The winter months bring the most joyful celebrations as family and friends gather to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year.  We sit around the fire, bake sweets, watch classic movies and string trees with lights. With all of these wonderful distractions, it can be easy to forget the importance of safety this season.

House fires and falls from ladders are the leading causes of holiday-related injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 15,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for holiday-related injuries in 2012, a number that has increased for four consecutive years.

“During the holidays, people in Fremont County deck the halls, attend parties and travel to see family and friends, making it one of the busiest times of the year,” said Dr. Greg Clifford, ER medical director at Lander Regional Hospital. “Unfortunately, our emergency room also gets busier due to an increased number of people with holiday-related injuries. By spending a few moments each day thinking about your and your family’s safety, many accidents can be avoided. We want to ensure that every holiday celebration is memorable for all of the right reasons.”

Here are seven tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season.

1)    Decorate smartly: Everyone loves festive holiday décor, but when decking your halls, be aware of your surroundings. Falls from ladders while stringing lights and hanging decorations and cuts from broken ornaments are common holiday-related injuries. In addition, make sure you position your tree and other decorations away from heaters, fireplaces and candles.

2)    Use electrical cords safely: Fires from the improper use of electrical cords are holiday hazards. Never use more than three strands of lights on a single extension cord, and always turn off the lights when leaving the house or going to bed for the night. Also consider using LED lights that are cooler and use less electricity.

3)    Watch the fire: Never leave fireplaces, candles or portable heaters unattended. For year-round safety, install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, test them every month and make sure your family knows what to do in the event of a fire.

4)    Cook cautiously: Many holiday celebrations are centered around food and drinks. When cooking, be sure to wear short or tight-fitting sleeves and keep flammable items such as towels, curtains and potholders away from the stovetop. In addition, keep children out of the area where hot food or drinks are being prepared, or where sharp knives are being used.

5)    Drive carefully: Snow and ice are more common during the winter months, and more people are on the roads travelling to visit loved ones. Always buckle up, slow down on slick roadways and ensure someone knows where you are. If you are planning to consume alcohol at a celebration, make sure you have a designated driver.

6)    Supervise children: During all the exciting activities, parties and distractions, be sure someone is watching the children. Hire a babysitter or designate an adult to supervise.

7)    Stay healthy: With all of the holiday hustle and bustle, stress is inevitable. Help prevent illness by eating right, exercising and washing your hands with soap and water (or using hand sanitizer) as often as possible.

If anyone you know does sustain a holiday-related injury, get them medical attention immediately.