PORTLAND — This holiday season, the American Red Cross Northern New England Region encourages everyone to follow simple steps to prevent home fires from holiday decorations. Most home fires involving candles happen in December, when one in five home decoration fires also occur.

“As more of us light candles to celebrate the holidays, we want to ensure everyone stays safe from home fires — the nation’s most frequent disaster,” said John Montes, regional disaster program officer for the Red Cross Northern New England Region. “Help protect your family by using battery-operated candles, testing your smoke alarms monthly and practicing your two-minute escape plan with everyone in your household.”

Holiday decorating safety tips

Follow these safety tips and visit redcross.org/fire for more information, including an escape plan to practice with your family. You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency app by searching “American Red Cross” in app stores.

If you must use candles, keep them away from anything that could burn, and place them out of reach of pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended.

Check all holiday light cords to ensure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together — no more than three per extension cord.

Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.

If buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators, and other sources of heat. Never use electric lights on metallic trees.

If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and keep it watered. To test if the tree is fresh, bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.

Don’t light the fireplace if hanging stockings or other decorations on the mantel.

If you need help

If you cannot afford to purchase smoke alarms or are physically unable to install one, the Red Cross may be able to help. Visit redcross.org/EndHomeFiresNNE or call 1-800-464-6692 (Option 4) to schedule your free installation appointment.

Since October 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign with community partners has saved at least 1,414 lives — including 11 in Maine — by educating families about fire safety, helping them create escape plans and installing more than 2.4 million free smoke alarms in high-risk neighborhoods across the country. Visit redcross.org/homefires for more information.