Fire Safety During the Holidays
Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association indicate that 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February. Incidents of fires caused by cooking, heating and open flames all increase during the holiday season. Dry holiday trees, burning candles, faulty electrical wiring and grease fires all contribute to these tragedies, so don’t let your celebratory holiday gatherings end up as another fire loss statistic. Here are 8 things you can do in and around your home to prevent these accidents from happening and destroying your family and your home.
- Check your stoves and ovens NOW before the holidays are upon us. Make sure your pilot lights are properly lit and working and your oven is heating properly. If you have an electric oven, make sure your power cord does not have any bare wires exposed and that it is not kinked or within 3 feet of any flammable material. If you have a gas oven, turn it on today and let it heat up to make sure that there are no issues with the flow of gas and the flame heats evenly without blockages or interruptions. With any amount of holiday cooking, you want to make sure your oven is working properly at all times.
- While cooking, remember to always check your burners and burner dials to make sure the flame and the gas are completely shut off when you are finished cooking. I have a friend who has a ritual of running her fingers over the oven dials every day before leaving the house - it’s become a habit for her and I’m grateful for it. The leading cause for kitchen fires is unattended cooking! Be diligent when your oven and stove are in operation. 40% of ALL home fires start in the kitchen and cooking area.
Per Home Depot, there is a great new product that puts out fires automatically! It safely and automatically puts out kitchen fires and there’s no special testing or installation requirements. It’s specifically designed to prevent unattended cooking fires. The non-toxic extinguishing powder can easily be cleaned up with a wet rag and a vacuum cleaner.
- Perhaps this should be #1 in this column but make sure you check your smoke alarms to ensure that they are all properly working. Sadly, of all home fire death come in houses with no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. 20% of all home fires are caused when something flammable is placed too close to a source of heat. Smoke alarms and fire alarms can help notify sleeping occupants
should the unexpected occur. Check your alarms! SKY Properties makes a point of checking every apartment every 6 months as required by many insurance companies
and also checking all smoke alarms and CO detectors when doing a unit turnover.
- Electrical wiring/outlets. Make sure not to overload your electrical circuits. With holiday decorations often involving lights and “powered” decorations (remember the ho-hoho-ing Santa that jiggles and giggles while it leans back and laughs?), we have a tendency to jam as many electrical plugs into the outlets as we possibly can. This can overload your circuit, and while an overloaded circuit is supposed to trip a breaker, the reason that safety component even exists
is to prevent overheating of the wires running through your home. For older buildings, some of those precautions may not exist and electrical fires can become very common, especially around the holiday season. Also, be careful of using old or non-grounded extension cords and be aware that it is not recommended to string an excessive number of extension cords together. The NFPA estimates that over 50,000 fire-related deaths are due to electrical issues and 20% of those are caused by some faulty component of extension cords.
- Do not leave unattended candles even for a quick trip to grocery store especially with a pet inside. Unattended candles cause 18,000 fires every year. In addition to blowing out your candles if you leave your room, there are other safety tips you can put in place or ensure to enjoy your holidays. Make sure your candles have a strong base so they don’t tip over. Keep a 2-foot safe area around the candles so no combustibles are within burning distance. Trim the wick to one-quarter inch thick to prevent the flame from growing too high. Don’t place candles at the end or near the edge of tables as they can be knocked over easily. Finally, keep candles away from areas where children are playing or where they can reach.
- Make sure if you have a Christmas tree that it has water in the bowl so it does not dry out and become a fire hazard. Christmas tree fires account for a substantial amount of fire damage and deaths during the holidays. As your trees dry out, they become fuel and ignite with significant speed. Keep your trees wet and remove them from the home as
quickly after the holidays as possible. 56% of Christmas
tree fires happen in January and February.
- Everyone should own at least one fire extinguisher. Fire safety experts suggest that you have at least one fire extinguisher in the kitchen, one in the main hallway and one near each major exit of the house. The number required really depends on the size of your home. It is
recommended to get a dry chemical fire extinguisher as opposed to a wet or water-based fire extinguisher as
water-based extinguishers are problematic with grease and electrical fires. If you have to have them in an exposed area, at least you now have some design styles that will accent your home perfectly.
- Being prepared is the best piece of wisdom we can share. When you are trained, you are far more equipped to deal with your circumstances without needing aid from outside sources. Consider getting some training from your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT members are trained in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Here’s a link to their site.
CERT-LA – You Can’t Predict…But You Can Prepare - Los Angeles. www.cert-la.com
We wish you and your families a happy, fun and SAFE holiday season this year!!