Couple decorating front yard of house.With the holidays and colder weather approaching, we wanted to take this opportunity to offer some helpful tips and information to keep you and your family trauma free this season!

Exterior Decorating

Decorating for the holidays has become more extravagant. There are more exterior decorations than ever before. If you are going to decorate outside, please use the following safety precautions:

  • Ladders: use a broad-based ladder; follow weight restrictions on the ladder; never work on a ladder alone. Always have someone with you who can assist or call 911 should a fall occur.
  • If working on a roof, be careful of snow or black ice that could lead to a fall. A well-insulated roof should be cold, which means snow and ice could be present. Even just a small patch of shingles covered in black ice could lead to a fall.
  • Consider using a light projector in your decorating. These will light up your whole house and were designed to eliminate any need to climb a ladder or get on the roof.
  • If using the inflatable decorations outdoors, be sure to follow any wattage recommendations. Use outdoor extension cords as they are designed to withstand the wattage as well as wet and snowy conditions.

Trees and Electricity

  • Follow rules and guidelines on strings of lights. Do not connect more than recommended and be sure to not overload circuits and plugs.
  • Pre-lit trees – if you have a pre-lit tree, do not add additional lighting. The lights provided are intended to connect to each other and that’s all. Do not use those cords as extension cords for additional lights or other nearby decorations.
  • Also, even if a pre-lit tree indicates that it is non-flammable, that does not mean that it will not smoke or smolder. And smoking and smoldering can reach nearby items that ARE flammable and catch fire.
  • If you have a real tree, they are safe as long as they are green and fresh. Keep them well watered as they can dry out fast, which can be a potential hazard.

Interior Decorating

  • Holiday get-togethers and interior decorating can lead to the rearranging of furniture. Normal traffic patterns may be different or interrupted. This can be dangerous and lead to falls – especially for our elderly population. Be aware of this and take necessary precautions including the use of night lights, etc.
  • Increased use of extension cords for your decorating can be a fall hazard. Be sure to tuck them away out of high traffic areas, or secure them if possible.
  • Area rugs and other decorative items including throw pillows, etc could end up being potential trip hazards.
  • If burning candles, put them in a safe place which is usually UP HIGH where they cannot be easily knocked over and where children cannot reach them; never leave a burning candle unattended, and be sure to extinguish candles fully when finished with them. 

Cold Weather

  • The colder weather can lead to an increased use of space heaters. Use with care by following safety precautions and keeping them the recommended distance from flammable materials and items.
  • If using an electric blanket or throw, monitor them while in use and be sure to turn them off when not in use.
  • Cold weather could also mean pets spending more time indoors. This is wonderful, but you may not be used to the pets and their toys, etc. being on the floor and in your walking paths. Always be aware of potential fall hazards.
  • Prepare for snowy conditions before it’s too late. Most wait until the first snow to check the status of their snow shovel or to purchase salt. Keep high traffic areas such as porches and sidewalks clear, and be sure those areas are well lit, especially with it getting dark early.
  • If roads are wet, snow or icy, be safe and use caution. If at all possible, wait until roads are cleared before driving.

Cooking and Baking

  • Make sure your home has multiple fire extinguishers, especially one in the kitchen where 65 percent of house fires start. Store them in visible places so they are easily found if needed. Time will be of the essence.
  • This is a good time of year to review – or establish – your family’s fire escape plan!
  • When cooking and baking for the holidays, prevent burn injuries by keeping pot handles turned away so that they cannot be bumped or knocked off the stove. While it is fun to bake with children during the holidays, sometimes it is safest to have them stay out of the kitchen as they can be quick to grab and touch a hot burner, oven rack, cookie sheet, etc.


  • The UofL Hospital – Emergency Department sees its highest alcohol levels between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. If drinking is a part of your holiday celebration, do not drive and do not mix with medications. Impaired judgment can also lead to falls.
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Michelle Broers, PT, DPT, CWS, FACCWS

Michelle Broers, PT, DPT, CWS, FACCWS, facilitates the overall operation of the UofL Health – UofL Hospital – Burn Center by coordinating clinical, rehabilitation, telemedicine and outreach and prevention activities. She also oversees the burn registry, burn quality improvement and the burn verification process as UofL Hospital journeys toward American Burn Association Burn Center Verification.

All posts by Michelle Broers, PT, DPT, CWS, FACCWS
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