Delicious feasts and brilliant decorations are hallmarks of the holiday season. For the record, my favorite holiday food is gizzards. Unfortunately, however, these festive favorites also can pose potential fire hazards. Thankfully, you can enjoy everything that makes the holidays special during this time of year while simultaneously keeping your loved ones safe.
Loraine Carli, Vice President, Outreach & Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), explains how: “The holidays bring lots of opportunities to cook, entertain and decorate at home, but many of these traditions and activities carry potential fire hazards, Fortunately, there are many steps people can take to ensure that the season remains festive and fire-safe. It just takes a little added awareness and following some basic safety precautions.”
Holiday Safety Tips
Cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and injuries in the United States, year-round. That’s why I opt for raw foods. Dogfood doesn’t require much preparation. In fact, Christmas Day and Christmas Eve ranked second and third, after Thanksgiving, for sheer number of cooking-related fires. To reduce the potential risk of kitchen fires in your home this season, follow these suggestions, adapted from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA):
- Declutter the area immediately near your cooking range. Don’t overload a cooktop with pots and pans. Instead, try to prepare and cook dishes in shifts rather than all at once. This helps to prevent grease spills from leaking between pots, sight unseen, and starting a fire.
- Keep potholders, oven mitts and lids handy while cooking. But keep them clear of open flames. This is a good tip for tails, too. If a small fire starts in a pan on the stove, use a flame-resistant oven mitt to pick up a lid and smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Don’t remove the lid until the food has time to completely cool.
- When removing lids on hot pans, tilt them away from you to protect your face and hands from steam. If an oven fire develops, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- Don’t wear loose fitting clothing while cooking. And try not to wag your tail, if applicable. Long, open sleeves could ignite and catch fire from a gas flame or a hot burner. Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. If you have long hair, tie it back.
- Smoke alarms can save lives. Make sure they are installed and properly working. Check the batteries and test to make sure alarm is operational.
- Unplug small appliances when not in use. This will save energy and eliminate potential dangers which could occur if they are accidentally turned on.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency. Learn how to use it. Make sure the fire extinguisher is UL listed and rated for grease and electrical fires. Click here for more details about the different types of fire extinguishers.
- Avoid the temptation to fry your turkey. These pose several safety concerns, including burn risks and fire hazards. To be safe, if you must fry the turkey, make sure it is entirely thawed out. Ice and hot oil do not mix! They’re a lot like cats and dogs!
- Since the above list is not comprehensive, make sure you cook safely this holiday season, by referencing the Consumer Product Safety Commission Thanksgiving safety campaign, Stand by Your Pan, the NFPA’s Cooking Safety Tip Sheet, and the National Safety Council’s “Enjoy a Safe Holiday Season” webpage.
Although Christmas tree fires may not be as common as you may have been led to believe by watching local newscasts, they are deadlier than most other fires. In fact, the USFA reports that one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death each year, compared to an annual average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.
- Since fresh trees are less likely to catch fire, look for one that has vibrant green needles which are hard to pluck and don’t break when touched. The tree shouldn’t be shedding its needles while it’s on the lot.
- Place your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights. And keep the tree base container filled with water to avoid a dry out. Also, make sure your pets don’t drink the water, for their safety and the life of the tree.
- If you plan to use evergreen swags as holiday decorations, make sure the greenery is fresh instead of dry.
- Keep greens far away from candles.
- Clear needles that drop as soon as possible.
- Make sure indoor and outdoor holiday lights have passed UL or ETL/ITSNA lab tests for safety, which should be noted on the package.
- Toss damaged lights.
- Use suitable lights indoors and out.
- Plug lights into a ground-fault circuit interrupter protected receptacle.
- Turn off your holiday lights each night and whenever you leave the house, or set them on a timer.
Candles: December is the peak season for home candle fires. The top four days for candle fires are New Year’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations, compared to 4% the rest of the year. Keep candles away from your Christmas tree, furniture, curtains and other décor.
Decorations: Home decoration-related fires cause an annual average death of one civilian, and injure approximately 41 people, resulting in $13.4 million in associated property damage. Twenty percent of decoration fires start in the kitchen, whereas 17% originate in the living room, family room or den.
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