December 20, 2012, Arlington, Va. — The winter holiday season is a festive and eventful time of year that traditionally includes increases in celebrations, family gatherings, and the presence of overnight houseguests. Unfortunately, statistics show that incidents of home fires and electrical incidents also increase during this time of year. As part of its annual effort to encourage families across the country to Make Safety a Tradition of the holiday season, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is providing tips and resources to help prevent these fire and electrical incidents.
According to a recent consumer survey conducted by ESFI, nearly 60 percent of people expect to host guests in their homes during the holiday season, and half of those guests will stay overnight. Along with entertaining guests, hosts also have the important responsibility of preparing the traditional holiday meal. With cooking being responsible for two of every five reported home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it is critical that safe practices are followed just as closely in the kitchen as traditional family recipes.
“Entertaining during the holidays can be stressful, but it is critical that safe practices are followed just as closely as the level of detail involved in celebrating our time-honored traditions,” said ESFI President Brett Brenner. “This includes taking proactive measures to make sure our homes are free of electrical hazards, as well as making sure we follow basic safety guidelines during our holiday celebrations.”
Follow these simple tips from ESFI to ensure that your home is ready to safely celebrate the holidays:
Test smoke alarms monthly and make sure that your house is protected by an adequate number of working alarms.
Smoke alarms should be located inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.
Share your fire escape plan with your overnight guests. Everyone should know at least two ways out of each room in your home.
Keep halls, stairs, and doorways free of clutter.
Make sure stairs, halls, and entries are properly illuminated. Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms.
Consider having older guests or those with mobility issues sleep on the ground floor.
Have your heating system inspected annually by a licensed, qualified professional.
Keep space heaters out of high-traffic and exit areas, and at least three feet from anything that can burn.
Do not leave a space heater running unattended. Turn off and unplug when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Never leave an open flame, including the fireplace, unattended.
Put small items that could pose a choking hazard, like buttons, coins, and jewelry, away if you are hosting young children.
Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairways.
Move all cleaning products and other dangerous items out of reach of children and store them in a locked area.
Consider turning your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the risk of scalding.
In homes with young children, install tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs) to prevent electrical shocks and burns, or use safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children.
Never allow children to play with electrical decorations or cords.
Test ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) to ensure that they are working properly.
Outdoor outlets should be protected with GFCI technology to reduce the risk of electric shock.
Do not overload outlets with too many devices or appliances.
Do not use extension cords on a permanent basis, and never use them with major appliances.
Look and listen for warning signs of an electrical problem such as outlets and switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling or buzzing noises.
Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling.
Keep children at least three feet away from cooking appliances.
Wear short or close-fitting sleeves.
Make sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease and dust.
Keep the cooking area clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins, and pot holders.
To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in.
Locate all appliances away from the sink.
Plug countertop appliances into GFCI-protected outlets.
Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.
Turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.
Visit ESFI’s holiday safety website, www.holidaysafety.org, to download the complete “Holiday Survival Guide,” which provides all of the safety tips and tools needed to Make Safety a Tradition for your family this holiday season.