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As you pull out those holiday storage boxes filled with decorative goodies and embark on your seasonal embellishing, take extra care as you hang those outdoor lights, choose that tree, and spark those holiday candles.

In any given year, about 8,700 people go to the emergency room because of holiday-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, Christmas trees are the cause of about 400 fires a year, resulting in 20 deaths, 70 injuries, and an average of $15 million in property loss and damage.

Trees aren't the only cause of holiday fires: Some 10,000 candle-related fires are also reported each year.

Safety is an even greater concern this year because more Americans are expected to buy real Christmas trees, and with it the likely holiday lights and decorations. The National Christmas Tree Association says it is expecting about a 3 percent increase - up to some 40 million families in the United States who will purchase a tree this year. Another 7.3 million will purchase an artificial tree.

"The reduced travel and increase in spirituality and family activities in America will prompt more consumers to choose a real Christmas tree this year," said Jim Corliss, President of the NCTA.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as you begin your holiday decorating and lighting:

Trees

• The tree should be green.

• It should be difficult to pull the needles from the branches.

• The needles shouldn't break when bent between your fingers.

• The trunk butt should be sticky with resin.

• When the trunk is bounced on the ground, needles shouldn't shower to the ground.

• Be sure the tree is away from fireplaces and other heat sources.

• Place away from traffic. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is fire-resistant.

Decorations

• Use non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.

• Never use lighted candles on a tree.

• If you have small children, refrain from using decorations that are sharp or breakable.

Lights

• Only use lights that have been tested for safety (look for a designated label on packaging).

• Discard any damaged sets.

• Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord.

• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

• If you are considering using lights outdoors, check the labeling to ensure they are certified for outdoor use.

• Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect from the wind.

• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house.

Also, if your outdoor lights and decorations involve the use of a ladder, the National Safety Council offers these reminders:

• Make sure the base of the ladder is free from clutter.

• Rest the ladder base on a solid, level surface.

• Use a large board to level the surface and keep the ladder from sinking into soft ground.

• Aim for 75-degree angles: Make sure the ladder is about one foot away from the vertical support for every four feet of ladder height between the base support and the top support.

• Tie a straight ladder as close to the upper support point as possible.

• Make sure the ladder extends three feet beyond the roof's edge or support point when using a ladder to reach a roof or platform.

• Make sure stepladders are fully open and the spreader is locked.

• Never use a ladder outside during strong winds.

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