Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

Turkeys roasting in the oven, candles flickering, twinkle lights decorating the tree: do those words evoke holiday celebrations with family and friends? Cozy afternoons spent decorating the halls, cooking family feasts, toasting the season? Magical times spent with those you care most about?

For safety professionals the holidays take on another more tragic meaning: dangerous and life-threatening fires. In fact, one of my closest friends was awakened last Thanksgiving night at 2am, coughing and eyes watering, and realized their apartment was engulfed in smoke. They grabbed their cat, their coats, and her purse by the front door and ran into the night to call 911 and awaken the rest of the building. Luckily no one died in the fire, but my friend’s apartment was a 100% loss: literally the only things saved were the clothes on their backs and the cat. The culprit? The downstairs neighbors left a candle burning when they went to bed.

Most holiday fires are 100% preventable by taking common-sense precautions while you enjoy your preparations and festivities.

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

Even experienced cooks experiment with new recipes over the holidays, and get distracted by the commotion and festivities. Over 4000 fires occur in the United States on Thanksgiving Day, 3 times the amount of fires on an average day. The main culprit: unattended cooking.

Common sense cooking precautions will avoid most home cooking fires:

  1. Never leave a working stove or oven unattended.
    1. Going out to shop while the turkey slow roasts in the oven is not OK: turkey fat can drip over the pan and ignite a fire inside your oven.
    2. A simmering pot on top of the stove can boil dry and quickly ignite.
    3. Spilled food on the stovetop can ignite and spread to nearby cabinets.
  2. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with a fire extinguisher and your smoke detector batteries are new.
  3. Keep kitchen towels, hot pads, paper towels and napkins away from the stove: it’s very easy to lay your hot pad down conveniently next to the stovetop.
  4. Turn pot handles inward and not out toward the kitchen area.
  5. Do not allow excited children to play in a busy kitchen.

What to Do if a Cooking Fire Occurs:

  1. Under no circumstances try to put the fire out with water: water may actually feed the fire, and hot grease could easily flare up and burn you.
  2. Put a lid on it. If a small fire starts on top of your stove grab a nearby metal pot lid and put it over the pot to extinguish the flams
  3. If the fire is too large for a lid, use your fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
  4. If the oven catches fire do not open the oven door: turn the oven OFF and let the fire burn out.
  5. If the fire has begun to spread and the room is smoke-filled evacuate your home and call 911.

Deep Frying the Thanksgiving Turkey

Fried turkeys have a great taste and have become increasingly popular. Unlike the rest of holiday meals, deep frying the Thanksgiving turkey is often part of the holiday entertainment and is executed by infrequent cooks. Deep frying the turkey too frequently involves alcohol, and causes over $15 million in property damages each year, in addition to serious personal injuries.

Common Sense Precautions When Deep Frying a Turkey:

  1. Read turkey deep frying instructions completely before beginning to setup and prepare the turkey and deep fryer.
  2. The turkey should be completely thawed and dry: a wet turkey can ignite a grease fire.
  3. Check the weather: rain or snow on hot oil can cause the oil to splatter, steam, and spark.
  4. Use your deep fryer at a distance from your home and car: never use your deep fryer in, on, or under your garage, porch, deck or patio.
  5. Check the oil temperature frequently, and if the oil starts to boil or smoke turn the flame off.
  6. Never leave the deep fryer unattended. Children, pets, and toys should stay out of the area.

What to do If Your Deep Fryer Catches Fire:

  1. Under no circumstances try to put the fire out with water.
  2. Have a fire extinguisher nearby.
  3. Call 911 and keep everyone away from the fire.

This video by William Shatner and the firefighters with the Illinois Fire Service demonstrate 5 safe turkey frying tips

Candles and Twinkling Lights

Softly glowing candles and Christmas lights are used to decorate tabletops, trees, walkways, and mantles throughout the holiday season. Improperly used candles and holiday lights can lead to personal injury and property damage. Using a few simple precautions can help you enjoy your holiday decorations safely.

Candle Safety Tips for the Holidays:

  1. Never leave a candle burning unattended. Battery operated candles can provide the same effect as traditional candles, without the danger of fire.
  2. Keep lit candles away from children and pets, flowers, trees and shrubs, and paper products like wrapped gifts.
  3. Extinguish candles before they burn to a stub. An extra hour of flame is not worth the risk of starting a fire.
  4. Luminarias, the practice of lining neighborhood sidewalks with candles in sand-filled paper bags, should have a designated neighborhood supervisor who watches over the luminarias and is responsible for making sure all candles are properly extinguished.
  5. Extinguish all candles when you leave your home or go to bed.

Holiday Lights Safety Tips:

  1. Inspect your cords for frays and breaks. Throw away any lights with damaged cords or plugs.
  2. Use UL approved cords that are tested to meet US safety standards.
  3. Only use the correct wattage of light bulbs to replace broken bulbs.
  4. Do not use electrical lights on metal trees.
  5. Unplug lights when you are not at home or in bed. A timer is an effective way to schedule holiday lights to go off each evening.

The holidays are a special time to enjoy with your family and friends. Common sense holiday safety procedures when cooking or using candles and holiday lights can help ensure the safety of the people you care about.

 

Wishing You and Yours a Safe, Happy Holiday Season

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