Police confirm that the number of burglaries increase over the holidays because of the presents typically sitting under a tree or around the home. The FBI reports that almost 400,000 burglaries occur during November and December a number that is sure to increase this year due to the current state of our economy. You can take some specific steps to make sure your home doesn’t fall victim this holiday season.
- Double-check that your doors and windows are locked anytime you are gone, whether for a few minutes or several days.
- Don’t display large holiday gifts where they are viewable through windows or doors.
- Don’t post your travels on social media such as Facebook or Twitter until after your return.
- Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you are away.
- Stop your mail and newspaper delivery or arrange for a neighbor to pick them up for you.
- Set an automatic timer for indoor and outdoor lights when traveling.
Heating and cooking are the leading causes of home fires during the month of December, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The occurrences of cooking fires routinely begin to increase around Thanksgiving and reach their peak in December. In fact, most cooking fires occur on Christmas Day. However, there are other potential hazards that should be avoided relating to decorations and other holiday season activities. The USFA suggests that following precautionary, and perhaps life-saving, tips to help you greatly reduce your chance of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
- Christmas Tree Fire Hazards
Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires each year. Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
- Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
- Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Disposing of Your 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 by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.
- Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday Lights On Unattended
- Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping Paper in a Fireplace
It can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers and may result in a chimney fire.
- Artificial Christmas Trees
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
- Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame - candles, lighters or matches.
Be safe and enjoy this holiday season!