End-of-year holidays bring plenty of safety concerns, including fire hazards. Many cities and their fire departments take this time to raise awareness about risks associated with holiday activities by sharing safety materials or even staging demonstrations of fire risks.
The National Fire Protection Association counts Thanksgiving as the worst day of the year for home cooking fires, and deep fryers are part of the reason why. Those who use turkey fryers need to keep them outdoors and away from structures include carports, vegetation and garages. Keep the grease fryer on a firm, level surface with a 3-foot safety zone. Before placing the turkey in the fryer, make sure it has thawed and excess moisture is removed. Never allow children or pets around the turkey fryer and never leave an unattended cooking apparatus. It is a best practice to have a charged, inspected fire extinguisher available and close by if an accident occurs.
Live Christmas trees can become extremely dry — and extremely flammable —without proper and regular watering. The NFPA calculates that fire departments around the nation respond to an average of 160 fires that began with Christmas trees each year. Those fires are responsible for about three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in property damage each year.
Municipal staff and residents who choose to have live trees in their town halls or homes should always ensure that they maintain moisture in the tree for as long as they display it. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website, www.cpsc.gov, offers a video example showing the difference in flame resistance between a dried-out live tree and a well-watered tree. The dry tree, if exposed to a spark, can rapidly erupt into large flames. If using an artificial holiday tree, make sure it is labeled fireproof by a recognized testing laboratory.
Check the ornaments, decorations, and lights for labels indicating they are approved by Underwriters Laboratories, commonly known as UL, or an independent testing laboratory. Keep in mind that the use of extension cords and overloading the circuits also can cause fires. Do not plug any more than three strings of lights into each other, and make sure to inspect the light strings for worn or damaged insulation or lightbulbs. If the insulation shows signs of damage on the electrical cord, discard the cord and install a new one. Turn off, unplug or extinguish all decorations before leaving town hall or the municipal building. Also, be aware that ornaments may look inviting to small children, so do not allow them to eat or swallow any ornaments or decorations.
Anyone hanging or installing decorations and lights needs to be mindful of ladder safety and the importance of using the right ladder. When using a step ladder, never step off the ladder except at ground level, and maintain three points of contact at all times. When stepping off of an extension ladder onto a roof or other working platform, make sure the ladder is secured from potential displacement, and that it reaches 36 inches above the platform.
Keep all flammable items away from holiday candles and never leave lit candles unattended. A great, safe alternative is to use battery-operated candles.
The National Fire Protection Association website, www.nfpa.org, offers safety documents that can serve as a starting point for communication on fire safety.