Christmas trees, Christmas lights and holiday garland are all part of decorating your home for the holidays. However, these items can also potentially put your home at risk for a fire.
Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) Emergency Management and the NSAB Fire Department have teamed up to offer tips on how to keep your home safe from fire this holiday season.
“Statistics show that there are three times more cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day during the year,” said Ronald Kunz, NSAB emergency manager. “They also cause more property damage and claim more lives than residential fires that occur on other days.”
Another common cause of fires in the home during the holiday season is Christmas trees.
“Real Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually,” said Fire Marshall Michael Loveless of the NSAB Fire Department. “A lot of it results from short circuits in electrical lights. Check for cracks or check the lights for any flaws. Some people use candles around a real tree that’s ill advised. If you have to use a real tree, make sure it’s green and has fresh water. When you buy a fresh cut Christmas tree, always cut two inches off the bottom and make sure it’s submerged in water and check the water daily to keep it fresh. When it is fresh cut, it does suck up a lot of water very soon, so you have to keep watering it. Keeping the tree watered will prevent the needles from drying out.”
Use of portable space heaters may be common during the winter time. However, it is important to know what type of heater is best for your home.
“Every space heater requires UL (underwriters laboratory) approval and the open element type we use to have when we were lads, is ill advised because that’s basically just open flame,” said Loveless. “We recommend the radiator type field and it should have a three foot clearance all the way around it, because it could catch any fabric or decorations on fire or scorch your furniture. Don’t put your clothes over top of it.”
Practicing fire drills regularly will help keep you and your family prepared in the event of an emergency.
“All homes should have an escape route plan and a place to meet,” said Loveless. “Once you’re out of the house, stay out. Have a meeting place for the whole family such as a neighbor’s house or the end of the driveway. Another tip we like giving people is when your hanging wreaths or any kind of garland around your house or outside your house, do not obstruct your address because most emergencies and/or fires happen in the middle of the night in dark conditions and it’s difficult to see your address if you hang decorations in front of it.”
As far as the holidays go, Loveless’ concerns go deeper than just fire safety. He says if you have to drink this holiday season, hang up the keys and designate a driver.
“We see the end result of the drunk drivers,” said Loveless. “We’re the men and women that have to cut people out of their cars and of course law enforcement has to knock on the parent’s door and say ‘by the way, your son or daughter is not coming home or your mommy and daddy isn’t coming home.’”