Fire Safety Over the Holidays
The holiday season is action packed as the most wonderful time of the year. Family and friends gathering at daily events for lots of folks, as well as decorating the home, no matter what particular Winter holiday you may observe. From Thanksgiving through early January, residents are making choices about hanging and decorating with previously used holiday decorations, as well as choosing new ones.
Along with the joy and merriment, safety in your home through the holidays must be a key consideration. The National Fire Protection Association tells us that one of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. Although not common, tree fires are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four of Christmas tree fires.
December is also the peak time of year for home candle fires with one-third of all candle fires starting in the bedroom. Here are some other holiday safety household tips to consider:
PREPARING THE KITCHEN AND HOLIDAY COOKING
Fifty percent of all apartment fires and one-quarter of the fires in private homes start in the kitchen. Most home cooking fires involve the stovetop portion of the range. One-third of these fires result from unattended cooking. The majority of fires and burns can be prevented during food preparation by taking safety precautions. Follow these precautions when preparing the kitchen and cooking, especially for holiday meals when there’s increased activity in the kitchen:
Stay in the kitchen–don’t leave cooking food unattended.
Wear tighter or snug-fitting sleeves. (Loose sleeves are more likely to catch on fire or get caught on pot handles.)
Take extra precaution when handling boiling water.
Cook at indicated temperature settings, rather than higher settings.
Don’t become distracted by attending to children or answering phone calls or doorbells.
Create a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around your stove.
Keep area clear of towels, papers or anything that could burn.
Turn pot handles inward, facing the wall, to prevent burns caused by overturning or spills.
Have a pot lid and container of baking soda handy to smother a pan fire. DO NOT USE WATER.
Treat burns immediately with cool running water and seek medical attention.
When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a “Fire Resistant” label. When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness – make sure the needles are soft and don’t fall off. Live trees need water, and lots of it. Cut about one inch off of the bottom of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Add water and check it daily. Dry trees can burn in seconds. Don’t block your exit with your tree. Remove live trees from your home as soon as possible. Most Christmas tree fires occur on or after New Year’s Day.
Inspect each set for damaged sockets or wires and discard bad sets. Follow the manufacturer recommendations concerning the maximum number of light sets that can be connected together. Replace burned out bulbs with bulbs of the same wattage as indicated on the tag attached to the light set. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. You could be electrocuted. Use only light sets and extension cords marked “for outdoor use” outside your home. Fasten outdoor lights securely with insulated staples or hooks. A quick checklist:
- Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations are marked for proper use.
- Outdoor electrical lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).
- Exercise caution when decorating near power lines. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines.
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire.
- Keep all decorations at least 3 feet away from heating equipment or an open flame.
- Purchase electrical decorations from reputable retailers and that are approved by a national recognized testing lab such as UL, Intertek, or CSA
Click here for a great video on lighting and tree safety.
Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Never use lighted candles on or near a tree or other evergreens. Keep children and pets in mind when placing decorations on a tree.
Candles are very pretty and often smell good, but they can cause serious home fires. Here are some tips on how to enjoy your candles and keep your family safe:
- The most important rule is this: If you light a candle, a grownup must stay in the room with it.
- Blow out all candles before going to sleep or leaving the room.
- Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that can burn.
- Always use stable candle holders. If possible, use a hurricane glass to protect the open flame.
- Place candles where they will not be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of pets and young children.
- In the hands of a child, matches and lighters can be deadly. If you have children in your home, store candles, matches and lighters out of their sight and reach in a locked cabinet.
- Do not allow children to keep or use candles or incense in their rooms.
- To eliminate the risk of an open candle flame, use battery-powered candles whenever possible, especially when you combine candles with greenery or other decoration
FIREPLACES & HEATERS
Before starting a fire in a fireplace, remove all decorations (including those stockings hung by the fireplace) and be sure the flu is open. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. They can burn
extremely fast; throwing off sparks and can ignite creosote that has previously accumulated in the chimney. Always use a screen in front of the fireplace. Also consider using a fire-resistant carpet or a mat (ones made for fireplaces) on the floor in front of the fireplace. Keep all combustible materials, including wrapping paper away from heaters. When plugging in electric heaters, make sure that the outlet was designed to handle the load. Be safe; do not plug anything else into the socket with the heater. When using kerosene heaters, make sure you use the correct fuel only. The wrong fuel may cause a fire or explosion.
Check your smoke detectors monthly. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year – Fall and Spring – change your clock, change your batteries. Develop an escape plan with two ways out from each room. Practice your fire escape plan with your family.
OTHER SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
- Do not use electronics or electrical items near water.
- Never sleep with electronics under your pillow.
- Keep batteries safely stored in their packaging they can be deadly if swallowed.
- Do not leave space heaters unattended when in use.
- Never play with fire.
- Do not run cords under carpets, rugs, furniture, or out of windows.
- Do not overload outlets.
- Sometimes less is more be careful not to over decorate.
- “Think big” when choosing toys for small children – small parts could be a choking hazard. Make sure gifts are appropriate for the child’s age.
- Make sure you have installed smoke detectors on each level of your home and in sleeping areas.
- Make sure there is a “fire-resistant” label on infant’s sleepwear.
- Consider giving a gifts like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers – they make great gifts!
Click here for a great video regarding decorating safety from the National Fire Protection Association.