The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but unfortunately, it’s also a bad time of year for house fires. While the two most common days for home fires are Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, fire officials encourage everyone to make safety a top priority during the entire holiday season. Today, we want to share some fire prevention and safety tips for you, your family, and your guests.
The primary cause of holiday house fires is cooking, followed by heating. The increased use of candles over Christmas and on New Year’s Eve increases the risk of fire even further.
Here are some helpful tips to stay safe this holiday season:
- Turn decorative lights off when you leave the room. Electrical or lighting equipment is responsible for almost half of all Christmas tree fires in the U.S., which cause $10 million in property damage each year. If you are using older strings of lights, consider switching to newer LED lights. LED lights are not only more energy-efficient, they also don’t get as hot as older lights can.
- Use extension cords with care. Don’t overload extension cords or power strips. Avoid putting cords under rugs to lower the risk of fire. Electrical equipment is one of the most common causes of Christmas tree fires, alongside decorative lights.
- Water real trees every day. If a fresh Christmas tree dries out, it can become a fire hazard. Both artificial and real trees should be kept away from candles, heaters and fireplaces. Nearly one fifth of Christmas tree fires are started by a heat source that was too close to the tree.
- Never leave the stove or oven unattended when cooking. Cooking fires start 48% of residential fires in the United States, making them the number one cause of home fires. Always watch stove burners closely while in use, and set a timer when baking with the oven. If a pan does catch fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire and turn the heat off immediately. You should also keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location in your kitchen.
- Don’t leave candles unattended. During the holiday season, the average number of candle fires more than doubles. Before leaving a room or going to sleep, make sure all candles have been blown out. Only place candles on flat surfaces, and keep the surrounding area clear within one foot of lit candles.
- Use space heaters with caution. Never leave a space heater running when the room is not occupied. Heaters should be at least 3 feet from any item or wall. Do not use old space heaters that are not UL approved.
- Install sufficient smoke alarms. Every level of the home should have a working smoke detector. Ideally, there should be one placed strategically in each common room and bedroom so occupants can hear them regardless of where they may be in the house. Smoke alarms should be tested regularly to ensure they are working, and replaced every ten years.
- Make a fire escape plan. Your plan should include two separate exit options. Designate an area outside where occupants can meet a safe distance away from the home. In case of fire, remember to get out of the house immediately and then call 911 from a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone. Do not go back into the house for any reason.
- Drink responsibly. Alcohol plays a part in many fatal fires, so be mindful of people around open flames when drinking is a part of the celebration. Alcohol and fire don’t mix.
- Smoke outdoors. Make sure all guests know to smoke outdoors and provide ash trays so they do not toss cigarette butts in areas where they could cause fires. Keep lighters and matches in a safe location out of the reach of children.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, so it is considered a silent killer. Carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every six years.