Chemung County Office of Emergency Management Offers Holiday Safety Tips for Residents
ELMIRA - The holidays are a time to enjoy family and friends, and to reflect on what is most important to us. There is nothing more important than providing a safe and secure home for your family. Have a safe and happy holiday season by following these simple, but often overlooked safety tips. “Practicing diligent safety guidelines, and using common sense, especially during the holiday season, will allow all to enjoy a very memorable and safe holiday,” says Emergency Management Director, Mark Cicora.
Artificial Trees: When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one labeled "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
Selecting a Live Tree: Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out and is a fire hazard. Remember to keep your tree hydrated.
Caring for your tree: Do not place the tree close to a heat source. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of the tree: Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is to take it to a recycling center or have it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
- Any string lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used.
- Unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
- If you use candles to decorate a room, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked over. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace, it can throw off dangerous sparks and produce intense flames that can cause a chimney fire.
- Do not overload household circuits with decorative lighting or other appliances. Use multiple outlets, and do not hide cords under rugs etc. this practice may cause the cords to overheat and fail potentially causing a fire.
Home Heating Fire Safety
Heating equipment is among the leading causes of home fires nationally and in New York State. Very often heating related fires are the result of a lack of maintenance or simple acts of carelessness.
1. Fire Prevention: To prevent fires, keep furnishings and other combustibles 36 inches from all heating sources. A heating source too close to combustibles is the leading cause of fires due to home heating. Store matches and other fire starting appliances out of the reach of children.
2. Follow Proper Maintenance: Proper maintenance and an annual inspection of heat pumps, furnaces, space heaters, wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connections by qualified specialists can prevent fires and save lives.
- Space Heaters – When using portable heaters, do not place them where it is possible for small children or pets to fall against them or to receive a contact burn. Avoid the use of extension cords with electric heaters. Always turn off space heaters before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Wood Burning Appliances and Fireplaces – Do not burn trash in the wood stove or fireplace. Burn only well-seasoned hardwoods. Be sure the fire you build fits your fireplace or stove, don’t overload it. Be sure wood stoves are installed at least 36 inches away from the wall.. Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and starting a fire. Never leave a fire unattended.
- Chimneys – Creosote accumulation is the leading cause of chimney fires. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or is in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue and can also cause a chimney fire.
3. Be Prepared: No matter how careful you are with home heating, you and your family should be prepared in case fire strikes.
- Install Smoke Detectors – Place smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Test your smoke detectors regularly and replace dead batteries immediately.
- Make and practice a home escape plan.
“This is the time of year when heating appliances are used much more frequently, so proper care must be exercised for placement away from combustible materials, and preventive maintenance is performed regularly. Space heaters should never be used unattended,” explains Cicora.
Each year hundreds of people experience what they think are the symptoms of flu, including headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. There are actually symptoms of CO poisoning as well. Any fuel- burning device has the potential to produce dangerous levels of CO gas. Examples include fuel-fired furnaces, gas water heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves, snow blowers, gas dryers and automobiles. In the event that your smoke detector, or CO detector activates, call 911 immediately and vacate the premises.
- Make sure appliances are installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and by professionals.
- Have heating systems inspected and serviced at least once a year
- Never burn charcoal or a barbecue grill inside a home or enclosed space.
- Never leave a car, mower, or other such item running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
How can I tell if CO is present in my home?
Since carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, the best way to alert your family is to install a carbon monoxide detector/alarm to warn of the gas’s build-up.