Twelve tips of Christmas > for festive fire safety

Posted On December 16, 2006

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1. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to your National Approved Standards. Always use an RCD on outdoor electrical equipment (safety device that can save lives by instantly switching off the power).

2. Never place candles near your Christmas tree or furnishings and don’t leave them burning unattended.

3. Make sure your family and visitors staying for the festive period know what to do in an emergency. Practice a fire escape plan.

4. Decorations can burn easily, don’t attach them to lights or heaters.

5. Switch off electrical appliances when not in use, unless they’re designed to stay on. Take special care with Christmas lights. Always switch off and unplug Christmas lights before you go to bed.

6. Celebrate Christmas and New Year safely. The risk of accidents, especially in the kitchen, is greater after alcohol is consumed.

7. Most fires start in the kitchen, never leave cooking unattended.

8. If you are planning to celebrate with fireworks, store them in a metal box, read the instructions, never go back to a lit firework and keep a bucket of water nearby.

9. Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished.

10. Check the battery in your smoke alarm every week and use Christmas as a reminder to clean it and remove dust.

11. Keep candles, lighters and matches out of reach of children.

12. Take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours this Christmas, make sure they are fire safe.

Deck the halls carefully

Posted On December 10, 2006

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Christmas Season leaves kids vulnerable to mishaps.

Along with the Christmas Holidays comes a special, seasonal bag of risks, and not just of the overeating, drinking variety. When it’s time to deck the halls, think of strings of glass bulbs, tinsel and lavish dinner-table spreads, all in different places of your house. Pets and young children are particularly vulnerable to all sorts of minor mishaps that can quickly quash the Christmas Spirit.

For children, the Christmas Season is a time when you’ll see a big increase in minor accidents and injuries, for a lot of different reasons. You can’t point to any one thing and say, “Now we’re going to see this”, but the occasion itself presents the opportunity for certain injuries to occur.

Generally, hospital doctors say, be wary in the kitchen, a holiday hot spot for activity, both cooking and socializing.

Cooking with family members, if they’ve got young children, they need to be aware of the kids around them. When you have a large gathering of people gathered in the kitchen, people will trip over a child, or just spill some hot food on an infant playing around on the floor.

Cooling trays, especially ones filled with, say, sugary deliciousness, may be a temptation unthwarted by the threat of third-degree burns. You may have trays and trays of cookies cooling, and if the kid reaches up on the counter, then the child burns his or her hand. If there are kids running in and out all the time, sometimes, they just don’t see that the oven door gets opened to check the turkey.

During a libation-filled season, doctors exhort smart decision making, especially the importance of a designated teetotaler, and not just when it comes to driving.

People shouldn’t be drinking and cooking, doctors say. If they drink too much alcohol, it can lead them to make stupid mistakes, spilling something, which could burn them or someone else.

Decorating decisions can also have repercussions on toddlers, who tend to grab at fragile ornaments and bulbs, or pretty much anything in reach.

Doctors at hospitals often see people coming in with cuts. Sometimes, it’s kids who have cuts to their hands or their mouths. Sometimes, a child will bite a bulb, because they think it’s like a ball.

The old-style lightbulbs heat up to sizzling degrees. Those, along with a rise in the use of decorative candles, lead to more emergency room visits for burns. Keep hot bulbs and flames out of children’s reach, and make sure electrical cords aren’t frayed. Hot lights on a dry tree can also spark fires.

That’s something that comes in after Christmas, when the tree’s been up for a while. Even if they’re routinely watered, by a certain point the tree stops taking in water. Which brings us to the stuff under the trees, what experts consider the biggest kid holiday safety risk.

Doctors think that the real big thing is the smart choices on toys with infants. That’s something doctors see a big problem with, with kids being in the ER because of choking on something that wasn’t a safe toy to be using.

