More holiday home safety tips
HOLIDAY FIRE SAFETY TIPS FROM GUARDHOUSE SECURITY SERVICES
Each year more than 400 house fires are directly associated with Christmas trees, holiday lights and other decorative lighting. According to the National fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), this results in an estimated 21 deaths and more than $25 million in property damage.
Guardhouse Security Services, one of the largest privately owned residential and commercial security companies in Indiana, offers some helpful tips to prevent holiday fire mishaps. And it starts with common sense.
"Dry trees and wreaths, wrapping paper and lighted candles are a recipe for disaster," according to Mike Tuttle, co-owner of Guardhouse Security. "This may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how little attention is actually paid to something as simple as the proper watering of Christmas trees or the maintenance of holiday light sets or the monitoring of open flames from holiday candles and menorahs."
"It's so easy to start a fire, but so hard to put the pieces back together afterward," says Guardhouse co-owner Jim Koschnick. "Prevention is the key." To this end, Guardhouse suggests these simple guidelines, as outlined by the USFA:
- If you prefer a natural tree, keep it watered. Electrical shorts in light sets, open flames from candles or stray embers from a fireplace can easily ignite a dry, neglected tree.
- Select a tree that's green and fresh and not dropping needles. The trunk should still be sticky from fresh sap. Simply bounce the tree on the ground a few times. If needles are dropping, the tree is too dry.
- Keep your tree away from heating ducts and radiators, which can dry it out prematurely. Also keep it away from the fireplace! Keep your tree stand full of water and, as tempted as you may be to extend your holiday season, it's probably not a good idea to keep your tree up for more than two weeks.
- Don't burn your discarded tree in the fireplace or in a fire pit. Your local trash service will more than likely dispose of it for you, so just bring it to the curb when ready.
- Inspect your holiday lighting thoroughly before decorating. Look for frayed wires, cracked insulation and only use lights that have been safety-tested by an approved testing resource like Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- To avoid overloading and electrical shorts, don't string together more than three sets of lights. It's also a good idea to plug them into a surge protector or extension cord rather than directly into your wall socket.
- Don't overload your wall outlets with adaptors and multi plugs. And check your lighting often to make sure the wiring and plugs are not warm to the touch.
- Finally, don't leave your lights on overnight or when you're not at home. They should never be left on, unattended.
- Use only flame-retardant or non-flammable decorations and, like your tree, place all decorations away from heating vents and other heat sources.
- Do not block exits from your home with decorations, trees or holiday displays.
- Never put wrapping paper in the fireplace. This is a leading cause of chimney fires.
- Flameless candles may not be as festive as scented holiday candles, but they are much safer. And if you must use real candles, make sure they are in a stable holder and placed at least a foot from anything flammable. Like your lights, never leave the house or go to bed with candles burning. In fact, it's a good idea never to leave a room with a candle burning: fires can flare up very quickly.
- Never put lit candles on the tree or go near your tree with lit candles, lighters, matches, lit cigarettes or anything that could result in sudden combustion.
"Again, this may all seem like common sense," says Tuttle. "But better safe than sorry."
Finally, adequate fire and smoke detection is a must. Guardhouse suggests at least one smoke detector on each level of your home, including the basement. And while conventional non-monitored, self-contained alarms are better than nothing, a monitored solution is best.
According to Koschnick: "We think smoke detection is so important, we don't charge our customers extra for fire monitoring services. There is simply no substitute for 24/7 monitoring and our ability to dispatch firefighters to your home, whether you're away for the holidays or just upstairs sleeping."