Sunday, December 16, 2007

Safety for the Holidays

With the holidays upon us, I think it's a good idea to review a few safety guidelines. Detroit Fire Marshal Charlie Pritchett urges Detroiters to observe fire precautions when using lights, decorations and Christmas trees.

"It's easy to forget about fire safety during the holidays," Fire Marshal Pritchett said in a statement. "Taking the time now to remember a few safety tips is the best way to ensure a safe and happy holiday season."

If you use a natural Christmas tree you should make certain that the trunk is sticky with resin and the needles bend as opposed to break. He also recommends the follow steps for natural Christmas trees.
  • Keep the tree away from any heat source, such as a heat vent, radiator or fireplace;
  • Keep your tree full of water and check it daily;
  • Avoid trees sprayed with coloring because those chemicals may be flammable;
  • Trim the lower branches to avoid eye injuries to small children;
  • Dispose of your tree quickly after the holidays; and
  • Avoid the use of candles near combustible decorations, curtains or other flammables.
If you use an artificial tree then Mr. Prichett recommends not putting any lights on aluminum trees. He also recommends not using combustible-type materials for decorating.

Regardless of whether you use a natural or artificial tree, he recommends keeping it out of exit paths.

When it comes to lights, Mr. Pritchett also suggests Detroiters replace strings of lights that have worn or frayed cords. He also recommends that we:
  • Buy only lights that have been tested and carry a seal, such as that of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL);
  • Do not plug more than three sets of lights into one extension cord;
  • Replace blown fuses with same size fuses, never with a larger size. Some appliances may have to be turned off or plugged into another outlet on a different circuit to remedy the condition;
  • Make sure lights used outdoors have been approved for that type of use and are waterproof;
  • Don't leave the holiday lights on overnight or when away from home;
  • Don't leave candles burning overnight and do not leave lit candles unattended at any time.
People who smoke should also observe safety precautions during the holiday season. Smokers should keep smoldering cigarettes and cigar butts away from gift wrappings and away from Christmas trees, light and other holiday decorations. Smokers should check furniture for fallen ashes and also empty ashtrays into a metal container with a cover or into the toilet.

Fire safety precautions also must be observed when using kerosene and electric space heaters. The Detroit Fire Department does not recommend or encourage the use of kerosene heaters.

Detroiters who insist on using kerosene space heaters should use only fuel recommended by the manufacturer. In addition, the Department recommends:
  • Fill the heater outdoors and do not overfill;
  • Properly ventilate the room where the heater is located;
  • Operate the kerosene heater on a drip pan to contain any spills;
  • Place the heater at least three feet away from any ordinary combustibles, which includes household furniture;
  • Have at least one multi-purpose fire extinguisher nearby;
  • Do not place clothes or furniture near the heater; and
  • Do not leave children alone with heaters or operate heaters in children's sleeping areas.
For more information about fire safety, please call the Detroit Fire Department Community Relations Division at (313) 596-2959.
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