Christmas is such a happy time of year. Unfortunately, it's also a high risk period for fire outbreak in the home.
Keep your family safe this holiday season by following these tips:
The most important thing to do is install a smoke alarm in your home if you haven't already done so.
Most fires happen at night when people are asleep. Smoke, not flames, causes the majority of fire deaths and the smoke given off by some furnishing materials becomes toxic in the air and can kill very quickly. Also, smoke does not wake people. It actually puts them into a deeper sleep. A working smoke alarm reduces the risk of death in a fire by nearly 50 percent.
Place real Christmas trees securely in a sturdy base filled with water - metal stands can easily tip over, causing trees to dry out and become flammable. Check the water level daily. Keep the tree away from candles, heaters, fire places or other heat sources. Dispose of the tree properly. Never burn a real tree in the fire place.
If choosing an artificial tree, make sure it has been pre-treated to increase flame resistance.
Indoors: Only buy Christmas lights marked with a safety standard. Check all connections on Christmas lights, and ensure that all electrical work (plugs, etc.) is carried out by a competent person. If you are using lights from previous years, examine the wiring to ensure it isn't worn. If in doubt, throw them out. Don't overload sockets. Unplug all Christmas lights and electrical appliances before leaving your home or going to bed.
Outdoors: Ensure lights are suitable for outdoor use. If reusing outdoor lights, check all wiring and throw it out if worn. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing outdoor lights. Fasten the bulbs securely and point the sockets down to avoid moisture buildup. Never use indoor extension leads outside. Keep outdoor electrical connections above ground and out of puddles and snow. If you have to replace a light bulb, unplug the light string beforehand. Ensure trees hung with Christmas lights are not touching power lines.
If using candles:
- Keep them out of the reach of children and pets.
- Trim the wick (to 1/4 inch) each time before burning.
- Use an appropriate candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
- Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents and air currents.
- Extinguish a candle if it smokes or flickers repeatedly or if the flame becomes too high.
- Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris.
- Do not burn a candle for longer than the manufacturer recommends.
- Never place a candle on top of a TV set or other similar appliance, and keep them well away from curtains
- Extinguish candles before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Never use candles on Christmas trees, even artificial ones.
- Remember: Hot wax burns!
Some other good safety tips are:
- Never burn Christmas wrapping paper in your fireplace.
- Keep strings of Christmas cards away from candles and open fires.
- Fit a spark guard to all open fires to prevent burning coals and sparks from falling onto rugs.
- Check that your existing smoke alarms are in perfect working order. Install new batteries if necessary
- Never remove batteries from your smoke alarm to use in your children's Christmas toys or in the TV remote control. Smoke alarms are there to save your life in the event of fire outbreak.
- Clean the oven and stove prior to Christmas. Often the extra load on these appliances causes a fire due to the high usage and consequent build up of grease.
If you are still trying to figure out a great gift for someone you care about, give them a "safety kit" comprised of the items listed below. (Help install the items if you are giving them to an older person.)
- A smoke alarm
- A NOAA Alert Radio
- A battery-operated radio
- A fire extinguisher and fire blanket
- A flashlight and batteries
- A first-aid kit
- A carbon monoxide detector
A complete kit made up of all of these items would cost from $100 to $150, depending on your selections.
Wishing you all a very safe and Merry Christmas!
Pam Tucker is director of the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division.
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