The holidays are a time of celebration. With that comes a lot of meal preparation, fireplaces, candles, flying wrapping paper, and electric tree lights, all of which are potential fire hazards. From electrical fires to grease fires and everything in between, the festivities carry with them potential danger. But not to worry! You can do a few quick and easy safety check-ups to keep your home safe this holiday season.
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a feast. With the inevitable multiple cooks in the kitchen, however, it’s easy to bump into one another and knock things over. A few simple steps can help keep catastrophe from striking.
Keep flammable items such as grocery bags and kitchen towels away from the stove and oven. If nothing flammable comes near the flame, well, that puts you several steps ahead! Keep stove tops clean and clear of spills, especially oil. It’s also important to realize that in all the laughing and merrymaking mistakes do happen. So keep an open container of salt next to your stove. If grease or oil do catch fire, quickly covering it in salt will safely put those flames to rest.
Never leave cooking food unattended. Sure, that’s a year-round rule, but it’s especially true during the holidays when distractions are numerous and potential danger is high. When you’ve finished cooking, do a final check to make sure the burners and oven are all off. It’s easy to forget that flame you put on low to simmer the gravy is still on. And that could be a big, big problem.
If you have a live tree, it needs to be watered daily. A dry tree is much more likely to catch on fire. The American Red Cross recommends shaking all loose needles from the tree before bringing it inside and not stringing more than three strands of lights together, whether in- or outdoors. A regular step in your yearly decorating should be to check out all of your lights. Check for splits in the wiring, loose bulbs, and bent prongs. If you notice any of these, your best bet is to throw them out and replace. It’s not worth the risk. Then do the same for any extension cords.
It’s nice to light the fire when you’re having a holiday gathering but be mindful if you are unwrapping gifts nearby. It’s easy for wrapping paper to be tossed aside and it can become dangerous if you’re too close to the fire. That’s where your fire screen comes in handy. If you don’t have one, get one, and then make sure it’s closed. You can even use a metal ring - like a key ring - to ensure it stays closed tight.
Your fire screen is a key ingredient to prevent kids from getting their hands or feet in and getting accidentally burned. It also helps prevent their intentional involvement, playing with the fire and pulling loose embers out. As always, make sure to completely put the fire out before heading to bed.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, there are likely to be candles. Some families use battery-operated or electric models, but most still prefer traditional candles. Be sure to keep them away from curtains, the Christmas tree, and out of reach of both children and pets. Never leave candles unattended.
Prevention and Preparation
While your best fire safety method is always prevention, it’s smart to be prepared by having a few fire extinguishers on hand so that if there is an accident, it can be handled quickly. It is recommended to have 2-3 fire extinguishers per home depending on the size of the house. It’s best to store fire extinguishers mounted on the wall with metal brackets - not in a closet or cabinet - so that you are able to easily access them when needed. The American Red Cross recommends mounting them with the top at 3-4 feet high and to be sure they aren’t covered by curtains or furniture so that even a guest or someone unfamiliar with your home can quickly locate them if needed.
Placement should be based around where a fire would most likely occur and the type of extinguisher you’re using. For instance, there should always be a K-class extinguisher or equivalent in the kitchen near the stove. K-class extinguishers are made specifically for grease fires and are sold as silver extinguishers, though their equivalent at stores like Lowes or Home Depot is white. Always check the rating on the box to make sure it’s the correct extinguisher. Using the wrong extinguisher on a grease fire could make it exponentially worse. ABC dry chemical fire extinguishers - always red - should be in all other locations. The garage typically has combustible materials, any room with a heat source such as a furnace or fireplace should have an extinguisher, wherever your circuit breaker box should have one nearby, and because a fire can make stairs inaccessible, there should be at least one on each floor of your home.
Finally, check your smoke detectors and make sure they all work and that the batteries are replaced when needed.