This Holiday Season: Give The Best Gifts Of All? Safety

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Generally, December, January and February are the deadliest months for fires.

The top 10 days for home fires in recent years were all between December 24 and January 6.Cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires in the months of December through February. Candle fires have nearly quadrupled in the past decade. Nearly twice as many home candle fires occur in December than any other month, perhaps because of holiday decorations, rituals, family visits and busy schedules. It is a time of fun, however a time of distraction.

Many people do not realize that they are at greater danger from fire at home than they are anywhere else. It is very important to practice fire safety all year long but especially during the holidays. Use caution with holiday decorations and whenever possible, choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.

Candles can change the atmosphere or the general mood in our homes. They also put all kinds of fragrances in the air to hide those un-wanted oders. However, they continue to be one of the leading causes of home fires, second now to cooking fires. Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that can burn including curtains, blinds, wallpaper, clothing or any other material that can catch fire and don’t place lit candles in windows or near doorways where drafts could bring combustibles in contact with the flame. Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials, and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Almost half of all home fires started by candles begin in the bedroom.

Now, for us that totally enjoy a fresh live Christmas tree, we will need to take care of them during the time that they give us that enjoyment. Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 18 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. Before you place your live tree in the stand, cut 1–2” from the base of the trunk. Try to keep your tree fresh by watering it every day. When decorating your tree purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance. Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. Always unplug lights before replacing light bulbs or fuses. Don't mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire insulation (i.e., using clips, not nails or staples).

If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant and use the same decorating safety tips as mentioned for a live Christmas tree.

How do we get power for our decorations from one side of the house to the other? The easy way would be to plug a bunch of extension cords together. However, the result could be devastating. Overloading extension cords has become quite a common practice. If you require an extension cord to perform more than it can handle, it will overheat and possibly be the cause of a fire. I see this in my everyday inspections and fire investigations. Use extreme caution and limit the use of extension cords when possible.

(Sources; NFPA, USFA)

By following these fire prevention tips and measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home, and enjoy a safe holiday season. “The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs. By taking simple precautions, people can avoid potential fire hazards, and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.

Residential/Commercial Fire Sprinklers

Winter months can also be problematic for your residential or commercial fire sprinkler system. First of all, let me dispel rumors or myths about fire sprinklers.

  1. They cause water damage. Tests that have been conducted showed that damage caused by water with an activated sprinkler is substantially less than the damage caused by hose streams from fire crews for suppression efforts. Also know that only one sprinkler head activates, not the whole system.
  2. Sprinkler Heads will leak. Sprinkler systems are under the same pressure as plumbing systems, (sinks, showers, toilets) but are tested at two to three times higher than typical plumbing systems, assuring that leakage will not happen under normal circumstances. That being said, it is important to maintain temperatures in your home or business while you’re away. Freezing is the major cause of sprinkler system failure.
  3. Fire Sprinklers don’t save lives. They absolutely do. Not only lives but property. I have been on numerous fires here in Prescott where a single sprinkler head activated, allowing egress and putting the fire at bay prior to loss of life or property.

The next two to three months will problematic in that we may have prolonged periods of freezing temperatures. It is imperative that conditioned air temperatures be kept at no less than 40 degrees if you are planning to leave your home or business unattended for significant period of time. As stated before, freezing is the major cause of sprinkler system failure.


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