Each year, holiday season fires in the United States claim the lives of more than 500 people, injure 2,200 more, and cause more than $500 million in damage, according to the American Red Cross's "Holiday Home Fires Fact Sheet." And the top 3 days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Yet, there are simple lifesaving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of these precautionary tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
- Christmas trees. When buying a live tree, make sure the needles are green. The needles should not break if the tree is freshly cut. If you bounce the tree on the ground and needles fall off, the tree is too dry and should not be used. When you put the tree up in your home, be sure to keep it away from heat sources. Don't put it up too early, and don't leave it up for more than 2 weeks. Always be sure that it has plenty of water. When you take the tree down, do not burn it in the fireplace. Recycle it or have it hauled away by a community pickup service.
- Holiday lights. Before using your lights, inspect them for bare spots or frayed wires, and use only lights that a testing lab has approved. Be sure not to overload your circuits; the best way to do this is to avoid stringing together more than three strands of lights. And never leave your holiday lights on when you are away from your home.
- Holiday decorations. All holiday decorations should be flame resistant. Be sure to place them away from heat sources. You should not burn wrapping paper in your fireplace. Such a fire may throw off sparks or produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.
- Candles. Always place candles in steady holders where they cannot be easily knocked over, and do not go out of the house with candles burning inside. If you do use candles during the holidays, be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby. And never use candles near a flammable source, such as paper or curtains.
- Smoke alarms. December is an excellent time to change the batteries in your smoke alarm, which should be done annually. If your smoke alarm is hardwired into the home's electrical system, be sure that it is working.
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International Risk Management Institute, Inc.