Safety first. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And especially over the holidays. Christmas and New Years are events of joy and celebration, but it’s also a time of easily avoidable accidents. Setting up the tree, decorating the tree with lights, putting up decorations, having a nice cosy fire: you might not think about it, but accidents can happen at anytime and anywhere. Thousands of people suffer decoration-related injuries during the holiday season. Also, residential fires are more frequent during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. Here are 10 tips of the trade to keep your home – and the people in it – safe this holiday season.
The most common type of fires in households are cooking fires. The easiest way to prevent a cooking fire is to always pay attention to what you’re doing. If you are grilling or frying, remain in the kitchen and turn off the stove even if you’re leaving for just a few minutes. If you are simmering, roasting or baking food, remain in or close by the kitchen. Always keep flammable objects – hand towels, oven mitts, wooden utensils – away from the stovetop. Use a timer to remind you when your food is ready, and wear close-fitting clothing that won’t drape over or touch the burners.
FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT
Install at least one smoke detector on each level of your home, including near sleeping areas. Check them often to make sure they are working, and replace the batteries when required. Replace smoke alarms if they are over 10 years old. Have workable fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, and make sure you know how to use them in case of emergency. Make a plan with your family for a safe evacuation of your home in case of a fire or other emergency.
Prevent a tree fire by buying a fresh tree with intact needles (needles that are hard to pull out) and water it every day. A dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily, whereas a well-watered tree is almost impossible to ignite. Even so, all trees will eventually dry out, so remove it after the holidays. Keep the tree away from heat sources, such as radiators, space heaters or the fireplace. Artificial trees don’t pose much of a fire hazard, but it helps to ensure it is flame-retardant.
Store lights in a dry attic or closet out of season, and replace inexpensive lights every few years. Examine new and old lights for broken sockets, bare wires, or loose connections. Never use a damaged light set; it could pose a fire hazard. Check the label and do not connect more strings of lights together than recommended by the manufacturer. When hanging lights outside, avoid using nails or staples, which can damage the wiring and increase the risk of a fire. Take the lights down after the holidays and place them back in storage.
Inspect all extension cords for frayed wire or cracked insulation. If damaged, replace them immediately. Don’t overload extension cords or use indoor extension cords outdoors. Don’t run cords under carpets, where they could be pinched or split open by furniture or footsteps. Never nail or staple a cord to the floor and keep all cords out of reach of children and pets.
Space heaters can require a lot of energy to run. Plug them directly into a wall socket, minimising use of an extension cord unless unavoidable. Don’t leave space heaters unattended, and when you’re not using them turn them off. Unplug them before you go to bed or when you leave the house.
Candles may seem harmless, but they are a major culprit in starting accidental household fires. Don’t light candles too close to holiday decorations or anything else that could catch fire, such as curtains, furniture or the obligatory Christmas tree. Keep candles a good two feet away from anything that could burn. Don’t leave candles unattended and place them out of the way of children and pets. The safest option is to use flameless, electronic, or battery-powered candles in your holiday decorations.
Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote, so before the holidays begin, have your chimney inspected to see if it needs a clean. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from popping out onto the floor or carpet, and never use flammable liquids to start a fire. Burn dry wood and paper, nothing else. Properly dispose of fireplace ashes by placing them in a metal container and leaving them to cool for 12-24 hours before disposing of them in the garbage.
Take care to avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Keep decorations with small removable parts out of the reach of children, who could swallow the small pieces. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food that may tempt a child or pet into thinking it’s something edible.
If you’re spending the holidays away from home, lock up your doors and windows, put a bar in your patio door track and lock your garage door from the inside. Check your alarm system. The latest modern security systems are designed to alert you to fire and flood dangers as well as burglars. Talk to your neighbours. If you’re going to be travelling, ask them to take out the trash and bring in your mail to avoid advertising your absence. Give your alarm company and your neighbours a phone number where you can be contacted.
So whether you’re decking the halls, putting up the Christmas tree, or organising the best New Year’s eve bash ever, always remember: safety first, celebration second.
Read more about Building Pro’s services and check out our blog of interesting and informative topics on keeping your home safe and secure. Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2016.