Oh, Christmas tree! How lovely — and potentially hazardous — are those branches.

Every November and December, an average of 250 folks land in the emergency room with injuries related to holiday decorating according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Accidents range from falls from ladders (the most common) to cuts from broken ornaments and burns from faulty lights. The CPSC also reports that between 2009 and 2011, Christmas trees caused an average of 250 fires each year.

Whether this year’s Tannebaum is fresh or faux, follow these tips to keep your friends, family and furballs safe around it.

Real tree? Start fresh. Make sure the bottom of yours is sticky with resin. The needles should be green and supple and stay firmly attached to the branches if you tug on them or tap the tree gently on the ground. Tip: The earlier in the season you buy a tree from a lot, the fresher it will be.

Hydrate! A dry tree is a fire hazard. A real one needs water at least once or twice daily during the first couple of weeks.

Fake tree? Read the label. It should say “fire resistant.” Be aware that this doesn’t mean fireproof. The tree can still ignite. Also, look for the UL logo on pre-lit artificial trees.

Display it safely. Even if your tree is perfect on all sides, the best place to set it up is against a wall or in a corner so that little ones and pets have less access to it. You might even consider surrounding the tree with baby gates. Move furniture out of the way so that children aren’t tempted to use it to climb onto the tree. To prevent the tree from tipping over, secure it in a sturdy, weighted stand. It’s also a good idea to attach the tree to a wall. You can attach it via fishing line to an existing picture hook.

Prevent a flare-up. Don’t place your Christmas tree near a fireplace, radiator or other heat source. It shouldn’t even be near lighted candles, which could fall or be knocked off of a mantle, coffee table or windowsill.

Be light bright. Illuminate your tree with small bulbs. Large ones can get hot enough to burn skin. Before stringing them on the tree, examine lights from end to end. Toss any with fraying wires, bare spots or broken bulbs. Use duct tape to secure cords to the floor so they aren’t a tripping hazard — but don’t run cords under a rug.

Leave the best for the top. Hang breakable ornaments high on the tree where they’re less likely to be accidentally knocked onto the floor. Adorn lower branches with baubles made of plastic, fabric or other shatterproof material. Don’t use strings of popcorn or cranberries on the tree, especially if you’ll have small kids or pets in your home for the holidays. Tinsel is a no-no as well: If a dog or cat swallows any, it could obstruct his digestive tract.

Watch what’s under the tree. If your household includes little kids or furry friends, try to monitor what’s inside gifts left under the tree. Chocolate is toxic for dogs — but they love it — meaning Fido could be felled by a box of truffles. If you aren’t sure what’s in a wrapped package, set it aside and out of reach until the big day. Also, keep an eye out for potentially dangerous wrapping. Small bows, toys and other adornments are a potential choking hazard for tots. And if a kitten manages to swallow a length of thin ribbon, it could strangle it or become twisted around its intestines.

Be on guard. Never leave kids or pets alone near the tree. Unplug the lights when you leave the house and before bed.

Dispose of your tree safely. As long as you’re vigilant about watering it, a real tree will last for a few weeks. Before it becomes so dry that it’s dropping needles (a fire hazard), take it down. Haul it directly to the curb or take it to be recycled. Don’t leave it in your garage or on your porch or deck. Never use a Christmas tree for firewood. Needles are highly combustible and can quickly burn out of control.

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York City-based writer and editor who specializes in parenting, health and child development. She’s also the mom of two teen girls.