County Comment: Holiday Safety Touted

County Comment
Holiday Safety Touted
By Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

The holiday season is a time for more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment and improper use of decorations.
Then Washington County Division of Emergency Services (DES) and the National Fire Protection Association remind citizens that fire departments respond to some 250 home fires that started with Christmas trees each year, and that there are an average of 14 deaths, 26 injuries, and $13.8 million in direct property damage annually during this time of year.
Over a three-year period, NFPA report that an estimated 14,800 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 160 deaths, 1,340 injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $471 million.
Extra time spent in the kitchen is time for proper safety procedures. Four in 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen -- more than any other place in the home, NFPA says.
Home heating equipment-caused fires also increase during the holiday season, as the temperatures begin to drop. Half of all home-heating fires occur in December, January and February as folks begin using fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters.
DES and NFPA ask you to be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant. Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged, and
keep decorations away from windows and doors.
Holidays are times for entertaining, with more people visiting your home than any other time in the year. Make sure you test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan; if you don't have an escape plan there is a page at www.nfpa.org with all then information you need.
The season wouldn't be complete without lit candles, which can be a holiday fire hazard. NFPA says to keep children and pets away from lit candles and keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
To reduce the possibility of kitchen fires, stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
Will you have guests that smoke? Ask them to smoke outside and remind them to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
Taking a few simple fire safety precautions can make the holiday season happy and joyous for all.