The holiday season can be a hectic time. The potential for injury rises at holiday time with increases in, burns, fires, thefts, robberies, etc.
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. In addition, there are 11,600 candle-related fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1200 injuries and $173 million in property loss annually. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage.
Just as there are safety rules and precautions to help you at work, there are also safety guidelines to help you through the holidays. Many risks we face can be avoided to make an enjoyable holiday season, if proper precautions are taken in advance.
In The Home
- Use fire-resistant material when at all possible for home-made items.
- Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of children's reach.
- Ensure pet friendly trimmings. Cats tend to like to chew and jump on trees. Dogs like to chew on trimmings which you may want to place higher up on the tree. This is especially true of tinsel. Keep the lights above the area that the animal can reach. Don't place holiday lights on the outside of an aquarium. While they may look nice, it is a problem in waiting.
- If candles are part of your holiday celebration, consider using holders that have glass domes or cups that cover the candle or flame. They are harder to tip over and less likely to be disturbed by your pet.
- Don't burn any candles unless an adult is in the house at all times. Consider using electric candles. Never use lighted candles on or near your holiday tree, wreaths, curtains or drapes.
- Avoid decorations with sharp edges or small removable parts and ornaments that are easily broken.
- Be sure doors and windows are locked in your home, especially when you are sleeping or out.
Electrical Wires – Each year, faulty or worn wiring causes more than 40,000 house fires and 350 deaths in the United States. Electricity also poses the treat of shock, especially where water is present, such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements. To prevent this problem, you may want to consider a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Ordinary outlets only sense electricity leaks of 15 amps and as little as 1 amp can kill. GFCI's which cost approximately $20 can detect leakage as low as .002 amps and cut power in 1/40th of a second.
Accidental Poisonings – Childproof caps work well on medications and household cleaners. But, they won't protect children if the caps are off and you are called away by things such as the telephone or doorbell. Never leave a child alone near a potentially hazardous substance.
Staircases and Landings – The most dangerous location in the home is the staircase. To make sure the chance of a fall is reduces, install and inspect handrails, check the steps, fasten down carpet and replace worn carpeting. Don't leave toys, books or other clutter on the steps.
Coffee Tables – Toddlers often hurt their heads by running or falling into sharp-edged coffee tables. During the holiday season when there are more children in the house, consider removing these types of tables.
Carbon Monoxide – Odorless and colorless carbon monoxide (CO) is released by incomplete burning of natural gas, oil and wood. CO poisoning kills 5,000 Americans a year! The gas can come from defective furnaces, stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers and other fuel-burners. CO can also reach deadly levels in poorly vented or clogged appliance exhaust pipes. To reduce risk, have professionals inspect your furnace and other devices annually and install a CO alarm (approximately $50) in a hall outside the bedrooms.
Christmas trees are one of the most popular traditions of the season and, one of the most dangerous. Whether you choose a living tree or an artificial one, safety should be a top consideration. Freshness is the key to selecting a living tree. A fresh tree is moist and not as flammable as a dry tree. The best way to get a fresh tree is to cut it yourself. Even if you are looking at pre-cut trees, you can use some simple tips for safety.
- Select a tree that is green.
- Life the tree and tap the trunk on the ground. Only a few needles should fall and the trunk should be sticky with sap.
- Pine needles should bend, not break, and be firmly attached to the branch.
- The trunk of the tree should be sticky with sap.
Once you get your tree home, take these precautions to keep it fresh:
- Keep the tree outdoors and cover the trunk in snow or immerse it in a bucket of water until you are ready to decorate.
- Cut two inches off the bottom of the tree trunk and place the tree in a sturdy stand filled with water. Check the stand daily and refill as necessary so the tree does not dry out.
- Put the tree in a sturdy, water holding stand with wide spread legs.
- Keep the stand filled with water the entire time the tree is indoors.
- Keep the tree away from heaters and other heat sources, and make sure it is not blocking an exit door.
- To keep your tree from being knocked over, set it up where it is out of the way of people traffic and where it does not block entrances or exits.
When the holidays are over, you should take your tree outside as soon as possible. Never burn it. Instead, recycle or discard you tree according to your city, county or township regulations. If you are considering using an artificial tree, be aware that even flame-resistant trees can catch fire, especially if they have years of dust buildup on them. Wash your artificial tree each year and store the parts in plastic bags.
Artificial Christmas Trees:
- Make sure the tree has been treated and labeled as fire resistant by the manufacturer.
- A tree with a built in electrical system should always have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. That ensures that the system has been tested and meets safety standards when used properly.
Mixing and matching lights can create a fire hazard, so keep outside lights outside and inside lights inside. Examine your lights before you hang them. Check to see that each strand has a factory label, which means it has been safety tested. Check the light bulbs, sockets, wires and plugs to make sure nothing is cracked, broken or exposed. Replace any missing bulbs, being careful to never bypass a fuse. After replacing any missing or broken parts, check each set by setting it on a nonflammable surface and plugging it in for 10 minutes to see that the lights don't melt or smoke.
