and address areas of concerns, visit our website at and click on Safety Resources where you will find a variety of safety resources including a Self-Inspection Safety Checklist.