12 Days of Holiday Fire Safety
On the eleventh day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will remember that even though you can’t see it, carbon monoxide is very dangerous.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that is produced when common fuels burn (e.g., wood, coal, charcoal, gasoline, propane or heating oil). It is known as “the silent killer” because even though you don’t know it’s there, simply breathing in carbon monoxide can be harmful or deadly. Small levels can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded, or make you feel like you have the flu or food poisoning. High levels can kill you within a few minutes. Follow these tips to stay safe this holiday season and all year round:
- CO alarms can protect you and your family by giving you a warning about CO buildup in your home. Install alarms on each level of your home including the basement, outside each sleeping areas.
- If your alarm sounds, go outside in the fresh air, open a window or door, and call 911 or the fire department right away.
- Don’t run cars in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open.
- Don’t use barbecue grills or run a generator indoors or near the dwelling.
- Test your CO alarms at least once a month and replace them according to manufacturer’s instructions.
On the tenth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will cook cautiously!
Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and most cooking fires involve the stovetop. However, you can prevent fires by following a few safety tips:
- To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert.
- Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three-feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drink are prepared or carried. Also keep pets away from the kitchen while you’re cooking.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking , roasting or boiling, check the food regularly and remain in the home while food is cooking. Use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep anything that will catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from the stovetop.
- If you are sleepy, have used alcohol or take medications that might make you drowsy , do not use the stove or stovetop.
- Keep a lid nearby when you are cooking to smother small grease fires. Slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop carefully. Leave the pan covered until it is cooled and NEVER try to pick up or carry a hot or burned pan. Never put water on a grease fire.
- For an oven or microwave fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
- Turn pot handles inward from the stove’s edge so pots can’t be knocked off. Keep hot foods away from table and countertop edges so that they can’t be knocked over.
- When you’re cooking, always wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled-up sleeves.
- To cool a burn, rinse with clear, cool water for three to five minutes and cover the burn with a clean dry cloth.
On the ninth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will use your home fireplace wisely.
- Have your chimney and fireplace inspected at least once a year and cleaned and repaired as often as necessary.
- Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood. Burning green wood produces high quantities of creosote and coats the chimney flues, creating a serious fire hazard.
- Never bring flammable liquids such as gasoline or kerosene indoors – even small quantities can be a serious fire hazard. The vapors ignite easily and can be dangerous if used to ignite a fire in the fireplace.
- Keep fireplace fires small and never burn wrapping paper or trash. A flash fire may result because wrappings or other items can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying out into the room. Keep newspapers and decorations away from the fireplace opening or surrounding area.
- Fire should be completely doused or allowed to burn itself out before the last responsible adult retires for the evening.
- Allow the ashes to cool completely before removal and disposal. Store removed ashes in a tightly covered metal container – never in boxes or bags. The metal container should be placed outdoors at least 12-feet away from the dwelling on a non-combustible surface.
- Never leave a child alone in a room with a lit fireplace, stove or portable heater.
On the eighth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will have an escape plan at the ready.
If a fire breaks out in your home, you may have only two minutes to get out safely once the smoke alarm sounds. With the extra activity during the holidays, getting everyone out quickly should be a priority. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go if there is a fire.
- Know at least two ways out of every room. Make sure the doors and windows open easily.
- Have an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) a safe distance from the home where everyone should meet.
- Practice your home fire drill at night and during the day with everyone in your home, twice a year.
- Practice using different ways out and teach children to escape on their own in case an adult can’t get to them.
- Close doors behind as you leave.
- If the smoke alarm sounds, GET OUT and STAY OUT. Never go back inside for people or pets.
- If you have to escape through smoke, GET LOW AND GO under the smoke to your way out.
- Call the fire department from outside the home.
- Make sure that first responders can easily see your home address from the street…seconds count and you want them to find you right away.
On the seventh day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will avoid any “shocking” incidents by practicing electrical safety.
Electrical failures or malfunctions were involved in one-third of the home Christmas tree fires last year. Please take these safety precautions when lighting or decorating your home for the holidays:
- Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high wattage appliance into an outlet at a time.
- Use light bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage and keep paper, cloth and other flammables a safe distance from lamp.
- Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
- Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpeting.
- In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles
- Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so that you do not have to use extension cords.
- Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, basement and outdoor areas.
- If you’re using an extension cord outside, be sure that it is heavy duty, weather-resistant and approved for outdoor use.
On the sixth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will remember that smoking is dangerous for more reasons than one!
- Smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths.
- If you smoke, smoke outside. Encourage smokers living in or visiting your home to smoke outside.
- For outdoor areas, provide deep, sturdy ashtrays or non-combustible containers filled with sand that can’t be tipped over. Never allow smokers to toss cigarette butts onto mulch or other vegetation.
- Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used.
- Never smoke in bed and use extra caution when you have been drinking or are drowsy from taking medications.
- Inspect under your furniture cushions (and in other places people smoke) for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
- If you are entertaining and allow guests to smoke inside your home, designate someone to monitor the smokers and be sure all cigarette butts are completely out before discarding them. Dousing them in water or sand before dumping them in a wastebasket is the best idea.
- Never leave matches and lighters lying around the house. Always store matches and lighters up high – out of reach and preferably in a locked cabinet.
On the fifth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will keep in mind that “Smoke Alarms Save Lives!”
In a fire, seconds count. Working smoke alarms can give you time to get out of your home, and they cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half. Battery-powered smoke alarms are easy to install. All you need is a screwdriver and a small drill. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but also remember that proper testing and maintenance are essential. Here are some tips to help you ensure that you have all of the necessary, working smoke alarms for your home:
- Install an alarm inside each bedroom and outside each separate sleeping area. Install one on every level of your home, including in the basement.
- For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Be sure that family members and houseguests know the sound of the alarm and are familiar with your outside meeting place.
- Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button. Replace all batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
- Replace all smoke alarms – including alarms that use the 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms – when they are 10 years old, or sooner if they do not respond properly.
- Consider purchasing and replacing alarms with tamper-resistant, long-life, 10-year lithium battery smoke alarms and enjoy the benefits of the latest smoke alarm technology.
On the fourth day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will heat your home with safety in mind!
- Chimneys and heating equipment should be inspected by a professional before each heating season. Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Keep anything that can burn (e.g., furniture, curtains, newspapers and clothing) away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, woodstove, or portable heater.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven or stove-top burners to heat your home.
- Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
- If using a kerosene heater, use extreme care. Use the proper grade of kerosene, never gasoline or other fuels. Always refuel it outside on a non-combustible surface when the heater is cool.
- Always use the right kind of fuel specified by the manufacturer when fueling your burning space heaters.
- Never use or store liquefied petroleum (LP) gas tanks inside your home.
On the third day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will "candle with care."
- Blow out candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and in other areas where people may fall asleep.
- Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, including decorations.
- Whether you are using one candle, or more than one in a candelabra, kinara, or menorah, make sure that the candle holder is sturdy and always place it where it cannot be knocked over.
- Keep out of reach of children and pets, and never leave a child alone in a room with burning candles.
- Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet.
- Don’t burn candle all the way down. Put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container.
- Consider using battery-operated flameless candles in your home…they look and smell like real candles!
- Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage. Never use candles. Doing so, greatly increase the risk of fire.
- When lighting candles at a candle-lighting service, have the person with the unlit candle dip their candle into the flame of the lit candle.
- Do not place lit candles in windows where a blind or curtain could catch fire; make sure an adult is watching any candle placed on, or near tables, altars, or shrines.
On the second day of Holiday Fire Safety…you will exercise caution when using holiday lights.
- Use only lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory on them.
- Make sure to select the correct lights for the area, as some lights are intended only for indoor OR outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights that has worn or broken cords, or loose bulbs connections.
- Never connect more than three strands of mini bulb lights, or 50 screw in bulbs. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum number of connected LED light strands.
- Turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
On the first day of Holiday Fire Safety… you will remember to choose a tree wisely and place it in your home safely.
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Cut two inches from the base before placing the tree in the stand.
- Place your tree in a stand filled with water and be sure to add water daily.
- Ensure the tree is at least three-feet away from heat sources like a fireplace, heat vents, candles and lights.
- If you are using an artificial tree, make sure that it is flame-retardant.
- Ensure that your tree doesn’t block any exits.
Reproduced from the National Fire Protection Association website, © NFPA (2012).