- Lights should be UL approved.
- Check each light set for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets immediately.
- Use no more than three sets of lights on any extension cord or outlet.
- Extension cords should be placed against the wall (but never nailed) to avoid a tripping hazard. Do not run the cord under a rug!
- Turn off all lights on the tree and other electric decorations when going to bed or leaving the house.
- Do not use lights on a metallic tree, since faulty lights could charge the tree.
- Position the bulbs so they are not in direct contact with needles or ornaments. Also keep lights away from curtains or flammable materials.
- If you string lights together using built-in connectors, don't join more than 200 midget lights or 50 larger lamps through one string or cord.
- Keep the cords and plugs away from the water under the tree.
- Unplug all decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
Decorations can add to the enjoyment and beauty of the holidays and, to the hazards. Consider how safe your decorations are and remove items that could cause potential risks to your family, especially small children and pets. As yourself these questions as you decorate a tree or place items around your home:
- Are fragile glass ornaments – or ornaments which children could mistake as food or candy – out of reach?
- Are you using older ornaments made with toxic materials such as lead based paints?
- Is tinsel hung on low branches of your tree, presenting a swallowing or choking hazard to children or pets?
Consider leaving these types of decorations off your tree. At the very least, hang them on higher branches.
Even if there are no children or pets in your home, avoid using metal ornaments and garlands made of metallic or synthetic compounds. They are electric shock hazards. Wear gloves if you are working with decorative materials such as spun glass or angel hair since they can irritate your skin.
For additional safety tips please check out our “Fire Safety At Home” section !
Outside The Home
- Don't carry large amounts of cash when going shopping. Utilize checks, credit card or travelers checks.
- Park your car in an area where lighting is best and try to park as close to an entrance to the store as possible.
- Always lock your car doors upon exiting.
- Always lock your packages in the trunk so they are not visible.
- When stopping to eat in a shopping mall, keep your pocket-book on your shoulder or lap. If someone approaches you to ask you anything, keep your eyes on your packages while answering their questions.
- When leaving the store and approaching your car in the parking lot, look around you before leaving the store and have your keys ready in your hand to open your car door.
- Try to go shopping with one or more friends so that you are not walking alone.
- Set a specific time to return home and let family members know.
- Try to always carry a cell phone on your person.
- While on the road, dial your phone when your car is stopped.
- Always use a hands-free device.
- Pre-program important and frequent dialed numbers.
- Never take notes while driving. Pull off the road to a safe spot or leave yourself a message on your voice mail.
- Know your wireless phone number so emergency personnel can call you back.
- During hazardous traffic conditions, turn your phone off and let the calls go to your voice mail.
Utilizing these tips and common sense, your holiday will be an enjoyable one to remember!
Remember – Be Smart!
Wear Your Seatbelt AND Don't Drink & Drive!
Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings and Best Wishes For The New Year!
Thank you for your assistance and help during 2003. We look forward to your help in 2004 as we prosper and grow together. 2004 will be a banner year for the U.S. SAR Task Force and the U.S. SAR Rangers. Many, many things are planned and, we would like you to grow with us and enjoy our prosperous times. Many Thanks!
Chief Steven L. Labov
The following was reworded for the Search & Rescue community. It was received by a fire fighter after being drafted for the fire service field.
Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the land,
not a creature was stirring
not even command.
The gear was all stored
as should be with care,
so if help were needed
we'd soon all be there.
The searchers were nestled
all snug in their beds,
while visions of new equipment
danced in their heads.
The training was finished
all action was stopped,
in hopes that at Christmas
no calls would be dropped.
When over the pagers
there rose such a clatter,
we all sprang to our feet
to see what was the matter.
A child was lost
no time to be slow,
and though it was Christmas
we all had to go.
With lights and sirens a'blaring
our energies high,
we sped down the highway
and said to our families goodbye.
On canine, on mounted
on radios, on scene,
if necessary we'll walk
till were all nice and lean.
We'll contain the area
from end to end,
and into the field
our resources we'll send.
So into the field
we all do go,
covered in gear
from head to toe.
The searchers were working
in front and behind,
and all of a sudden
reported a find.
He was dressed all in red
from his head to his foot,
his clothes were all soiled
with dirt, branches and soot.
But, his eyes had a twinkle
it wasn't a trick,
who else could it be
it must be Saint Nick.
He said thanks for the rescue
for hearing my call,
we were close to not having
a Christmas at all.
I wish I could stay
'till you end this command,
but I've much work to do
all over the land.
The gifts that I'll leave
for each one of you,
are nothing compared
to the giving you do.
So thanks one last time
for the service you give,
for keeping us safe
wherever we live.
My holiday wish
as you keep up the fight,
Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night!