Even wrapping paper can present a problem, if swallowed. Young kids have a tendency to put anything in their mouths. For example, do stuffed toy-animals have button-type eyes that can be easily popped off? Then, adults need to get the kids age-appropriate and safe toys. Even with older children, somebody needs to be aware of the child’s level of responsibility, when it comes to toy gifting.

Think about what you’re getting them, before you get that toy. Does the child really know how to use this toy in a reasonable manner? A lot of these toys can be very fun when used properly. A lot of them can be dangerous. Do act as a responsible adult.

Be smart before using your fireplace

With Christmas and the holidays right around the corner, now is the time millions of people around the globe begin the centuries-old ritual of snuggling in front of the family fireplace to bask in the warmth of, and enjoy the smell of, burning wood.

And because of rising energy prices, the popularity of wood-burning fireplaces has sky-rocketed over the past three years. But before you light that first cozy fire of the season, you need to take a few preventative steps to protect you and your family from the devastation of a chimney fire.

Chimney fires can burn explosively at temperatures of 2,000 degrees or more. Heat that can melt mortar, crack tiles inside the chimney and burn your home to the ground.

Chimney fires are caused by the build up of creosote, a highly combustible, tar-like substance created by the wood you burn that sticks to the inner walls of the fireplace.

The solution to this problem is two-fold: burning the right kind of wood and routinely having your fireplace cleaned by a Certified Chimney Sweep Technician.

Step 1 > Hiring a chimney sweep technician
This is something a lot of people just plain forget about. But you should have your chimney swept out once a year, before you light the first fire of the season. The best months for this are typically September and October.

Step 2 > Burning the right kind of wood
Too many people are completely reckless with their fireplaces. They will grab a few huge pieces of wood they cut a few weeks ago, throw them into the fireplace and just let it rip. What they are doing is burning really, green wood, wet wood, that hasn’t dried, and in the process coating their chimney with tremendous amounts of creosote. You should always burn wood that has been cut and split, to help it dry, and has been sitting for at least two years, hopefully more.

This is what the experts call “Seasoned Wood” and burning it is the best thing you can do to reduce the amount of creosote inside your fireplace.

Another way to protect yourself from chimney fires is to burn smaller, hotter fires in your fireplace that produce less smoke.

One more thing to consider when building your fire is to always burn hardwoods rather than softwoods.

The best woods to burn are > oak, hickory, maple, cherry. Woods to avoid are > pine and poplar.

As you sit down in front of that first roaring fire of the winter season, it’s hard to imagine that beautiful, warm fire ever doing you and your family any harm, and it won’t, if you take just a few wise precautions right now.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

  • Always choose a freshly cut tree.  To test a tree, strike the stump down on a firm surface. If needles fall off, the tree is too dry.
  • Consider buying a live tree instead. You can plant it later to enjoy it for years to come. 
  • When you are ready to set the tree up cut off 1/2 to 1 inch from the bottom of the tree before placing in the stand which should be filled with hot water (not boiling, but around 130-160Ί F) as soon as the tree is set up.
  • The tree could absorb as much as a gallon of water the first day.
  • Use wire or nylon cord to secure the tree to the wall or ceiling to prevent it from being knocked over by children or pets.
  • Place the tree away from heat sources.
  • Always keep the tree well watered.  Check and refill often.
  • Use only noncombustible decorations.
  • Check and replace any worn or damaged light sets. It is a good practice to replace any set that is more that four or five years old.
  • Use only U.L. or F.M. approved light strings.  Spot or floodlights should only be used on an artificial tree. 
  • NO CANDLES!
  • Avoid overloading electrical circuits or creating “octopus” connections.
  • Do not use cellophane. There is no way to make it flameproof.
  • Treat trees with a Fire Marshal approved flame retardant. 
  • Do not use cotton batting, including Santa’s whiskers, or paper decorations unless they have been treated with a flame-retardant treatment.
  • Disconnect the lights at bedtime or when unattended.
  • Use miniature lights that produce less heat.
  • Make sure there in an operational smoke detector installed nearby.
  • Remove discarded wrappings and packages from the house immediately and never burn them in the woodstove or fireplace, it could cause a chimney fire.
  • Do not burn tree branches in the fireplace, it could throw off a large amount of heat and cause a fire.  Christmas trees also cause an oily soot which may damage the fireplace.

