Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Health Care and Holiday Fire Safety

Every year during the Holiday Season, thousands of Americans suffer harm as a result of a lack in observing fire safety. During the winter months, as the temperature drops fires in the home become a possible safety hazard. This holiday season, make sure your home is safe from fires by following these tips from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a nonprofit organization that tests products for safety.
- Extinguish a candle when two inches of wax remain (half an inch if the candle is in a container). This prevents heat damage to the surface and stops glass containers from breaking.
- Ensure that outdoor lights, decorations and extension cords are rated for outside use. Lights intended for indoor-only use bear green UL marks on the product or on the packaging. Light strings intended for indoor and outdoor use bear red UL marks.
- Don't use staples or nails to hang light strings. Instead, purchase plastic hooks or clips designed for hanging light strings.
- Don't overload extension cords by plugging in too many decorations.- If the greenery on your live tree isn't fresh, the tree is a greater fire risk. When you put a live tree in the base holder, remember to keep it filled with water at all times.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there is an estimated annual average of 210 home structure fires that begin with Christmas trees. The NFPA analysis also shows that although the number of Christmas tree fires is low, these fires represent a higher level of hazard. On average, 1 of every 9 Christmas tree fires resulted in a fatality compared to an average of one death per 75 non-confined home structure fires overall. Further, 49% of Christmas tree fires spread beyond the room of origin. The fires that spread beyond the room of origin caused 94% of the associated fatalities. The percentage of trees involved in structure fires represent an extremely small portion of the total number of natural Christmas trees sold, which is estimated at 30 million trees, in the United States each year. The moisture content of each tree can play a dominant role in determining the fire hazard each tree represents. Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree is important to retaining a high moisture content in the needles of the tree to limit accidental ignition and prevent rapid flame spread. A tree which has dry needles can readily ignite with a flaming source and generate heat release rates that are capable of causing flashover in residential scale rooms.

The US Fire Administration (USFA) reports that each year fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty:
1.) Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
--Christmas Tree Fire Hazards - Movie segments demonstrating how fast a live Christmas tree can become fully engulfed in flames. Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
--Selecting a Tree for the Holiday - Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
--Caring for Your Tree -Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
--Disposing of Your Tree - Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
Holiday Lights
2.) Maintain Your Holiday Lights
--Light Inspection - Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
--Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets - Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
--Do Not Leave Holiday Lights on Unattended
3.) Holiday Decorations
--Use Only Nonflammable Decorations - All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
--Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace - It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
--Artificial Christmas Trees - If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
4.) Candle Care
-- Avoid Using Lit Candles - If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
-- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree - Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.

Finally, according to the USFA, as in every season, have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And remember to practice your home escape plan. There is nothing more cozy or relaxing than curling up in front of a roaring fire next to a majestic Christmas tree all a-twinkle with lights and ornaments according to FireExtinguisher101.com. The lights illuminate every tiny branch and the room becomes a veritable Christmas wonderland. It is easy to get caught up in the Christmas season with its hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, and celebrating, but holiday fire safety is definitely one thing to keep close in mind during the most jovial time of the year.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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