Every winter, with the arrival of cold weather, fire departments around America see a spike in residential fires. And come December, additional risks are created by careless and negligent uses of holiday decorations. Statistics released annually confirm that residential fires are a needless holiday tragedy that can usually be avoided.
It’s no secret that when temperatures plummet, residential fires increase. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately one-third of heating related, residential fires are caused by space heaters. Severe winter weather can also cause power outages, forcing people to use other heating sources, adding a greater risk of residential fires.
But heating isn’t the primary cause of home fires; the number one spot goes to cooking, at 36% with heating coming in second at 23%. Because of this, many residential fires are likely to happen in the early evening.
Holiday safety tips
Don’t leave food cooking on the range while you’re not in the kitchen especially when frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave the kitchen, even for a moment, turn off the stove.
Space heaters need space; keep flammable objects at least three feet away from each heater.
Check electrical cords often, and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
Don’t ever use the oven or stovetop to heat your home; apart from being a fire hazard, the build-up of carbon monoxide (CO) gas is dangerous and can kill people and pets.
If your tree of choice is a live Christmas tree, don’t put it up too early or leave it too long (two weeks is best). Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Don’t put your tree near a heat source, like a fireplace; the heat will dry out the tree, making it more flammable. And always use flame-retardant decorations.
When installing strands of lights, don’t overload the maximum wattage recommendation; this can cause lights to overheat and catch on fire. Before putting up your lights, check that the wires are undamaged and replace any that are worn. Be sure all lights are switched off before retiring for the night.
We all love that warm holiday glow created by lighted candles but be sure to put them in sturdy candleholders that won’t burn. Be sure your candles are out of reach of pets and children and never leave one burning when you go out.
CO, the silent killer
Every year, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning results in death, claiming on average 500 lives; the thousands of people (approx.15,000) who end up in emergency rooms across America are the lucky ones.
This toxic gas is impossible to see, impossible to taste and being odourless, you can’t smell the lethal fumes. CO can kill you before you even know you’re inhaling it and with lower levels of exposure, the milder effects can be mistaken for flu.
Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are nausea, fatigue, headaches, vertigo and confusion but these symptoms differ significantly depending on age, fitness and how long or how strong the exposure has been.
This is another winter phenomenon; the leading cause of CO incidents are caused by home heating systems with 97% of all CO cases occurring in residential buildings. The next biggest cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is the smoke inhalation that occurs during a residential fire.
The carbon monoxide detector is your best defence against CO poisoning. These detectors warn of unhealthy levels of CO before the symptoms of CO poisoning develop. Take some time now, before the holidays get too busy, and check all the CO detectors in your home and replace any old batteries.
Likewise, your smoke detectors offer the greatest protection against residential fires. These should also be checked and old or faulty batteries must be replaced. If a detector sounds an alarm, leave your home immediately and call 911. The experts confirm that residential fires and CO poisoning are preventable. Research residential fire prevention, find out how to avert a tragedy and have a safe and happy holiday season.