The winter holiday season is a festive and eventful time. Celebrations, gatherings and visits from house guests make the season a memorable one, year after year.
Unfortunately, national statistics show that house fires and electrical accidents typically increase during the winter holiday months. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 30% of house fires and 38% of house fire deaths happen during the months of December, January, and February.
It is very important that you make fire safety a priority while enjoying this festive, exciting and extremely busy time of year. Fortunately, there are some easy steps that can be taken to greatly reduce the risks of a home fire this holiday season.
Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the US. Annually, some 65,000 house fires can be linked to heating equipment, resulting in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in damaged property. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions and keep heaters at least three feet away from walls, rugs, furniture and other belongings. Check the equipment and cables to make sure that they are in good shape. Never plug a space heater into a power strip or extension cord, as these can overheat and catch fire. Finally, do not leave a space heater unattended, especially if there are pets or children in the home.
It is also important to keep a watchful eye on your heating pads and electric blankets, as these are two items that can pose fire danger. The majority of fires caused by heating pads and electric blankets are caused by those that are more than 10 years old, so it would be wise to check back and see when you purchased them. Also, check the connections for any discoloration, fraying, and wear. Most importantly, do not fold or tuck electric blankets or cover a heating pad, as they most easily overheat this way.
“In choosing a live tree for your home, make sure it is fresh when you buy it.”
Holiday decorations can pose some serious hazards to your home. When it comes to trees, lights, and candles or fireplaces, things can go wrong quickly. Holiday lights should be checked yearly for cracked bulbs and sockets, fraying, and general wear and tear. If there is visible damage, replace them. Do not hang light strings with metal fasteners or staples, and if you wish to put lights outdoors, make sure they are specifically designed for that purpose.
In choosing a live tree for your home, make sure it is fresh when you buy it. The needles should not break easily and the color should be a deep green. Cut off a few inches of the stem to allow the tree to soak up as much moisture as possible, and keep the stand full of water. If you have an artificial tree, make sure it is certified and tested by a national fire/electrical board for its fire-safe and electrical qualities.
Keep candles and flames far away from any decorations such as trees, tinsel, wreaths, ribbon, and paper. Lastly, do not be tempted to throw discarded wrapping paper into the fireplace. It combusts easily, and the lightweight embers can be carried out of the chimney and land on your (or neighbors’) roof or property and spark a fire.
Grease fires are all too common during the holiday season, and we can’t stress enough how important it is to never leave a pan or pot unattended. Use a cooking thermometer, up-to-date utensils and appliances and keep baking soda next to your stove in case a fire does break out.