As the holiday season moves into full swing, the Pee Dee Chapter of Emergency Services urges families to follow simple safety tips to keep the season merry and to prevent burnouts due to holiday fires.
During the winter holiday season the incidence and severity of home fires dramatically increase. In fact according to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year nearly 156,000 fires occur during the holidays claiming more than 600 lives and causing more than 2,500 injuries. Many of these fires are caused by home heating sources, unattended cooking and candles.
“Home fires are preventable, and that's what makes this type of disaster so devastating,” said Karen Melton, director of Emergency Services of the Pee Dee Chapter. “The holidays can be a time of celebration, and by following a few quick safety tips you can help to prevent your family's festivities from being disrupted by a fire. Making safety an important part of your holiday preparations can help you do this.”
To prevent holiday home fires, the American Red Cross recommends keeping all potential fuel sources, including decorations and evergreens at least three feet from heat sources such as candles, heat vents, fireplaces, and radiators. In addition holiday lights and candles need to be turned off or extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed, and especially before leaving your home.
“Last year, the Pee Dee Chapter responded to more than 250 home fires and provided over 870 people with immediate emergency assistance,” said Melton. “In addition to following safety precautions with holiday lights and decorations, this is a great time for Pee Dee families to make sure that their smoke alarms are functioning properly and practice their home fire escape plan.”
At a minimum, smoke alarms need to be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level of your home. Use the test button to test each smoke alarm once a month and if necessary, replace batteries immediately. All smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced at least once a year.
Include at least two escape routes for every room in the home in your fire escape plans. Then decide on a convenient meeting place at a safe distance from the fire. Practice the escape plan at least twice a year with all family members.
The Red Cross recommends following the below tips to help prevent holiday home fires:
Christmas tree care
Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees.
If you purchase a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren't easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water.
Use a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
Keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
Make sure that any light strings or other decorations for the tree are in good condition and follow manufacturer's instructions for their use. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords.
Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
Safely dispose of trees as they become dry and needles begin to drop.
Dispose of trees through recycling centers or community pick-up services. Dried-out trees should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house or garage.
Holiday lights and decorations
Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.
Avoid overloading electrical outlets by not linking more than three light strands.
Use decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant
Place decorations at least three feet away from fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles.
Always extinguish them before leaving the room or going to bed. Do not leave a room before extinguishing candles.
Never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
Keep them at least three feet away from trees, evergreens, holiday decorations, and other items that can catch fire like clothing, papers and curtains.
Use candle holders that are study, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that cannot burn, and are large enough to collect dripping wax.