5 Safety Tips to an Injury-Free Holiday Season.
Gobble, gobble! Nom, nom, nom!! ‘Tis the season for cooler temperatures, changing leaves, fall fashion and menu favorites like turkey, stuffing and cranberries. For many, this time of year signifies the beginning of a season of traditions and festivities, from gathering for family feasts and playing impromptu front-yard football, to shopping holiday retail ads and debating the appropriate time to put up the tree. But one tradition that PrimeLending would like to see eliminated is the frequency of holiday injuries that could be prevented with appropriate safety precautions.
Did you know that there are more ER visits during the fall and winter months, due to injuries caused by holiday cooking accidents, decorating hazards and house fires? Check out these staggering holiday-related injury statistics, reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
- During the most recent NFPA five-year survey, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 156,600 home structure fires due to cooking, resulting in an average of 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 reported civilian fire injuries and $853 million in direct property damage per year.
- S. fire departments respond to an estimated 230 home structure fires every year due to decorated trees, resulting in an average of six civilian deaths, 22 civilian injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage per year.
- Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fire injuries, with most cooking fires involving the stovetop.
- Frying poses the greatest risk of cooking fires.
- The top three days for home-candle fires are December 24th, December 25th and January 1st.
What can you do to ensure you have a safe 2015 holiday season? As you begin planning and decorating, check out PrimeLending’s 5 Ps to an Injury-Free Holiday Season:
Partition Your Kitchen
The kitchen is often a prime gathering place for family and friends. But during the hustle and bustle of holiday entertaining, it’s best to declare your kitchen as a no-gathering zone. Instead, prepare your kitchen for safe cooking by following these guidelines:
- Keep children out of the kitchen. If the kids want to help, assign them place setting and decorating tasks around the dinner table and other common areas.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand, as grease fires can ignite without warning. Flour and baking soda can also extinguish grease flames. Never pour water onto a grease fire.
- Always remain in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food.
- Keep your stovetop and its surrounding areas clear of flammable items.
- Turn off the stove when you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time.
- When simmering, roasting or baking food, set kitchen timers and check your food regularly.
- Note that the NFPA vehemently discourages the use of turkey fryers, as they can lead to devastating burns, injuries and the destruction of property. If you’re set on a fried turkey for your holiday meal, consider using a professional establishment (i.e., grocery stores, specialty food retailers, restaurants, etc.) to prepare your bird. Or try using an oil-less turkey fryer.
Plan Your Decorations
Holiday decorating has truly taken a life of its own, as popular store fronts display their own branded ornaments, tree lots and tree farms are abound, and designer outdoor light displays are making television debuts. But before you start saturating your home in holiday cheer, strategically plan out the placement of your decorations, as well as how you intend to get them in place. After all, it’s estimated that each year there are roughly 5,800 fall-related injuries and 1,300 light-related injuries treated in an ER, due to holiday decorating. Remember:
- Always use a proper step stool or ladder to reach high places. Don’t stand on chairs or furniture.
- Always face the ladder and grip the rungs to climb — not the side rails.
- Keep three body parts in contact with the ladder at all times (i.e., two feet and one hand, one foot and two hands, etc.)
- Never lean too far to reach a point. Reposition the ladder closer to the access point.
- Use ladders with slip-resistant ends and wear dry, slip-resistant shoes.
- Do not use a ladder in inclement weather.
- Use indoor lights only indoors, and outdoor lights only outdoors.
- Carefully inspect your lights for frayed wires, damaged sockets and loose connections. Replace or repair any damaged light sets.
- Per the National Safety Council (NSC), never connect more than than three light sets to any one extension cord.
- Extension cords should be placed against walls to avoid tripping hazards.
- Do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
- Fasten outdoor lights firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks to avoid wind damage. Never nail, tack or stress wiring to hang lights.
- Keep plugs off of the ground and away from puddles and snow.
- Use a timer for switching outdoor lights off and on, and never let them remain on 24/7.
- For live trees, cut off approximately two inches off the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy, water-holding tree stand. Check the water level daily and replenish so that the tree does not dry out. Dry tree = fire hazard!
- Artificial trees should be labeled as fire resistant.
- Place your tree at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles and heat lamps.
- Make sure your tree does not block any exits, including interior and exterior doorways.
- Position all breakable tree ornaments and decorations with sharp edges or small, detachable parts up high on the tree, or in a display case on a high shelf, out of reach from children and pets.
- Turn off all tree and decoration lights before you leave the house and when you go to bed.
- Unplug all extension cords when not in use.
Put Out Your Candles
In this instance, “put out” your candles means “blow out” your candles. In fact, we discourage placing too many candles around your home, as the NFPA reports that candles start two out of every five home decoration fires. A great alternative to open flame candles are flameless candles, which look and smell like real candles. If you do use traditional candles, we recommend:
- Always blow out your candles when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Never leave a candle unattended.
- Never place candles near trees, boughs, curtains, drapes, garland, presents, stockings, bows or anything that is potentially flammable.
- Place candles on uncluttered surfaces. The NFPA recommends keeping all candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
- Don’t use candles in the bedroom, where more than one-third of U.S. candle fires begin.
- Don’t place candles near areas where someone may fall asleep (i.e., an end-table or coffee table near the couch, a side table next to a recliner, etc.)
- Never leave children or pets alone in a room with a burning candle.
Prepare YOUR Heat
As temperatures drop, homeowners will be quick to turn up heat sources, like chimneys, fireplaces, space heaters, furnaces and heat lamps. But preparations prior to use of heating sources can help homeowners avoid potential fire hazards. Before you fire up your heat, review these tips:
- Have a professional inspect your furnace and clean the chimney annually, before the first use of the season.
- Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries or units as needed.
- Never hang stockings or place flammable decorations near a heat source.
- Keep space heaters and any portable heating source out of walking paths and away from children.
- Keep all loose papers, magazines, newspapers, fabrics, etc., at least three feet away from any heat source.
- Always extinguish fires in the fireplace, turn off furnaces and unplug any electrical heating device when not in use and before you go to bed.
Protect your home
The holiday season is also the busiest time of year for traveling. And if you’re one of the millions traveling somewhere to share holiday cheer with family and friends, that means your home is primed to attract holiday burglars. While we don’t suggest implementing elaborate “Home Alone-esque” booby traps, here are a few tips to protect your home during the holidays, especially when you’re traveling:
- Don’t post your travel plans on social media.
- Leave a couple of lights on inside the home, along with a radio or TV, so it looks like someone is home.
- Do not leave gifts in view from any window.
- Ask a neighbor to collect your mail, newspapers and any packages while you’re away.
- Don’t hide a key outside of your house. Burglars know the typical spare-key hideaways, like above the door and under doormats, rocks and flowerpots. Leave your spare key with a trusted neighbor who can occasionally check on your house for any unexpected plumbing or electrical issues.
The holidays are meant to bring together family and friends to share laughter and good cheer. And we hope our 5 Ps to an Injury-Free Holiday Season can help you and yours have a joyful and emergency-free 2015 holiday season.