The holidays are an eagerly anticipated time of the year in most families. People often decorate their homes with twinkling lights, freshly cut evergreen trees, and brightly colored ornaments. It provides a warm welcome to friends and loved ones throughout the season.
What isn’t welcome, but sometimes happens during the holidays, is home fires. This is the most common time of year for house fires. For seniors, it can be especially troubling. Although people over the age of 65 make up less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 40 percent of all fire deaths.
From overloaded breakers to burning candles left unattended, it’s a good idea to learn more about unique seasonal fire hazards.
Tips for Preventing Holiday Home Fires
- Be cautious combining lights and fresh greenery.
In under 30 seconds, a Christmas tree fire can engulf the whole room. Taking steps to ensure your tree and other holiday greenery isn’t presenting a hazard is important.
- Place fresh greenery at a safe distance from open flames, including candles, fireplaces, and stovetops.
- If you display a real tree or greens, make sure they are fresh when you purchase them. Even greenery that looks fresh might not be. One way to assess freshness is by shaking greenery to see how many needles fall off.
- Water your tree and greenery daily. The lack of humidity indoors during winter months can cause them to dry out quickly. It also helps to mist garlands and greens with a spray bottle to keep them fresh longer.
- Purchase quality holiday lights and follow the instructions.
Lights are a holiday decorating tradition in many families. When not used properly, however, they can be a fire hazard. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind as you deck the halls:
- Use lights that have a UL tag, which indicates they were safety tested by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Check for any fraying on the cords and plugs.
- Use extension cords sparingly to avoid overloading the circuit.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions to determine how many strands of lights can be safely strung together.
- Make sure to use indoor lights inside the home and only outdoor lights outside.
- Don’t leave the house or go to bed with the lights on. Use timers with your lights to ensure they turn off.
- Use real candles sparingly and with caution.
Candles are a staple for many people during Hannukah and Christmas. But safety experts say candle use causes home fires to spike during the holidays. Here are a few ways to use candles safely:
- Don’t leave a burning candle unattended.
- Be careful where you place a burning candle. Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, and flammable household cleaners.
- Be cautious of candle use if you have a pet. Cats and dogs might knock over a burning candle, resulting in a fire.
One last tip is to make sure you and your senior loved one’s homes have working smoke detectors in key areas. Make a plan for testing them regularly.
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