Picture your perfect holiday. Perhaps you hear family members laugh while the fireplace crackles in the background. Or you enjoy your favorite holiday meal surrounded by friends and the glow of candlelight in your carefully decorated dining room.
With all the holiday buildup, you might not be thinking about fire safety. But you can help preserve these peaceful memories by doing a little preparation.
Know the dangers
Nearly 156,000 fires occur during the winter holiday season, causing 630 deaths, 2,600 injuries, and approximately $936 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
“These are tragic losses at this time of year,” says James King, field technical manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. Every January, King reviews several cases of seasonal fires that could have been prevented.
King notes tips for avoiding four main fire hazards that every homeowner should know.
- Properly dispose of fireplace ashes. Ashes should be placed in a metal container, wet down and moved outside, far away from your deck, garage, woodpile or anything that could catch fire. After about a week, check again for hot spots. If none are found, dispose of ashes in your outdoor trash bin and take the trash to the curb.
- Get your chimney inspected and cleaned before the holidays.
- Check your detectors—smoke and carbon monoxide—to make sure they work, and replace if needed.
- Never leave candles unattended or place them in high-traffic areas where children or pets might knock them over.
- Leave a two-foot circle of safety around candles.Do not light candles too close to holiday decorations or anything else that could catch fire.
3) EXTENSION CORDS AND HOLIDAY LIGHTS
- Don’t overload extension cords or use indoor extension cords outdoors.
- Check manufacturer labels to avoid a fire hazard. Do not connect more strings of lights together than recommended by the manufacturer.
- Keep extension cords out of reach of children and pets.
- Don’t run cords under carpets. The wire can fray or be pinched by heavy furniture and start a fire.
- Don’t nail or staple through the cord or holiday light wiring.
- Plug outdoor lights into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to prevent electric shock. Older homes may not have GFCIs, but it’s a fairly inexpensive fix.
- Inspect all extension cords and holiday lights for frayed wire, cracked insulation or excessive kinking before using them.
- Store cords and lights in a dry attic or closet out of season, and consider replacing inexpensive lights every few years.
- Turn off indoor and outdoor lights when away from home and before going to sleep.
4) SPACE HEATERS
- Don’t use extension cords. Plug these energy-demanding machines directly into a wall.
- Check the circuit to make sure it can handle the added demand.
- Don’t leave space heaters unattended, and when not in use, turn off and unplug them.
- Never remove the third-prong grounding feature, and plug the heaters into GFCIs for added safety.
Discuss these safety tips with your family and household staff before the holidays. “People are in a festive mood this time of year, and they tend to overlook some of these concerns—we all do, because we’re busy,” King says. “But some simple measures can help ensure a safe and happy holiday for everyone.”