Experts offer winter, holiday safety tips

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The winter holidays are a time for families and friends to get together, but that also means a greater risk for fire.

Following a few simple tips will ensure a happy and fire-safe holiday season.

• Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

• Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.

• Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.

• Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

• Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.

• Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.

• Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

• Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.

 For more information, contact the St. John Office of Fire Services at 985-359-0440.

Home fires are the single most common disaster that the American Red Cross responds to across the country, and heating fires are the second leading cause of these home fires.

With nearly half of American families using alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood/coal stoves to stay warm, it is important to review home heating safety tips.

Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.

Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended.

Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.

If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.

Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

The Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters every year and most of these emergencies are home fires.

To end these tragedies and help save lives, the Red Cross launched a nationwide Home Fire Campaign in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent.

As part of the campaign, Red Cross volunteers and partners canvass high-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and help families create escape plans.

As of Nov. 1, one million free smoke alarms have been installed across the country and 285 lives have been saved due to the efforts of all those who have participated in the Home Fire Campaign.

Join the campaign today by volunteering to install smoke alarms in your community, make a financial contribution, or take steps to protect your own family from home fires.