Monday, November 19, 2012

How to have a safe holiday

November 15, 2012
     The holiday season is upon us again, which means many of us are scrambling to decorate and tidy our homes for get-togethers with families and friends for holiday celebrations. It also means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
·         U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 240 home structure fires that began with Christmas trees in 2005-2009. These fires caused an annual average of 13 civilian fire deaths, 27 civilian fire injuries and $16.7 million in direct property damage.

·         On average, one of every 18 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 141 total reported home fires.
·         Forty-two percent of home Christmas tree structure fires occurred on the twelve days from December 23 through January 3.
·         During 2005-2009, an estimated 12,860 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 136 civilian deaths, 1,041 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $471 million.
      --Two of every five reported home fires start in the kitchen - more than any other place in the home.
      -- Half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February in 2005-2009.
·         Holiday or other decorative lights with line voltage were involved in an average of 150 home structure fires per year, resulting in an average of 8 civilian deaths, 14 civilian injuries, and $8.5 million in direct property damage.
     The York County Department of Fire and Life Safety would like to help every household be prepared and safe during this winter holiday season. To assist you in protecting your family and property, please consider following a few simple tips which we hope will help to ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season while reducing your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty:
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
--Selecting a tree for the holiday 
     Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, an the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.  The trunk should be sticky to the touch.  Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground.  If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
--Caring for your tree
     Do not place your tree close to fireplaces or heat vents.  The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.  Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.  Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.  Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. 
--Disposing of your tree
     Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning tove.  When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.  The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Holiday Lights
--Maintain your holiday lights
     Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.  Use only UL-approved lighting.
--Do not overload electrical outlets
         --Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
         --Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs, unless the directions indicate it is safe.  Read manufacturer's instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
         --If using an extension cord, connect strings of lights to the extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
         --Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
         --Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
--Use the right lights in the right place
     Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
--Do not leave holiday lights on unattended
Holiday Decorations
--Use only nonflammable decorations
     All decorations should be nonflammable or flame resistant/flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.  If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant. 
--Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace.
         Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
--Don't block exits
     Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way.  In the event of a fire, time is of the essence.  A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.
--Keep decorations away from windows and doors
     Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way.  In the event of a fire, time is of the essence.  A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.
--Keep decorations away from windows and doors
Candle Care
--Avoid using lit candles
     If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.  Never leave the house with candles burning.
--Never put lit candles on a tree
     Do not go near  a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters, or matches.
Holiday Entertaining
--Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plans.
--Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
--Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
--Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
--Ask smokers to smoke outside.  Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
--Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers.  Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
     Before heading out of to bed, blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Turn off all strings of lights and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
     For additional information, visit the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety on the web at or call 757-890-3600 between 8:15 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  
Statistics Courtesy: National Fire Protection Association Fire Analysis and Research Division 12/2011.
Safety Tips Courtesy: United States Fire Administration, Virginia Department of Fire Programs and the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety.
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