Most Americans look forward to the holiday season with pleasant anticipation. Traditionally, it is a time for decorating the home and enjoying special meals and celebrations with family and friends. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also be a time of increased risk for house fires, many of which are directly related to the decorations and displays families use in their celebrations.
Decorations cause a chilling number of holiday-related home fire tragedies
Many of the things commonly used for decorating homes for the holidays are also among the leading causes of house fires during the holiday season. In fact, according to statistics obtained from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
- holiday decorations, excluding the Christmas tree, cause an estimated 860 residential structure fires each year
- holiday decorations left too close to some type of cooking equipment cause, on average, 18% of all holiday-related house fires
- 35% of all Christmas tree fires involved some type of electrical lighting or electrical distribution equipment
With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the perfect time to make sure that all decorating plans are handled with safety in mind.
Remember to inspect all decorations before using them each year
In the rush to take down holiday lights and decorations after the holidays are over, most decorations are not inspected for signs of wear or damage that could make them dangerous during the next use. In addition, boxes of stored decorations can be damaged by rodents who chew on the wiring. Since this type of damage can cause a fire when the lighting is used next, it is important that the homeowner carefully examine all cords, plugs, and connections for damage and discard any that appear unsafe.
Opt to stop using some older decorations
This is particularly important when using older holiday decorations that may have been handed down through several generations. In addition to becoming worn and unsafe through years of use, older decorations such as tree lights,may have been manufactured before current safety standards were enacted.
Older bulbs often generate much more heat than those manufactured now. When placed on a live Christmas tree or allowed to touch flammable paper, fabric, or wood, these lights may create enough heat to cause these materials to ignite. Christmas trees and other greenery, as well as holiday wrapping paper, card displays, stockings and other decorations, can all provide extra fuel for fires caused by these older, heat-generating holiday bulbs and decorations.
Homeowners who want to continue to use older lights of this type should do so only for a few moments at a time and should never leave them lit when the family is asleep or away from the home.
Make testing alarms part of the annual holiday decorating plan
If a fire should occur during the holiday season, getting the family out of the home is the best way to ensure their survival. This means making sure that the home is outfitted with quality smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarms capable of alerting every family member or guest throughout the home. At least one smoke detector should be placed in areas where decorated Christmas trees are used to increase the level of safely.
Take time to have home electrical systems inspected
Holiday decorations and celebrations cause many homes to use far more electricity than they do at other times of the year. Festive indoor and outdoor lighting and increased usage of specialized cooking appliances, like electric roasters and warming trays, all place increased demand on home wiring and components that can also cause an electrical fire.
Homeowners who have concerns about the condition of their home's electrical wiring, especially when tasked with this type of additional usage, should consider discussing their concerns with a reputable electrical contractor in their area. These professionals have the training and tools to inspect home electrical systems for signs of damage or overload that could result in becoming another holiday home fire statistic, if left unresolved.