It’s always a sad state of affairs when a holiday celebration gets interrupted or cancelled due to an accidental fire or someone getting burned, yet it happens every year. The fires have any number of sources from improperly grounded or over-loaded Christmas trees to unsafe practices in the kitchen. Here are a few tips about things you should pay attention to so you can increase safety in your kitchen and prevent potential fire hazards around the house.
As your retail outlet has been selling holiday decorations and supplies, have you been educating your consumers on the potential fire hazards and making sure they have what they need to prevent such? Like many sales efforts, this requires educated and “preloaded” associates to communicate with the customers. That guy that came in to buy a new deep fryer for Thanksgiving – he needs to be coached on the need for a good quality fire extinguisher. The guy buying a power strip to put under his Christmas Tree? He’s begging to have a conversation about fire safety as he does his best to overload an outlet for the sake of having a bright beautiful tree.
It might even be worth it for your outlet/store to create some fire safety pamphlets into which you can incorporate some coupons for the items you’re recommending. Here are some safety tips you should make sure to include.
In the Kitchen and at the Table
First and foremost, where is your fire extinguisher? Is it up to date and accessible? Does everyone old enough to use it know where it is located? It can be surprising how many homes have a fire extinguisher… somewhere, so it can’t be located when it’s needed. Check it. Locate it. Make sure all adults know where it is.
While candles always add some ambiance to the setting and offer a pretty site, they also easily catch other kitchen or table items on fire. If you insist on having candles in the kitchen for aroma (as if that dinner cooking doesn’t smell delicious enough) or on the table to add to the visual beauty, use low-set votives or wide based candles that are unlikely to fall over and can be put in taller holders to keep items from getting near the flames.
Maintain your stove and items on it properly. Don’t leave a burner on with nothing on it and if you have a gas stove keep all flammable items (like pot holders) away from the flames. If you have an electric range, remember that the coils are hot even after they’re turned off. If you have items that can be cooked in a slow-cooker, do that instead of a covered pot set on “low” on the stove. When you put puts on the stove, turn handles away from the front so they don’t stick out just waiting to be hit and knocked over or off the stove. Finally, remember that what’s in the pot is often flammable as well. If something gets spilled or cooks over, handle it properly and with a sense of calm urgency. Panic can kill and you have that fire extinguisher for a reason. Yes, it may ruin parts of the dinner and make a mess of your stove, but either is far preferable to burning down your kitchen / house or getting family members injured.
If you’re deep-frying your turkey, remember to do it well away from your house. Make sure that turkey is 100% thawed before putting it in and double check your fryer oil level. Overfilling it or putting in a partially thawed turkey can easily result in boiling oil going places you don’t want it… like down onto that open flame. A bonfire shouldn’t be on your “cooking turkey” list of events.
Around the Tree and in Other Rooms
A great many potential hazards related to lighting your tree have been mitigated by the use of artificial trees and low-voltage LED lights. For all that, there are still Christmas Tree fires every year and most often they are related to the “power cord lash up.” Let’s pay attention and here are a few tips.
Locate your tree properly. Many folks put their trees in front of windows which means they are close to curtains. What may not ignite the tree may well ignite cotton or other material curtains. Maintain proper clearances. This means checking often if you have pets that like to get in or near those windows.
Your tree lights should run off of ONE cord running to the closest outlet. At every connection between an extension cord and tree lights there is an opportunity for overheating which can melt insulation and start fires. Make sure your cord is placed so there’s minimal chance of it being disturbed and it runs directly from outlet to tree electric cord for lights.
If you’re not using a pre-lit tree, or you have a real tree with your own lights on it, check the bulbs as you place the strings to insure each is tight. The very small gaps that can exist between the bulb and the socket they are in can get needles in them… and dry needles can be ignited fairly easily.
If you have a real tree, water it regularly. Double check that it’s done. A dry tree will light easier than most of us are cognizant of. Keeping it properly watered helps to prevent or minimize some of the fire hazard.
Don’t let your holiday season be ruined by a preventable fire. Pay attention. Plan properly. Don’t rush things (easier said than done when you’re behind getting those pies in the oven). Enjoy the season!