December 20, 2013
MCFRS News Release
Six Ways to Ruin Your Holidays (and How to Stay Out of the ER)
Montgomery County, MD - A trip to the emergency room is no way to spend the holidays yet last year over 15,000 people were treated in the ER for decorating-related injuries during November and December. Such mishaps have been on the rise, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and fire officials in Montgomery County are teaming up with the CPSC to pass along some important reminders this holiday season.
Fire Chief Steve Lohr is urging all residents to make safety a tradition this holiday season. “With the holidays and winter weather fast approaching, it is important for all residents to take steps to prevent fires. By taking a few extra precautions, you can make your home fire safe for the holiday season and for the rest of the year.” Here are six surefire ways to ruin your holidays.
1. Let the tree dry out
Trees ignited an average of 200 fires annually from 2009 to 2011 resulting in 10 deaths, 20 injuries, and $16 million in property loss, according to the CPSC. To avoid fire hazards, pick a fresh tree and cut an inch off the bottom to help it absorb water then follow these tips:
- Place the tree at least three feet away from fireplaces, vents, and radiators.
- Keep the tree away from foot traffic and doorways.
- Monitor the water daily and keep the stand filled.
- When buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label.
2. Fall while decking the halls
You’ve seen it in the movies however falling off a ladder is serious. In fact, ladder accidents result in roughly 200,000 emergency-room visits and 300 deaths each year. If you are decorating the house, have a buddy hold the ladder for you to keep it stable and then follow these tips:
- Make sure the ladder can support your weight.
- Angle straight ladders 75 degrees from the ground (1 foot for every 4 feet high).
- Always face a ladder when climbing up and down.
- Don’t climb to the highest step, and don’t reach more than 1 foot to the side.
3. Be careless with candles
Candle-related fires resulted in another 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property loss from 2009 through 2011. The majority of the fires started because the candle was too close to combustibles like decorations and curtains. Try battery-operated or electric flameless candles or if using real candles do the following.
- Keep them away from children, pets and any place where they can tip over.
- Use sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders.
- Never leave a candle unattended.
- Extinguish all candles before going to sleep or leaving the house.
4. Use old, damaged lights
Decorative lights cause an average of 170 home structure fires, 7 deaths, 17 injuries and $7.9 million in property damage each year. To stay safe, discard lights with broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Use an extension cord that’s been rated for the intended use and follow these tips.
- Replace lights that are more than 3 years old.
- Indoors or out, use only lights that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory for safety such as
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Keep children away from spare bulbs and light strand cords, both choking hazards.
- Turn holiday lights off before you go to bed or leave the house.
5. Fire up more than the fireplace
Fires related to heating systems, including fireplaces, result in 50,100 fires, 150 deaths, 575 injuries and $326 million in property loss annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Before lighting any ﬁre, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from the ﬁreplace area and do the following:
- Check to see that the ﬂue is open.
- Use a metal or glass fireplace screen to keep sparks from hitting nearby carpets or furniture.
- Make sure the fire is out completely before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Avoid burning wrapping paper in the fireplace which can cause a flash fire.
- Fireplace and wood-stove ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days after a fire and are a significant fire hazard. Only dispose of ashes once they are completely cooled and in a metal container outside and well away from the house, garage, deck or other combustibles.
Make sure that all extension cords are suitable for the electrical “load” needed. Do not place cords under furniture or rugs and do not plug two or more extension cords together to increase the total length. Demanding too much power from an extension cord risks overheating and fire. Read all packaging and instructions carefully when purchasing an extension cord and ensure it is UL listed.
And remember – having working smoke alarms more than doubles your family’s chances of surviving a residential fire. Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, push the test button monthly to ensure the alarm is working and change batteries annually or as recommended by the manufacturer. Smoke alarms make great gifts, too!
Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission, United States Fire Administration