Did you know 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January and February, according to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association? With decades of experience practicing personal injury and wrongful death law, we’ve seen firsthand the aftermath of house and apartment fires, and other tragedies that commonly escalate during the holidays.
The good firm-overview/news is that structure fires are largely preventable, so while you’re celebrating with family and friends, be aware of the following tips to keep your loved ones safe and decrease your risk of befalling an accident or injury due to fire:
Tend to your tree. Christmas trees are beautiful and bring families together to celebrate tradition and togetherness, but a dry, brittle live tree can be a disaster waiting to happen. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, experts tell us when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than other types of fires. They ignite and spread quickly, and noxious fumes associated with artificial trees and decorations can quickly incapacitate people trying to escape. Keep your live tree anchored in a deep container and water daily. Don’t overload the tree with lights, and make sure to inspect old lights for frayed wired and cracks that can overheat. Resist the temptation to overload extension cords, putting excessive strain on your electrical system. Be sure to turn decorations off at night or use a timer system.
Use candles and fireplaces safely. Never leave open flames such as candles, fireplaces and fire pits unattended, or allow children to be near them without close supervision. Keep flammable materials a safe distance away from flames, and be aware that sparks can travel long distances. Extinguish candles, fires and smoking materials completely before bedtime or before leaving the house. Have fireplaces and flues inspected regularly.
Stay warm safely. The dropping temperatures mean more frequent use of furnaces, space heaters and electric heating devices, but many people forget the dangers involved with these convenient appliances. Follow directions carefully, with careful attention to maintenance instructions. Heating systems should be cleaned and inspected by a professional, who can spot problems such as carbon monoxide leaks and frayed wiring that can be easily corrected if caught early.
Cook with care and diligence. Kitchen equipment is the leading cause of structure fires all year around, and since most holiday gatherings revolving around delicious meals, stovetops, ovens and kitchen appliances will be doing extra duty. With so many details to remember and the additional stresses of family get-togethers, it can be easy to forget something in the oven or let a pot boil over on the cooktop. Follow instructions closely, set timers, and don’t be afraid to ask for help in the kitchen. Lastly, if you don’t have a working fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen, now is a great time to pick one up and familiarize your family members with its use.
Play defense. When it comes to fire safety, experts insist the strongest offense is a strong defense. Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, and test regularly. Talk to your family about how what to do (and what not to do) in case of a fire, and even practice evacuation plans. If you don’t have a plan yet, remember that taking this important step can be a life-saver to protect your loved ones.
With these guidelines in mind, we wish you a joyous and safe holiday season, from the lawyers and staff at Stevenson & Murray!