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Christmas tree safety tips

Live pine trees help fill your ministry with the spirit of Christmas. But a real tree may pose a real threat. "Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage," according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

To help protect your people and ministry, use this checklist as a supplemental aid to help keep your Christmas tree from becoming a Christmas disaster.

Selecting a tree

  • Look for green and fresh. Test the tree's freshness by pulling on a branch. If needles fall off, the tree is too dry.

Preparing to display

  • Allow the tree to take in water. Cut off at least two inches from the base of the trunk and cut at an angle. Keep the tree trunk secured in water until you’re ready to bring it inside.

Choosing a location

  • Place in a safe location. Don't block hallways, walkways or doors that could serve as emergency exits. Keep away from heat sources such as radiators, electronics, computers, TVs, sound equipment, heaters, fireplaces, the kitchen or open flames.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Train a team on what to look for in the beginning stages of a fire. They should also know how to locate and use the fire extinguisher as well as be familiar with proper evacuation and fire response procedures.

Equipping your tree stand

  • Select a sturdy stand that prevents your tree from tipping over. It should hold at least a two-day supply of water. Expect your tree to drink one quart of water for every one inch in trunk diameter during the first week. For example, a four-inch diameter tree will consume one gallon (four quarts) of water per day during the first week.
  • Check the water level daily. Refill the water as needed. Remember, during the first week, your tree will drink 65% of its water.

Disposing your tree

  • Remove your tree after two to three weeks or when it becomes very dry. Contact your waste disposal service to find out when the tree can be picked up. Or, take your tree to a Christmas tree recycling location.
  • Do not burn your tree or tree branches. Dry Christmas trees burn rapidly, which can lead to an overwhelming, out-of-control fire.

Risks around the holidays don't necessarily stop at Christmas trees. Decorating the tree, displaying decorations or hosting a candlelight service come with their own set of risks.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and any terms or conditions that apply, to determine appropriate policies and procedures for your church's risk management program.