2009-12-24 / Features

A Fire Safe Home For The Holidays

Setting up a Christmas tree away from the fireplace and other heat sources is one way to safeguard a home from holiday fire damage. Setting up a Christmas tree away from the fireplace and other heat sources is one way to safeguard a home from holiday fire damage. During the holiday season, 47,000 fires claim more than 500 lives across the United States. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), fires are also responsible for over 2,200 injuries and cause $990 million in damage.

Unfortunately, many of these fires are caused by the very things that make the holiday season special — Christmas trees and other decorations. About one in every 20 Christmas tree fires results in a loss of life. But by choosing decorations wisely and taking basic precautions to ensure that they are used properly, many of these fires can be prevented.

Selecting and caring for a holiday tree

When choosing a tree, be sure it has been freshly cut and has not dried out. The trunk should feel sticky and the needles should not break or be pulled off easily from branches. If a large number of needles fall off a tree when it is “bounced” on the ground, that indicates the tree has dried out and is a fire hazard. Once in your home, set up the tree in a secure and stable stand, away from heat sources such as fireplaces or heating vents. Check the wiring on tree lights for wear and open sockets. If there is any doubt about the condition of your tree lights, replace them with new “UL” approved lights. Be sure the stand is always full of water and that lights aren’t in contact with the stand or water. Avoid buying a tree too early or leaving it up too long.

If you are purchasing or using an artificial tree, be sure that it is flame-retardant. Metallic artificial trees should never be decorated with strings of lights because of the risk of a short circuit and possible shock hazard.

Maintain holiday lighting

All holiday lighting, extension cords and other electrical decorations should be “UL” approved. If they are to be used outside, be sure to use only those designed for that purpose and keep all exterior wiring out of standing water. Inspect lighting for worn or broken wires or sockets and replace any missing bulbs. Do not overload wall outlets or ex- tension cords or connect more than three strings of lights together unless the directions state otherwise. In addition, never leave holiday lighting on when leaving home or going to bed.

Avoiding other holiday fire hazards

Here are some additional tips to ensure a safe holiday season:

* Decorations should be nonflammable or flame-resistant and kept away from heat or ignition sources.

* Do not burn wrapping paper or tree branches in a fireplace.

* Never put candles in trees and other decorations or leave burning candles unattended.

* Designate someone to make sure that candles and lights are out when leaving the house or going to bed.

* Smoke alarms save lives! Make sure they have fresh batteries, are in good working order and that they are properly located. Having a working smoke alarm reduces the chance of dying in a fire by nearly half.

For more information about using smoke alarms, go to www.usfa.dhs.gov.

Did You Know?

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statisitcs (BTS), during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period, the number of long distance trips increases by 23 percent compared to the average number for the remainder of the year. Surprisingly, roughly 91 percent of those trips are by personal vehicle, such as a car. Statistics also indicate the average long distance trip taken during Thanksgiving is shorter than that taken during the Christmas holiday. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the average long distance trip length is 214 miles, while the average trip during the Christmas holiday is 275 miles. And while many travelers associate Thanksgiving with heavy traveling, the average trip during Thanksgiving week is actually shorter than that during the rest of the year, when the average long distance trip is 261 miles.

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