Be Safe for the Holidays: Your Fire Safety Checklist

According to the National Fire Reporting System, 67 percent of winter fires occur in one-and two-family homes and that nearly 1,000 people die each winter in home fires.

The days are shorter, the nights are longer. Temperatures are dropping and the north winds are blowing. This means crackling fires in fireplaces, space heaters turned to the highest setting, entangled extension cords dragged out from the garage, more meals to be cooked and simmered, layers of wet clothes needing to be dried and extra cleaning products to make homes spic and span for family and guests. These additional cold weather activities can bring additional safety concerns. Most fires occur between the hours of 5 to 8 p.m. and are started because of faulty electrical equipment.

So, amid all the hoopla of the upcoming holidays, we would like to encourage you to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to put "safety" at the top of your holiday agenda.

Here's a checklist of some things you can do to ensure fire safety during the holiday season. You can find additional safety tips and precautions at the U.S. Fire Administration at

Concerning the tree and other holiday decorations

  1. If you are buying an artificial tree, look for a "fire-resistant" label; if you are putting up a real tree, be sure to keep it watered.
  2. Of course, you want to put up bright, shiny lights or plug in Rudolph, the rotating reindeer, but be sure to check each and every electrical cord and extension cord for fraying, cracked casings and exposed wires. Do not use any damaged cords.
  3. When you attach your extension cords to whatever appliances or fixtures you are trying to use, do not run the electrical cords under rugs or blankets.
  4. Do not overload electrical outlets. Several types of multiple-plug power strips with built-in surge protectors and circuit breakers are available to protect electrical overload.

Concerning home and hearth safety

  1. Check the batteries on all fire alarms and smoke detectors. Replace the batteries, if necessary. If you do not have fire and smoke alarms to provide sufficient protection, now is the time to install additional alarms.
  2. Be sure you have working fire extinguishers in the kitchen, by the fireplace, near space heaters or furnaces and near any other fire hazard.
  3. Consider battery-operated flameless candles. They come in many sizes and shapes and look and smell real!
  4. Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  5. Store all those seasonal cleaning products, aerosol cans and other flammable liquids away from sources of fire or heat.
  6. Have your furnace and fireplace inspected by a reputable, qualified company every year.
  7. Do not throw wrapping paper into the fireplace, this paper tends to burn rapidly and send out sparks that can start a fire.
  8. If the electricity goes out, use flashlights for extended illumination, not candles.

Concerning home appliances

  1. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any flammable material.
  2. Turn off space heaters before going to bed or leaving the house.
  3. Clean the lint screen on your clothes dryer before each use so that hot air is not trapped in the machine.
  4. Unplug small appliances when not in use.
  5. Do not leave pots on the stove or baking trays in the oven unattended. You need to especially watch heating pots of grease or fryers of oil. Kitchen fires can be prevented by watchful eyes.

What is the most important safety tip of all?

Unfortunately, no matter how many precautions you take, fires do occur. It is imperative to formulate and practice an in-depth family escape plan. Outline all escape routes from every bedroom. If bedroom are upstairs, roll-up ladders should be placed when they can be easily accessed. Be sure everyone in the home knows what to do and where to go. Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 911 or your local emergency phone number.

As treasured as they may be, things can be replaced, but saving the precious lives of yourself and your loved ones during a fire should be priority number one!


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