Fire Prevention 52: Holiday Safety Tips from Hollywood

By Mark Gorman, Structural Fire Operations Program Manager
abstract christmas lights on a black background
Name the holiday movie with this quote: "If that cat had nine lives, it sure used 'em all."

Ah, the holiday season is upon us. This time of year is filled with decorations, family, favorite foods, and possibly some unorthodox traditions, such as your favorite holiday movie. And I must admit that one of my favorites is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

If you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with fire and life safety, clearly you have never seen the movie. So pull up a mug of eggnog and add to your holiday experience (though hopefully your experience will be less cinematic than the Griswolds’). Regardless of the holiday traditions you celebrate, there are many fire safety lessons we can learn from the movie:

  1. Christmas Tree Safety. Let's avoid tree fires by keeping live Christmas trees fresh with lots of water. Like the Griswolds, you never know when that ignition source may come along and ruin your entire holiday experience.
  2. Extension Cord Safety. This is the time of year we become tempted to misuse extension cords to power decorations and lights. Follow these tips and give the family pets a fighting chance.
  3. Don't Go Overboard with Holiday Lights. So maybe 25,000 twinkling lights is a little much. Certainly by overloading circuits, hanging your lights with a staple gun, and using enough electricity to cause a city blackout, problems will happen. Even if your neighbor isn't Clark Griswold, holiday lights can cause fires, as seen in this news clip.
  4. Watch Your Waste. Trash, like wrapping paper, can become a fire starter.
  5. Address Crises Head-on. Take a lesson from something that Clark Griswold did get right. Stop, Drop, and Roll. Look for this scene as you watch the movie.

"Where do you think you're going?" yells Clark Griswold, "Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here."

So next time you get frustrated when your holiday lights fail to glow or you decide to ignore extension cord common sense, remember the timeless lessons the Griswolds have shown us, so your holiday season doesn't turn into a "four-alarm holiday emergency."

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Employees and Leadership
Think Operational Leadership. The barrage of fire and life safety issues in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation reminds us of the dangerous day-to-day risks and short cuts we all take. Let's constantly evaluate what we do to reduce the accident rate for the NPS.

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Last updated: October 26, 2016