Each year, 420 home fires occur during the holiday season, claiming the lives of 21 people and injuring 43, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Protection 1, the nation’s second-largest security provider, is offering 12 tips for a safer holiday to help reduce the chance of becoming a holiday fire casualty:
1. 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 approved by a verified testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories.
2. Don’t overload electrical outlets – Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe, or you can risk putting too much strain on the power source. For additional protection, 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.
3. Water that tree – Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage according to the U.S. Fire Association. Typically, tree fires are started by shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches. Dry and neglected trees can increase your risk, while well-watered trees help to reduce the chance of any issues.
4. Avoid using lit candles – Open flames create many opportunities for harm particularly when kids and pets are in the house. However, 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 and never go near a Christmas tree with an open flame from candles, lighters or matches.
5. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.
6. Keep your mitts off – Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from your stovetop.
7. Watch the oven – In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the oven door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
8. Use turkey fryers outdoors, a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.
9. Use only nonflammable decorations and ensure they are placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
10. Quickly discard gift wrap and packaging from your opened gifts as wrapping paper is very flammable. Never burn gift wrap in the fireplace or wood stove. It can ignite suddenly and cause a flash fire.
11. Throw it out – Never put tree branches in a fireplace or wood-burning stove as these items may ignite quickly, starting flash fires. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
12. 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. Or, consider installing a monitored alarm system like those provided by Protection 1. The company can alert authorities automatically of smoke or carbon monoxide dangers – even if you’re away from home.
No matter how you celebrate, following these 12 tips to a safer holiday can help ensure you, as well as your friends and family, enjoy a safe, joyful holiday season.