Holiday Safety

Photo Credit: Stephen Louis Marino

Seasonal holidays are a time of festivities, gatherings, and celebrations around the world.  Our campus is no different.  As you plan your own holiday events or attending others, it is important to consider several safety concerns.  This page intends to provide a quick breakdown of safety considerations, campus policies relevant to holiday safety, and more resources to aid in your holiday planning!


One of the most active holidays for the UC Santa Cruz community is Halloween.  As the night falls on October 31st, all manner of events take place.  These events are usually comprised of costume parties, trick-or-treating, or other social gatherings.  Since Halloween occurs during California's fire season, we want to ensure that all members of our community take necessary precautions to ensure all of our safety.

When choosing a costume, make sure to:

  • Stay away from long trailing fabric and ensure that eye holes (if present) are large enough to see out of.
  • Include flashlights or glow sticks to light the costume in the darkness if you plan to move around. 
  • Ensure that you can either move easily in the costume or quickly remove it in case of an emergency.

When planning or attending a party, make sure to:

  • Keep all decorations, especially dried flora, cornstalks, and crepe paper away from heat sources.
  • When making a Jack-o-Lantern, use a battery-operated candle or glow-stick rather than a real candle.
  • Ensure that no decorations are obstructing exits.
  • Ensure that all smoke alarms are working properly.

More Information

NFPA Halloween Safety Tips (PDF)

The Holiday Season

When we say the 'holiday season,' we often refer to the period of time loosely bounded by Thanksgiving in November and the New Years Day in January.  However, there is a wide berth of holidays throughout the year.  This guidance is relevant to holidays where there is any increase in cooking, decorating, and gathering!

As a proudly multicultural community, UCSC celebrates many holidays spanning religious and secular traditions in November and December, these include:

  • Thanksgiving - 4th Thursday of November (Secular)
  • Diwali - Between mid-October and mid-November (Hindu)
  • Bodhi Day - 8th of December (Buddhist)
  • Christmas - 24th and 25th of December (Christian)
  • Pancha Ganapati - 21st through the 25th of December (Hindu)
  • Hanukkah - Between late November and early January (Jewish)
  • Yule - Late December to early January (Pagan)
  • Kwanzaa - 26th of December to the 1st of January (Secular)
  • New Years - 31st of December and 1st of January (Secular)

Cooking and Baking

One of the primary reasons we enjoy the holiday season is food.  Food brings us together and the act of making it during the holiday season can test the skills (or there lack of) of any with culinary inclinations.  Unfortunately, the holiday season is also a time where we see a rise in cooking-related injuries.  The following guidance is taken from the U.S. Fire Administration to minimize cooking fires and prevent injuries.

  • If you are cooking with children nearby, enforce a 'safe zone' of three feet away from any stovetop or oven.
  • Pay attention to what you're cooking!  Don't leave your kitchen unattended.
  • Choose the right equipment!  Follow manufacturer suggestions and only use your equipment for its intended purposes.
  • Don't plug in cooking, heating, or other high-voltage electrical equipment into extension cords.
  • Maintain physical distance between your heat sources and anything that can catch fire.  
  • Prevent scalds and burns by using the back of your stovetop, keeping pot handles turned away from your stove's edge, and using oven mitts to move hot food from one place to another.

More Information

NFPA Cooking Safety (PDF)

FEMA Prevent Kitchen Fires (PDF)

NFPA Thanksgiving Safety (PDF)


If you are living in any UCSC-owned housing facilities, note that the burning of candles, incense, or sage is expressly prohibited by the UCSC Housing Office.  However, if you are using candles for religious purposes it is possible to request an exception.  To do so, please contact the UCSC Designated Campus Fire Marshal Nick Otis at  

Between 2009 and 2013, 9,300 home fires were started by candles.  However, you can minimize the risk to your home by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, including clothes, bedding, and curtains.
  • Use candles in a candle-holder on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets and children.
  • Blow out all candles before leaving home or going to bed.  Do not leave candles unattended.
  • During a power outage, try to use flashlights or electric lanterns instead of candles.

More Information

NFPA Candle Safety (PDF)

NFPA Religious Candle Safety (PDF)

Christmas Trees and Decorations

When it comes to the holiday season, decorations are an essential component!  As we look for places to attach, staple, set-up, tape, or otherwise affix decorations, we may not always have the best safety practices in mind.  The National Fire Protection Association provides specific guidance for holiday decorations, summed up here:

  • Try and choose decorations that are either flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Check and see if any lights you are using are for indoor or outdoor use, and use them appropriately.
  • Turn off all lights and electric decorations when heading out or going to bed.
  • Use clips instead of nails to hang cords.
  • Avoid using or placing decorations in a way that could potentially obstruct exits.

For Christmas trees, please note that if you are living in UCSC-owned housing, you are not permitted to have a live Christmas tree in your residence.  

If you have a Christmas tree in your place of residence, there are several important steps you can take to reduce fire risk.  The most important step for you to take is watering your tree!  Given equal ignition sources, a well-watered tree is much less likely to ignite compared to a tree that has not been watered.

In addition to keeping your tree watered, please follow these additional steps to reduce fire risk:

  • Choose a healthy tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Cut about 2in. from the base of the tree before putting it in water to allow for better water uptake.
  • Check the tree's water levels every day.
  • Ensure that the tree is no less than 3ft away from any heat source.
  • Make sure that the tree does not obstruct an exit.
  • Check to make sure tree decorations are labeled by a recognized testing laboratory and are not broken nor damaged.
  • Turn off Christmas tree lights before going to bed or leaving the residence.
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry.  Keep it away from your home/garage and see if your local community has a tree collection program.

For Santa Cruz Residents: The Santa Cruz Holiday Tree Collection program runs from January 1st through the 14th at no charge to you!

More Information

NFPA Holidays Decorating and Cooking (PDF)

NFPA Christmas Tree Safety (PDF)