Although the holidays are the most joyous time for getting together with friends and family they are also historically a time when fire departments and emergency rooms get an increase in calls due to accidents and fires. Homeowners should take special care not to put themselves into harm’s way and become part of those tragic holiday season statistics.
To stay safe and keep your family members happy and healthy here are some things to remember regarding homeowner safety during the holidays:
For starters, almost every household will participate in lots of wonderful cooking activity this time of year for parties, feasts, and dinners. Those include everything from Thanksgiving gatherings to holiday season parties and meals at Christmas and Hanukkah. Then they continue right on through to New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and even Super Bowl Sunday.
Commercial kitchens are routinely inspected for safety hazards as part of their food service licensing procedures, but residential cooks and homeowners are pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to kitchens. Since you will not have anyone looking over your shoulder to ensure you’re safe it is important to do your own inspection. Schedule it once or twice a year to coincide with daylight savings time changes or the holidays and it will be a simple and easy habit.
So before turning on the oven, firing up the smoker, or even placing an order for a holiday bird make sure that your kitchen is a safe environment. Keep fire extinguishers that are appropriately rated and have not passed their expiration nearby. Be sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are in working order and have fresh batteries. Keep a big box of baking soda near at hand in case you need to dump it on a skillet to suppress a sudden fire.
Make sure that any electrical outlets near sources of water like the sink or dishwasher are properly outfitted with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI outlets). Use non-slip mats on the floor around work areas so that you don’t fall, and store any cleaning products safely away from children and also far away from food preparation surfaces, stove tops, sources of heat, or food itself.
Trees and Lights:
Christmas trees and holiday lights are charming, fun, and nostalgic but they are also accidents just waiting to happen if you are the least bit careless. Every year thousands of homes catch fire because of the Christmas tree, for example, especially when flammable wood is combined with strings of lights that generate lots of heat or have worn-out wiring.
One of the most basic things you can do to avoid a tree hazard is to consider using an artificial tree. Many of these are so realistic looking that you can hardly tell them apart from the real thing, and they save money and effort because you can store them in the attic and use them year after year.
But if you do use a real tree then be sure to keep it watered. Trees absorb an astonishing amount of water and the water you put in the basin under your tree also evaporates a lot faster than you might expect because in wintertime the whole house is warmer – heated by your central furnace and maybe even by your holiday fireplace. Once trees get dehydrated the needles and small branches are parched and dry, and those create a natural tinderbox. Lots of Christmas trees also have relatively high resin content so the wood burns really easily and can blaze into a roaring fire within a matter of seconds.
Always test your lights and if they aren’t working properly replace them. Check to make sure there are no cracks or frays in the plastic insulation and that the plug that goes into the outlet is also intact. Don’t place a tree close to a lamp that uses high intensity halogen bulbs, either, because those bulbs get hot enough to burn anything they contact and if the lamp or tree get tipped over and collide it could be disastrous.
Speaking of contact fires, you should also be super careful when using any kind of space heaters because those are notorious for starting fires. Never use a heater than requires ventilation in a tight enclosed area, either, because that can lead to poisoning from odorless carbon monoxide.
You have to also be vigilant about holiday chores, too, because this time of year there are lots of reasons to climb a ladder to hang that tree angel, Star of David, wreath, or string of outdoor lights. Falls from ladders seriously injure or kill too many people every year, so enlist the help of a friend to hold your ladder for you and follow all recommended safety procedures when using any ladder – even if it is just a small one to help you reach the top shelf where you stashed those family heirloom ornaments.