Fire Safety During the Holidays: Preventing and Handling Fire Damage
The holidays are a time that we look forward to celebrating with family and friends. When you think of the holiday season, you probably think about eating good food, having lots of laughs and spending time with the ones you love. One thing that probably doesn’t come to the top of your mind is holiday fire safety.
Fire safety should be something you consider every holiday season. Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Year round, one-third (33%) of home decoration fires were started by candles. This jumped to almost half in December when candles started 46% of such fires.
Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries and costing $554 million in property damage.
Common Christmas and Holiday Fire Hazards
Candles, space heaters, cooking and holiday decorations make your home feel festive and cozy, but they can also create fire hazards. It’s easy to get distracted by all the fun this time of year, but it is important to be aware of and pay attention to Christmas tree fire safety tips.
Here are a few common holiday activities and decorations that might be potential fire hazards for your home this winter.
Christmas Tree Fire Safety
Can Christmas trees catch on fire? Yes, a Christmas tree is always a fire hazard. About 25% of Christmas tree fires are the result of electrical problems or a heat source kept too close to the tree – including electric lights, fireplaces, radiators and candles. That’s why Christmas tree safety is essential this time of year.
Fires involving fresh Christmas trees tend to be more common than artificial tree fires. Over time, the needles on a fresh Christmas tree begin to dry out, making them flammable the longer they’re in your home. Christmas tree fire safety best practices recommend keeping live trees for no more than four weeks and continuing to water them during that timeframe.
When the holiday season is in full swing, candles are a popular addition to festive décor. While candles are beloved for the ambience they create, they also come with a risk. Here are a few holiday fire safety tips when it comes to candles:
- Don’t leave a burning candle unattended. If you are hosting, and will be in between rooms, ask a guest to keep an eye on candles.
- Consider lighting candles for a few hours before guests arrive to get the scent you want and blow them out when guests arrive.
- Keep candles away from anything that might catch fire. Watch out for other decorations, greenery, cloths, and napkins. It is recommended to make sure that candles are placed at least three inches apart.
- Place lit candles high and out-of-reach from pets and children.
- Never burn a candle in an area where you might fall asleep.
Can Christmas lights cause a fire? Yes!
Knowing how to properly install and maintain Christmas lights is essential in order to stay safe. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas lights cause 40% of Christmas tree fires.
Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors.
Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous. Never use “indoor only” lights outdoors.
You also might want to consider LED Christmas lights, as they do not heat up under operation, so they are less likely to start a fire than lights that get hot when plugged in.
Turn off all holiday lights and decorations when going to bed or leaving the house. Ensure outside decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
Kitchen fires during holiday meal preparations.
Cooking fires tend to happen more often around the holiday season. This year, practice smart holiday fire safety in your kitchen.
- Never leave the kitchen unattended. Unattended cooking is a major contributing factor in fires.
- Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the house to make sure all stoves and appliances are turned off.
- Keep towels and oven mitts away from the stovetop.
- Never use water on a grease fire. Instead, use baking soda or smother the flames with a pot cover.
- Wear close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Always have a fire extinguisher handy.
Preventive Measures to Ensure Fire Safety
Safe Use of Holiday Decorations
Before you deck the halls in your home with decorations, consider these Christmas safety tips:
- Choose holiday decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Don’t overload a single electrical outlet with all of your holiday lights.
- Hang ceiling decorations away from sprinklers and fire alarms.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Refrain from placing extension cords in high-traffic areas of your workplace, or under rugs, carpets or furniture.
- Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable if you have small children.
- Fasten outdoor decorations securely to protect from wind damage.
Safe Heating Best Practices
The holiday season also means cold weather. Of course you want to stay cozy and warm inside your house, but be sure to heat your home for winter safely.
- Ensure fireplaces are clean and used properly.
- Do not use space heaters close to any flammable objects, such as Christmas trees or other decorations.
- Make sure your space heater has an automatic shut-off switch.
- Keep flammable materials at least three feet away from furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
Ensure your home’s protection measures are operating properly
Protect your home from the bitter winter weather by ensuring all protection measures are operating correctly. Perform a routine check of your homes fire safety systems, such as:
- Installing and regularly checking smoke alarms.
- Creating and practicing an evacuation plan with family members.
- Test carbon monoxide alarms.
- Replace appliances with damaged cords.
- Inspect chimneys and heating systems before they are fired up for the season.
Educating and Communicating with Loved Ones
During this holiday season, take a few minutes to discuss fire safety with family and guests who will be joining you. Everyone in the household needs to be aware of holiday fire safety tips.
- Share fire safety tips with family and children. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one. Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.
- Encouraging awareness and mindfulness during holiday celebrations. Mindfulness is important because it helps ground us to the present moment in time. During the holiday season, many of us get very caught up in anticipatory stress. You can be mindful during the holidays by finding ways to slow down and take time for yourself. If you’re overwhelmed, find a quiet space and write down five things you are thankful for, or take a short walk outside and focus on your senses.
If Your Home Is Damaged By Holiday Fires, BMS CAT Is Here To Help.
The holidays should be a time of fun, relaxation and making memories. But it is not a time to let your safety guard down, as fire safety during the holiday season is important. The key to preventing damage to your home is being prepared and proactive before the holiday madness starts.
If your home is damaged by holiday fires, our teams can assist you restore, rebuild and recover your home after damage. With locations across the nation, our teams standby to help you 24/7/365.
If your home has experienced damage from a fire or winter storms, contact us today!