Holiday Decorating Safety Tips From Nation's Emergency Physicians And MedicAlert Foundation
Nobody wants to visit the emergency department, especially during the holidays, which is why the American College of Emergency Physicians has advice on how to avoid falls during the holidays and the importance of access to your medical information in an emergency.
"Traffic on the street leads to traffic in my ER, and that's especially true around the holidays when people are running around to celebrate with family and friends," said Dr. Angela Gardner. "But car crashes are not the only source of injury. We see thousands of people every year injured by falls from ladders. They start out hanging lights on the roof or putting the top ornament on the tree and suddenly they're in the emergency department with a bump on the head or a broken leg!"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 6,000 people are treated in emergency departments every year for holiday decorating related falls. Almost half of those falls are from ladders, and men are much more likely than women to be injured. Many people sustain injuries from falling off the roof while mounting lights or other decorations, and from falling off furniture they stand on to hang indoor decorations up high.
"The good news is that most of the people treated for holiday falls are released," said Dr. Gardner. "The bad news is that almost half of those who fall from ladders are hospitalized!"
Here are some good safety practices when standing on a ladder to hang your holiday decorations:
- Keep the ladder on secure and level ground before stepping onto it.
- Place the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet it extends up.
- Stay centered on the rungs of the ladder and keep both feet on the ladder at all times; if you need to reach something to the right or left of you, move the ladder.
- Never stand on the top two rungs of the ladder.
- To reach a roof, extend the ladder at least three feet beyond the roof's edge.
- Keep the area clear around the top and bottom of the ladder.
- When using a step ladder, make sure it is locked open securely and never use a folding step ladder when it is closed.
- "And finally, use the buddy system when climbing a ladder or onto a roof," said Dr. Gardner. "Have one adult at the bottom of the ladder holding it steady while the other person is on it."