Each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
- Christmas Tree Fire Hazards – Movie segments demonstrating how fast a live Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames. Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
- Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of Your Tree
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
- Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan.
Fire Safety Tip of the Month – Home Maintenance
As a home owner it is your responsibility to educate yourself on the common causes of home fires. Knowing how to prevent them is key in being able to protect yourself, your valuables and your family. It is also important to know what to do in case of a fire.
The four leading causes of home fires are all preventable.
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries and is tied for the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Never leave food cooking unattended, especially when frying foods. Wear short, close fitting sleeves when cooking. Never cook when you are tire or sleepy. Make sure young children are kept away from the cooking areas.
Smoking has been the leading cause of home fire deaths for decades. Never smoke in bed or when you are tired. If you smoke, smoke outside. Make sure cigarettes are put out. Soak the butts in water before throwing them away.
Heating equipment was involved in one of every five home fire deaths. Portable heaters and space heaters and wood stoves are never to be left unattended. Keep flammable materials such as drapes and clothes away from portable heaters. Make sure your heater has a thermostat and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. If you have a fireplace or woodstove, check the chimney and pipes monthly for obstructions. Never use your fireplace or woodstove to burn garbage or paper. Make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed. Use a fire place screen to stop rolling logs and to catch sparks.
Fires caused by faulty wiring, frayed electrical cords and plugs is another leading cause of home fires. Replace worn and damaged cords. Do not run cords under rugs or furniture. Make sure your home is up to code on your electrical wiring. Only purchase products that are nationally recognized by Underwriters laboratory(UL). Do not overload extension cords and use only three prong plugs in a three prong outlet.
The best defense against a fire is to have working smoke detectors on each floor of your home. Replace the batteries annually and test them once a year. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
Fire spreads quickly, so make sure you have an escape route and practice it twice a year. Make sure you find two ways to get out of each room. If a doorway is blocked make sure you can escape through window. Having a window that fully opens and is well maintained is critical to this secondary escape route. Make sure windows are not stuck, or painted shut and screens can be taken out easily. Make sure each family member can open the doors and windows. If you find that some of your escape routes cannot be accessed easily contact your local window contractor or Replacement Windows company.
Sleep with your door closed. In the event of a fire this will slow the spread of the fire. Remember to always feel the door before opening it. If it feels hot to the touch, going through a window will be your best escape route.
Fire is dark, fast and deadly. Taking care to prevent the most common causes of fire is the first step in fire prevention. It is also important to know that when a fire starts, time is critical, know your escape route and get out fast. Being prepared is the best defense to keep you and your family safe.