iStock photo credit by Kimberly Pack
The winter holiday season is a time when families get together to enjoy and celebrate just being together with loved ones, the upcoming Valentine’s holiday is no different: joy and cheer abound, children play and laugh, and everyone is in good spirits. We have reason to be cautious as well, it’s a time when residential fires happen more frequently. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), “Fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 people, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage.” Why?
People generally spend a lot more time around the house. They use cooking appliances more frequently, put up party decorations and lighting, use indoor fireplaces for ambiance and heat, and gather around the backyard fire pit, all of which can lead to unexpected fires if not operated properly.
Sometimes fires just happen no matter how careful we are. It is in these times that having a plan of action when something like a fire occurs can mean the difference between life and death, especially when there are young kids around. No one wants to think about it but being fire safe in and out of the home is an important first step to ensuring your loved one’s safety through the holidays and beyond.
Develop and Practice a Fire Escape Plan
It is critical to develop a fire escape plan but even more critical that your kids know what to do in case a fire starts in their room or floor of the house. Here are some basic tips that will go a long way in helping you and your kids to react quickly and smartly when a fire occurs.
- Install smoke alarms. If you already have them, be sure they are in proper working order. Self-test the alarms monthly and replace the batteries yearly.
- Work with all family members on an escape route out of the house. Plan two routes in case the first route cannot be used. Practice the routes from each room in the house so no matter where anyone is, they know which way to go to get out.
- In the event a child cannot escape, teach them to open their window and wave around an article of clothing or something that will attract attention. Have them stay put until help arrives.
- If a smoke alarm goes off and wakes you up, check the door for heat and smell at the bottom of the door for smoke. Use another way out if the door is hot or you smell smoke. If the door is cool, kneel down and open the door slowly, facing away from opening.
- Buy a fire extinguisher with an A-B-C rating. This rating makes sure fires from wood, paper, flammable liquids and electrical fires all can be snuffed out. Aim at the base of the fire and move side to side.
- Make sure you have assigned a meeting place outside so all family members can be accounted for.
Other Seasonal Fire Safety Tips
- Inspect any electric wiring, extension cords and power strips for cracks and fraying. Children are very curious and may grab a hold of a “pretty” bare wire exposed on the Christmas tree, giving them a nasty shock.
- Do not string together more than three strands of lights unless they are rated to do so. Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many cords and never splice two cords together.
- When using candles, place them in an area where they cannot easily be knocked over. Be sure they are in appropriate holders and never let children play with the hot wax. Their skin is sensitive and hot wax can leave a painful burn.
Backyard Safety Tips
Children love to roast marshmallows over the fire and make S’mores too. What better way than to do so over a wood burning fire pit table on the backyard patio. It’s like they are camping and is a fun winter activity for almost any age. Following a few common sense tips will make fire burning activities even more enjoyable.
- Supervise kids while they roast marshmallows. Use a long marshmallow roasting utensil found at most any camping store. They are extendable and keep little hands from getting too close to the fire.
- Use a fire pit screen dome over the fire pit to prevent embers from catching foliage and anything else on or around your patio on fire. Even if you have a gas fire pit, you can still use a screen to help avoid the temptation of a child wanting to touch the flames.
- When children are around, it is best to use propane gas fire pit tables rather than wood burning ones. Gas fire pits have a more controlled burn with no stray sparks or embers to worry about and the extra 12 inches or so for the table ledge acts as a safety barrier too.
‘Tis Every Season to be Fire Safe
Using these simple precautionary tips and teaching your little Valentine’s what to do in case of an unexpected fire will greatly improve your peace of mind through any party or holiday celebration. Remember to practice your fire escape plan and supervise your kids around any open fire.
About the Author
Karen Ho Fatt provides valuable tips and advice for families looking to improve their homes. You can find some of the best fire pit reviews at her site that features all types of designs for fun family backyard outings. Karen is a Canadian native who enjoys living in her beautiful countryside hamlet.