For Immediate Release: December 7, 2011
State Fire Marshal Goodwin Has Strict Orders for a Safe Holiday Season!
Raleigh -- Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin is launching the holiday season with strict "orders" for North Carolinians to follow safety tips to protect their homes and families.
"Winter holidays are a time of celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating and entertainingall of which can cause an increased risk of fire and other unintentional mishaps," said Goodwin. "To ensure that 2011 ends with a happy, fun and safe holiday season, it is so important for families to keep safety in mind."
* Consider the following facts and safety tips:
In 2010, 14,000 people visited the emergency room as a result of falls and other injuries related to decorating
their homes for the holidays.
- When decorating your home, use well-maintained ladders or step stools properly (i.e., do not stand on the top step of a ladder and never stand on furniture).
- Use caution when climbing on the roof, and never do so at night.
- Make sure all decorations are flame-retardant or flame-resistant.
- Check all electrical lights and replace those that have frayed wires or cracked sockets. Use only approved lights that are listed and labeled by a testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory.
- Do not overload extension cords and electrical outlets.
During 2005-2009, Christmas trees were the items first ignited in an estimated average of 240 reported home structure
fires per year. These fires caused an estimated average of 13 civilian deaths, 27 civilian injuries, and $16.7 million in
direct property damage per year.
- Make sure the tree you select is fresh; the trunk should be sticky to the touch and branches should not easily snap when you bend them. Shake the tree and make sure not too many loose needles fall off as a result. (Tip: Before bringing your tree indoors, make a 1/2 fresh cut on the bottom of trunk and let it stand in a bucket of water outside for 12 hours before bringing indoors and placing in its stand.)
- Check the water in the tree stand daily, make sure your tree isn't blocking any exits and keep it far away from heat vents or other heat sources.
Last year, 15,000 home fires were started by candles. Those fires caused 166 deaths and one-third of those occurred
in the bedroom. Candle fires usually peak in December.
- Keep candles away from combustible decorations and other materials that easily ignite.
- Use large, sturdy candle holders.
- Never go to bed or leave home with candles burning, and always use extreme caution when using candles around children and pets.
Four out of 10 home fires start in the kitchen.
- Never leave the stove, toaster or microwave unattended while cooking.
- Make sure combustible items are kept a safe distance from the stove.
- Observe a "kid-free zone" around the stove or other cooking appliances, keeping children a minimum of three feet away.
Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in the U.S., causing one of every four fire deaths, according to the
National Fire Protection Association. While the overall incidence of house fires is falling, the number of fires started
by cigarettes is rising.
- If you allow smokers in your home for parties or other get-togethers, designate a responsible person to check behind them frequently and empty ashtrays into an appropriate fire-retardant container.
- If you will be visiting or have older adults in your home, be sure to remind them to safely and securely store away all items that might be attractive to young children (including cigarette lighters, matches and medications).
In 2010, there were 181,900 toy-related injuries to children under the age of five.
- Select toys that are age-appropriate. Read the warning labels before buying toys and look for well-made items.
- Check toys regularly for damage that could create hazards. Repair or discard damaged toys immediately.
- Watch children while they play. Be aware of potential dangers like small parts, cords and strings, moving parts, electrical or battery-powered cords, or wheels.
- Do not allow riding toys near stairs, traffic or swimming pools.
In 2010, 3,400 button batteries - like those found in electronic toys, remote controls and greeting cards - were swallowed
by children, causing choking and burns to the esophagus.
- Keep all button batteries (especially those that are coin-sized) away from children.
- Repair or replace any broken electronic devices that may provide access to the battery compartment.
Half of all home fires occur in December, January and February, according to the United States Fire Administration and
National Fire Protection Association.
- Have your heating system cleaned and inspected annually. Clean chimneys and have heating appliances inspected and properly maintained.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.
- Practice an escape plan to make sure everyone knows the sound of the alarm and two ways out of each area of the home.
* Nationwide fire and injury statistics provided by the United States Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association. Toy- and battery-related statistics provided by Safe Kids USA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.