The holidays are a time for celebration, family, and rest. Unfortunately, they’re also a time for accidents, injuries, and fire hazards. While you’re enjoying the holiday season, make sure you keep the following hazards and safety tips in mind while you decorate your home.
Only you can prevent indoor forest fires
The traditional Christmas tree is beautiful, but also presents some unique risks in the home. Pine tree resin is a primary ingredient in turpentine after all, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they can be flammable if not handled with care. So how do we make sure this family tradition doesn’t go up in smoke?
First, make sure you buy a fresh tree. A fresh tree is far less flammable than one that has been hanging around and drying out for weeks. The good news is, you don’t have to be an arborist to select a good one, all you need to do is watch for a few simple things. A fresh tree should be a lush green without a hint of brown. Its needles should be difficult to pull from the branches and bend between your fingers rather than snap. Give a few needles a good yank and twist before purchasing to get a sense of how fresh it is. Also, pick up the tree and tap it a few times on the ground – if you see a bunch of needles hit the floor, that tree is past its prime.
Once you bring it home, practice good common sense fire safety. Keep the tree away from any obvious heat sources such as a fireplace or radiator. You should even position it away from furnace vents. While not a fire hazard on their own, vents will help dry out the tree more quickly increasing the risk a fire.
Keep the tree good and watered while in your home. Be diligent about filling up the tree stand with fresh water on a daily basis. This will significantly prolong the fresh-life of the tree and decrease the risk of it catching on anything.
Check the lights you’re putting on the tree for any wire exposures, breaks, or unusually hot bulbs. While you may still have strings hanging around since you were a kid, consider updating all of your strings to modern LEDs, these don’t heat up like older bulbs and drain less energy over prolonged use – a true win-win for the holiday season.
Of course, you can also always go with an artificial tree. This will lower your risks substantially (and you can always use an air freshener or pine-scented candle if you really want that tree smell). Be sure to read the packaging carefully and select a certified fire-resistant tree for maximum safety.
Chestnuts and other items roasting on an open fire
Trees are not the only holiday fire hazard to keep in mind. I know my family burns more candles during the month of December than any other time of year. It’s all those nostalgic holiday specials and dinners, just can’t resist the urge to break out some candles and light up the place with that warm, sentimental light.
Remember treat any candles you burn with respect. Yes, the flames might be small, but they are still open flames. Make sure they are carefully supervised (especially in homes with small children and pets) and located away places where they are likely to get knocked over (such as end tables or in the middle of a snack tray). Always extinguish candles before you leave the home or tuck in for the night.
If you have a fireplace, chances are you’ll be enjoying it as the chilly weather sets in. A common treat around the holiday are "fire salts,” chemical powders that will produces different coloured flames when tossed into a fireplace. While these can be fun, be mindful of what you’re showing to your kids. Make sure they understand this is an adult-supervision activity only and they are absolutely not allowed to "experiment” and see how other chemicals and powders found around the home burn.
In the same vein, avoid the temptation to burn up wrapping paper in the fire. We know, the fire is right there and there is so much paper to deal with, couldn’t we just speed things up a bit? But as convenient as it may seem, you never know what exactly is in wrapping paper and they can cause flash fires if they burn too quickly and intensely. And again, it’s not a lesson you want any children nearby to pick up.
Lighting up the night
You want your decorations to catch people’s eyes, not raise fire alarms. This is why it’s important to always check your lights and electronics before setting them up. Check every line for obvious breaks and signs of wear (like corrosion around the plugs, areas of the wire that feel different from others, etc.), these can become fire hazards if they expose the wire or catch and store heat. When you’re hanging your lights, use plastic hooks instead of staples or nails. Not only will they be easier to remove later, you’ll also risk less damage to the cord.
Make sure you’re using the right extension cords for the job. Outdoor rated ones for outdoors, indoors for around the home. Spend the extra money and get one that is the length you need instead of trying to daisy chain or improvise a little extra length by string together multiple extensions or power bars.
Similar rules also apply to space heaters and flood lights. If you have a space heater indoors (whether you’re just keeping the bedroom toasty or need to get some work done in the garage during the cold weather), keep it clear of any potential flammables such as drapes, rugs, laundry, or chemicals. If you have outdoor floodlights, remember these lights heat up significantly after extended use. Don’t mount them too close to each other, or any other electronics or flammable material.
Keep your eyes open and looking for these common hazards and you shouldn’t have any trouble enjoying this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your friends at Staebler Insurance!