The two most common days for home fires in the United States are Christmas and Christmas Eve. Fire officials encourage all Americans to make safety a top priority during the holidays. One of the most important steps is to ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in the home. The main cause of home fires during the winter holiday season is cooking, and heating comes in at second place. During this time of year, many people use candles more often. Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the most common holidays for fires due to candles. Keep these 12 helpful tips in mind to stay safer this holiday season.
1. Turn all lights off. When using any decorative lights in or around the house or tree, be sure they are turned off when unsupervised. People who are using older strings of lights should consider switching to newer LED lights, which are more energy efficient and stay cooler.
2. Have several working smoke alarms. Every level of the home should have a working smoke detector. While it is ideal to have one in every common room and bedroom, it is important to at least have them placed strategically so home occupants can hear them regardless of where they are in the house. If alarms are older than 10 years, they should be replaced.
3. Water fresh trees every day. Any fresh trees should be watered daily to ensure they do not dry out and become bigger fire hazards. All synthetic and fresh trees should be kept away from candles, heaters and fireplaces.
4. Use carbon monoxide detectors. This substance is invisible and does not have an odor, so it is considered a silent killer. If any existing alarms are over seven years of age, they should be replaced.
5. Make a fire escape plan. The fire escape plan should have two separate exit options, and there should be a designated area outside of the home where occupants can meet. If a fire happens, remember to stay out of the home and call 911 immediately from a neighbor’s phone or a cell phone. Do not go back into the house for anything.
6. Do not leave candles unattended. Before leaving a room or going to sleep, make sure all candles have been blown out. There should always be a one-foot safety area encircling when they are burning, and make sure they stay on flat and steady surfaces.
7. Use extension cords with care. Do not overload extension cords or power strips. Also, avoid putting cords under rugs to lower the risk of fires.
8. Use space heaters cautiously. Never leave a space heater running when the room is not occupied. Heaters should be at least three feet from any item or wall. Do not use old space heaters that are not UL approved.
9. Do not leave burners unattended. Watch all cooking food closely. When baking, set a timer and keep it within reach. If pan does catch on fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire. Turn the heat off immediately.
10. Be responsible when drinking. Alcohol plays a part in many fatal fires, so watch guests or hosts carefully.
11. 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.
12. Keep lighters and matches safe. If there will be children present, make sure lighters and matches are kept out of their reach.