Some advice to keep you and your family safe this holiday season

As Christmas commercials begin invading our television programming, people are beginning to plan for the holidays. Christmas trees are going up, lights are being strung and gingerbread cookies baked.

With these activities come new fire hazards for your home, and fire safety should be taken into consideration to keep you and your family safe for the holiday season. Here are some tips from the experts.

1. Check your smoke alarm

Brian McAsey, public information officer for the Calgary Fire Department, said many people have good intentions to check their smoke alarm regularly, but it is often forgotten about with the hectic holiday season.

“There should be a smoke alarm on every level of the house and the batteries should be changed once a year,” he said. “After 10 years a smoke alarm is no good anymore. Even if the light is on or the alarm sounds, the detector should still be replaced.”

If you have trouble installing a smoke alarm or can’t afford one, call 3-1-1 and the fire department will install one for free.

2. Have an escape plan

McAsey also stresses the importance of having a plan in case of a house fire.

“Everyone should have a home escape plan and practice it regularly,” he said. “There is a three minute rule to get out of the house because the smoke spreads fast and is very dangerous.”

He said if there is a meeting point outside the house everyone will know of everybody’s whereabouts. If some family members are in the backyard and some are in the front yard, then they may think are people still in the house.

3. Don’t plug in too many electrical appliances

Carol Henke, community safety officer for the Calgary Fire Department, said electrical wire can be a potential fire hazard, especially at Christmas time.

Christmas trees are going up, lights are being strung and gingerbread cookies are being baked. With these activities come new fire hazards for your home. Fire safety should be taken into consideration to keep you and your family safe for the holiday season. Photo: Courtney Urbani“People are starting to plug in more items for the holiday season, like lights and decorations,” Henke said. “You shouldn’t be plugging in more things than one outlet can handle because that could be a fire hazard.”

She also stresses the importance of making sure you have no frayed wired and to turn your lights off when you go to bed.

4. Be careful with candles

Around Christmas time, scented candles and the like become more popular.

“People like candles around Christmas because everyone likes the nice ambience, but don’t really think about the fire hazards it presents,” Henke said. “So, always make sure to blow out any candles when you leave a room.”

She added that it’s helpful to purchase candles from reputable distributors to know they are safe. Another option is buying LED lights that give the same effect as a candle.

5. Don’t leave cooking food unattended

The majority of house fires start in the kitchen, Henke said, and it’s easy to get distracted from your cooking.

“People start to cook dinner and the phone will ring or they will go onto the computer and completely forget they have something on the stove,” she said. “Oil is especially dangerous because heating it up too quickly can start a fire if it’s left unattended.”

She said it’s also important to have a lid handy because if a fire does ignite it’s most efficient and least dangerous to slide the lid on and turn the element off. Trying to put out a grease fire with water will only make it worse because it will ignite a fireball of a superheated steam in your kitchen.

6. Water your Christmas tree

For the people who enjoy the real smell of an evergreen tree at Christmas time, don’t forget that it is also a fire hazard sitting in your living room.

Don Ady, a Calgary firefighter and inspector for 23 years, said it’s important to keep your Christmas tree watered and away from candles.

“It’s essential to keep trees very well watered and more hydrated because if they are dry then they will burn a lot more rapidly,” he said.

So when decorating your house or cooking Christmas dinner, always pay attention to fire hazards and make sure you take the proper safety precautions.

For more information on home fire safety, please visit www.calgary.ca/fire.

curbani@cjournal.ca

Click here for Chris McCallum’s journey towards becoming a firefighter.