Staying safe during the holidays

By Debbie Bell/Franklin County Health Department Published:

The signs of Christmas are everywhere!

It seems as if many places have been ready to roll since the first of November, when some radio stations began playing Christmas songs and several retail stores put their Christmas trees on display. As families celebrate all the joys surrounding this wonderful time of year it’s important to remember a few safety tips that can help avoid a tragedy.

One of the most memorable commercials shown locally during the holidays is the burning Christmas tree in the beautifully decorated home. It is unbelievable how quickly flames engulf this tree — it takes approximately 11 seconds.

According to the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lighting occur each year. Other interesting fire facts provided by the National Fire Protection Association include:

>One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.

>Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.

>A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every six Christmas tree fires.

>More than half (56 percent) of home candle fires occur when something that can catch on fire is too close to the candle.

>December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. Last December, 11 percent of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4 percent the rest of the year.

I sat down with Lt. Eric Simpson from the Franklin County Fire Department in November to discuss ways that one can protect themselves and their families from fire dangers during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Here are just a few of the tips that Simpson had to share regarding potential fire hazards:

>When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green; needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break.

>Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections and discard damaged sets.

>Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.

>Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

>Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

Visit http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/holiday-seasonal/holiday.shtm for more information on how you can keep your family safe from fire risks this Christmas season. Remember your best protection is prevention and being prepared with a plan if an emergency were to arise.

Debbie Bell is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in the Community Health Education Department at the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Road.

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