Holiday fire safety to ensure a Merry Christmas

Posted On November 23, 2006

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People need to take extra fire safety precautions during the holiday season to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones during what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year.

Here are some key holiday fire prevention and safety tips, some of which should be practiced all year round by every member of the family!

*Never leave candles unattended.

*Christmas tree light bulbs can generate enough heat to set fire to nearby combustibles -keep decorations away from light bulbs in all areas.

*Supervise children at all times, and keep matches, lighters, and candles out of reach.

*If you are distracted while using your stove, turn off the heat and remove pots and pans before doing anything else.

*Always avoid smoking if you’re not fully awake and alert. Many fires start when a lit cigarette falls onto bedding or upholstered furniture.

*Heating appliances need at least one metre of space around them. Avoid placing any combustibles within this space.

*Most chimney fires occur in wood-burning fireplaces, ensure your chimneys are cleaned and professionally inspected regularly. Only burn small quantities of wood at a time.

*Most importantly, test your smoke alarms to ensure that they are working properly, and always have a well-rehearsed fire escape plan.

*If you are putting up lights or Christmas decorations where you have to climb, make sure that your ladder and yourself are in a safe and sturdy position, and that someone else is nearby to give you a hand. Overloaded circuits can be very dangerous, so spread out your plug-ins as much as you can.

Faulty Christmas lights recalled > New Zealand

Faulty sets of Christmas lights have been pulled from retailers’ shelves as they pose a “significant risk” of causing an electric shock or fire.

The lights were sold nationally from September at branches of the $2 Shop, $1,2,3, Price Busters, Mitre 10, Pak’n Save Hastings and the Westport Fresh Choice supermarket.

Auckland distributor Manufacturers-Marketing Ltd says the lighting sets’ accessible wiring was inadequately insulated and could easily detach from the control box.

Christmas lights > Energy Tips

Q: We recently saw a rerun of Chevy Chase’s movie where he puts about 25,000 holiday lights on his house and the electric meter spins and smokes like crazy. It got me wondering if small holiday lights like we use are costing a lot to operate. Are they?

A: I wouldn’t worry too much about the effects of these lights on your electric bill, but testing conducted at the Florida Solar Energy Center a few years ago confirms that even these small loads can add up to a noticeable increase in your electric bill, possibly being bigger than you think.

Their research on the lighting energy use in 185 homes before and after the holiday season found an average increase in lighting when holiday lights were being used of about 4.4 kWh per day, around $13 for a month-long display. Note that this was for the average home, and while many people have small light displays or none at all, we’ve all seen homes that clearly go above and beyond the average.

What was especially interesting was their finding about the dramatic difference in energy use by bulb type, ranging from 34 watts being used by 100 of the clear mini indoor/outdoor bulbs to more than 504 watts used by the large colored 10-watt outdoor bulbs. The findings strongly suggest that you consider energy-efficient lighting even for your holiday displays. Check out some of the newer bulbs at a local store or on the Web and you’ll find a number of brands featuring LED or other higher-efficiency types

The moral of the story here is that you probably won’t regret paying $13 for an average lighting display this holiday season and you may feel this low price will justify an even bigger display than you had originally planned. But this points out how every electrical appliance or product you use will have some energy costs associated with it. In a case like these lights, why not consider getting LED lights that use one-tenth of the energy of the conventional ones?

Check out http://www.energyideas.org/pages/default.cfm?oh,ps&cz,87 for more information on efficient lights along with places where you can buy them. Save a few dollars on the holiday lighting, a few more on the energy-efficient toaster oven you buy your spouse, turn off your computer monitor when you’re not using it, and a few other behaviors like this and you’re suddenly saving “real” money.