Santa is a very wise fellow. Not only does he know who has been naughty and nice, but also knows exactly where you live. That’s why he cautions everyone to be very careful during the holidays because the smallest heat, fire or electrical accident could turn your home into a signal fire…and Santa doesn’t need the help to find you. Plus, he’s not landing on a blazing roof.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. These fires are responsible for 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
Make sure to follow the home holiday safety checklist below prior to the holidays, and continue to be vigilant while your family and friends enjoy the holidays together.
Test Smoke Alarms
It’s a good idea to test your smoke alarms regularly throughout the year, so make December one of the months you do so. Change the batteries if you’re not sure how old they are and you won’t have to worry about them failing during a fire.
Review Home Escape Plan
Make sure every member of the family knows what to do if the smoke alarm is activated. Check any equipment, such as rope ladders to exit the second floor. Every member of the family should know how to dial 9-1-1 and have it pre-programmed into their cell phones. If you don’t have a home escape plan, then this is a good time to create one, and practice it.
Before installing exterior or interior holiday lights, inspect them for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets and any kinks or other forms of wear. Only buy lighting products that are approved by a recognized testing laboratory.
Keep the number of light strands that are connected together to a maximum of 3. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord, and then the extension cord into an electrical outlet.
When you leave your house or go to bed at night always turn off all your holiday lights, inside and outside the home.
All your decorations should be nonflammable or flame retardant. Be very conscious of where you use decorations. For example, don’t place them close to heating system vents, fireplaces, portable electrical heaters or electrical outlets. Make sure decorations won’t make it difficult to exit your home quickly in case of a fire or other emergency.
The Deadly Beauty of Candles
Candles have a long tradition as part of holiday decorations, especially before the invention of electricity, but they can quickly start a fire if you don’t use them correctly and safely. The best tip is not to use them, but substitute battery-operated flameless candles that are manufactured to look and smell like real candles.
If you use candles, then keep them to a minimum, and maybe only light them Christmas Eve. Place them only in holders made for candles and a foot or more from any decorations or other items that could burn. Your children may think they are festive, but it’s best not to burn candles in bedrooms.
Most importantly, NEVER decorate a tree with lit candles. In fact, never approach a tree with lit candles, matches or lighters.
Choose the Right Tree
It’s easy to concentrate on the beauty and size of the tree you select, but spend an equal amount of time making sure you buy a safe one. You’ll know a tree is fresh and green and less of a fire hazard if the trunk is sticky from sap. Needles shouldn’t easily fall from the tree when you bounce the bottom of the trunk on the ground. Neither should needles break easily from the branches.
Plan on a maximum of two weeks to display your tree. Keep it far from any kind of heat source: fireplace, heating system vents, portable electrical heaters, electrical outlets and candles. Check the tree stand every day to be sure it is filled with water.
Your Christmas tree is not firewood to be burned in your fireplace after the holidays. It can create too many sparks and uncontrolled flames.
It doesn’t take much for a dry tree to catch fire, as demonstrated in the following video.
Check your Insurance
Being the end of the year, December is a good month to review your homeowners insurance, even if it is not time for it to be renewed. Make sure you understand the details of the coverage as it relates to potential holiday accidents and claims. As part of your Home Escape Plan, your policy should be among the important papers you take with you if you must evacuate your home.
As a photographer, you also want to check your policy’s coverage of your equipment, which could easily be damaged or destroyed even in a minor house fire.
Talk with a company specializing in all forms of insurance for commercial photographers, semi-pros or full-time pros. PhotographyTalk recommends Package Choice, which you can contact for a free quote at http://www.packagechoice.com/index.jsp#htwms.
Photo by PhotographyTalk member Linda
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