In this article, we provide cautionary actions you can take to prevent fires around the holidays. We also suggest preparations that should be made beforehand, to aid your family and coworkers in the event of a fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (www.NFPA.org), there is an average of 355,400 home structure fires per year that require response from a fire department.
While the leading cause of these home fires and home injuries is cooking fires, another major cause of fires, and one that becomes more important as we approach colder weather and the holidays, is electrical fires. Here’s what you can do to prevent these holiday specific fires.
Setting the Table for Safety at Thanksgiving
- Clean your oven. Not only should it be free of grease, but you’ll avoid smoky rooms and strange smells!
- Move your refrigerator away from the wall so that you can vacuum its coils.
- Time your cooking on the holiday so that you are in the house while the oven is on. Don’t leave any pots cooking while unattended.
- Use a kitchen timer! It’s too easy to forget when something is heating up in the oven!
- By all means, make sure to keep children away from the oven while you’re cooking!
Using Extension Cords. Often the cause of fires, extension cords must be used properly to prevent damage. This is just as important in the workplace as in the home.
- Plug extension cords directly into the wall. Don’t use multiple cords – all plugged together!
- Make sure your extension cords are recommended for the proper use, inside and outside.
- Be sure it’s a dry day when you hang your outside lights during the holidays. All outdoor extension cords should be clear of snow and standing water. Even better, consider hiring a contractor to hang your lights for you!
- If you find that you are using a number of extension cords in your home or office, hire an electrician to add more outlets.
- Take the time to inspect cords before you use them. Look for cracked or frayed endings, exposed wires and generally loose connections.
- While you may be tempted to work extension cords around doors and windows, please don’t use staples or nails to hold them in place. There are many wireless options now – consider investigating what products are available for your project.
- Do NOT run extension cords through the wall, ceiling or floor. Doing so will prevent you from noticing if the cord is overheating.
- Never try to fit a three-pronged plug into an outlet with only two slots!
- Do Not use an extension cord or power strip with heaters or fans. It’s very easy for these appliances to cause overheating of the cords. If needed, have an electrician install an outlet that can be used for these appliances without extension cords.
Space Heaters. Heating equipment is the second most common cause of home fire fatalities. There are standards in place for space heaters – don’t ignore the advice on the package. Instead, make sure you’re following the right standards when you use these appliances.
- All space heaters should include a label from a recognized testing lab.
- READ the instructions before using a space heater. Newer models generally come with timers, which is a safety feature for busy households.
- As mentioned above, check the cords on the space heater. Don’t use it if the connections are worn or frayed.
- ALWAYS Turn your space heater off when you’re leaving a room. And don’t keep it on overnight. Take extra precaution to make sure children and pets are not near space heaters.
- Add THREE feet between the space heater and anything that can burn – including furniture, papers, clothing and even rugs.
- Don’t use extension cords with space heaters!
- Make sure your space heater is on a level surface and not on rugs or carpet of any kind!
And Finally, Holiday Lighting
Follow a few simple rules to decorate your home safely during the winter holidays.
- Again – if you are using extension cords, make sure they are the right kind, that they are not damaged in any way, and you are using them properly.
- All outdoor lighting should be plugged into GFCI circuits (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters).
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor decorations before going to bed at night.
- When stringing lights, never connect more than three strings together.
- Be sure to water your Christmas tree daily.
- And please don’t decorate near heating equipment or open flames.
More fire safety tips for homes or businesses are provided on www.nfpa.org. See our blog to learn more about developing an Escape Plan for your home.
How Can You Prepare For A Fire?
Time is of the essence when there’s a fire in your home. In many cases, you only have 1-2 minutes to get out of your home safely once the smoke alarm goes off.
Preparation. There should be a smoke alarm in every bedroom of your home, plus additional alarms outside each sleeping area. Alarms should also be placed on every level of your home.
How to create a fire escape plan. First, gather everyone together. Physically walk through the home and look at all possible exits, including windows. There should be two ways out of every room – make sure everyone is aware of where those two escape routes are.
Make a plan. It’s a great idea, especially if you have children, to draw a floor plan of the house – including each level. Put a mark on the plan for every smoke alarm location. And then mark window and door exits. Be sure to indicate, with numbers, the first and second exit from every room. Remember to consider windows too. Some rooms may have more than 2 exits.
Try all the exits. As you walk through your home, make sure windows that could potentially serve as exits are easy to open.
Decide on your meeting place. Somewhere, at the front of the home, pick a place where everyone can gather after escaping a fire. Be sure it’s a safe distance from the home. You can pick a mailbox, neighbor’s home, stop sign or some other marker. Be sure that everyone is clear on where they should meet.
Your house number. Your number should be clearly visible from the street so that the fire department can locate your home easily.
Fire Department phone number. Everyone in the household should memorize the phone number of the fire department closest to them. Every second counts. If the number is memorized, you are more likely to get help faster.
Helping others. If there are infants or non-mobile occupants in your home, assign someone to take responsibility for helping that person escape the house. Assign a back-up person too, just in case someone is not available.
Security bars on the windows? If you have security bars, be sure they have a quick release mechanism in an emergency.
Guests? Be sure all visitors are aware of your fire escape plan. If you’ve posted the house plans you’ve created, they’ll be a big help to your guests. And when you’re the visitor, make sure you know how to escape the home your visiting.
Be prepared. When a smoke alarm goes off, get out of your house immediately. And once out, stay out. Do not go back into your home. If someone is missing, tell the fire department when you call.
Test your plan. Conduct real drills. Even at night when children are not prepared. Remember that even if children are on the second floor of a home, they need to have a way to escape a fire. Be sure everyone knows that the best escape route is the one with the least amount of fire and smoke. Practice escaping from your home by going low, under any potential smoke. It’s also advised that you close doors as you exit, as this will help slow the fire. You should also have a plan for when you have to seal yourself inside the house.
When everyone is safe outside your home following a fire, call Restoration 1 of West Denver at 72O-605-2994. We provide 24-hour emergency service with highly trained restoration experts. We’re local, and we understand the devastation a fire can cause. We’re trained to handle the cleanup and restoration efforts – no matter how extensive the fire.