National Fire Prevention Week is about raising awareness about the potential causes of fires, especially in homes. According to the National Fire Protection Association ( www.NFPA.org ) almost half of home fires start in the kitchen from cooking fires, and this is the leading cause of home fires. During the holiday season with all the additional cooking, Christmas trees and lights, candles burning, etc., we are definitely coming into home fire season.
While ongoing improvements in the safety of artificial Christmas Trees, the lower electrical loads of LED lighting, and other equipment safety improvements have reduced the numbers of injuries and deaths associated with house fires, there is no substitute for improved human awareness and attention to minimizing the risks. So, as a refresher for everyone this holiday season, here are some tips that can substantially reduce the risks of a fire in your home:
- Candles are also a leading cause – don’t leave them unattended. Maintain a 1’ circle of safety from flammable materials.
- Extension Cords cause over 3,000 housefires each year. Use one cord to cover the full distance to the appliance, and make sure it’s rated for the required load. Don’t plug two or more cords together. Don’t put cords under a rug or through a doorway where they can be pinched.
- Use non-flammable or flame-retardant decorations, including your tree (even flame-retardant trees can burn). Keep natural trees way from heat sources and exits, and water them daily. Also keep in mind that natural trees only last about 4 weeks before they become extremely dry.
- Inspect Christmas light strings for frayed wires or signs of wear. The general rule is not more three strung together but follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. LED lights reduce electrical loads significantly compared to old style incandescent lights.
- Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
- Put space heaters on hard floors; not carpet. Maintain a 3’ circle of safety, especially from Christmas Trees. Make sure they are turned off – better yet unplugged, when you leave or go to bed.
- Make sure smoke alarms are functioning properly (check batteries).
- Have an escape plan that includes finding two ways out of the house and having a meeting place.