November - Holiday Safety
The winter holidays are a time for family and friends to celebrate which means lots of cooking, decorating, and entertaining. It also brings on the risk of fire due to heating equipment.
In 1999, there were 370 Christmas tree fires in U.S. homes, resulting in 5 deaths, 60 injuries and $15.7 million in direct property damage. As stated in an earlier issue of this newsletter, in 1999, candles in U.S. homes caused an estimated 15,040 fires, 102 civilian deaths, 1,473 civilian injuries and $278 million in direct property damage. Fourteen percent of these fires occurred in December, almost twice the 8% monthly average. The N.F.P.A. also states that 11% of these December fires started from a decoration that caught fire.
HOLIDAY DECORATING & LIGHTING
- Use extra caution when using holiday decorations. Always check the labels and try to purchase flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
- Keep candles away from other decorations and don't use candles to decorate the tree.
- Purchase lights that are approved by an independent testing laboratory and follow the manufacturer's instruction for installation and maintenance.
- Inspect new, old or previously used light strings for damages and check them before putting them on the tree. Be careful not to overload the extension cords.
- Always unplug lights before replacing bulbs or fuses.
- Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's insulation.
- Keep children and pets away from light strings and other electrical decorations.
Turn off all light strings and electrical decorations when leaving the house.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the stove.
- If smokers are involved, provide plenty of large ashtrays and check them frequently. If there are smoldering butts, douse them with water before disposing of them or flush them down a toilet.
- After a party, check under the cushions and upholstery and inside the garbage cans for smoldering butts.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. If you have smoking visitors, ask them to keep their smoking materials with them to avoid the chance of a young child getting them.
- Test your smoke alarms and let your guests know what your fire evacuation plan is.
- Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source. Try to position it close to an outlet to avoid running extension cords across the floor for a long distance. Try to avoid placing it in the way of exits.
- Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping its needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in the house or garage.
- Never use electric lights on a metal tree.
- If you purchase an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled fire-retardant and on any tree, you should have a stable stand.
- Water live trees daily and try to purchase a live tree that is plenty moist and not dropping needles.
We all know that these tips should be automatically used during the holiday season, but we all have decorated so many years that it becomes rote. This is where a problem can occur. We should all remain cognizant of the potential risk during the holiday season for carelessness and eliminate the chance of spoiling the holidays with an accident.
Excerpts: N.F.P.A. -Periodicals
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.