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December 2015

NFPA urges timely disposal of Christmas trees and safe removal of lights

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TreeWith the holiday now behind us, O Christmas tree, how saggy are your branches? The gifts have been removed from under the pine, the tree is swiftly losing its coat of green, and the needles are piling up on the floor, which means it’s time to remove the tree from your home.

Christmas trees are very flammable, dry out the longer they remain in the home, and can be consumed by fire in a matter of seconds.” All trees can burn, though dry ones can be engulfed by flames significantly more quickly.

NFPA statistics indicate that nearly 40 percent of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Although these fires are not common, they are much more likely to be serious when they do occur. On average, one of every 31 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. Compare that to an average of one death per 144 total reported home structure fires.

Christmas trees are decorations, and people may want to continue the festive spirit and leave up their ever-drying pines long after the last of the gifts have been opened. It’s good to remember, however, that the longer the tree remains in the home, the greater the fire risk becomes.

We hope that by educating people about the extreme fire hazards, people will be prompted to remove their trees in a timely manner, giving their families the gift of fire safety as the season winds down!

If available, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program for tree disposal. Trees should not be put in the garage or left outside.

NFPA also offers tips on removing lighting and decorations from trees to ensure they are taken down safely this year and in the right condition for Christmas 2016:

  • Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.
  • As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.
  • Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.
  • Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

For additional resources and information for a fire-safe winter season, visit “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires.” 

A holiday reminder to seek independent laboratory testing

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Hover board fire

The rash of recent fires sparked from hover boards in the U.S. reminded me of the importance of being vigilant with checking products for the stamp of an independent testing laboratory.  As international markets have become stunningly efficient at taking blue prints to retail shelves in record time, U.S. shoppers have grown accustomed to easy on-line access to knock-off products that can be offered at an attractive lower price point, however many of these products are lesser quality and not built to the same safety standards as in the U.S.  This is exactly the case with the thousands, if not millions, of trendy hover boards that have been purchased this year for the holidays.  Reports of hover boards bursting into flames have caused numerous fires, including devastating home fires in Louisiana and Alabama. 

I spoke with Ken Willette, Division Manager for Public Fire Protection at NFPA, on the Christal Frost radio show about the dangers of these hover boards.  Ken pointed out the specific risks associated with inferior lithium ion batteries and internal components.  And just as the huge on-line retailer Amazon has recently demanded, Ken urged consumers to take care to look for that seal from an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), when purchasing a hover board from any site.  And for those consumers who have already purchased a product, we covered the NFPA safety tips to help prevent future fires and injuries that may lurk with some of these hover board devices.

Whether it’s a hover board or any electronic or electric product, it pays to utilize the expertise of an independent testing laboratory to help navigate the complexities across the supply chain from compliance to regulatory issues.  While the holidays may be the season of peace, it’s always the season for peace of mind.

A holiday reminder to seek independent laboratory testing

By | Fire Safety, NFPA | No Comments

Hover board fire

The rash of recent fires sparked from hover boards in the U.S. reminded me of the importance of being vigilant with checking products for the stamp of an independent testing laboratory.  As international markets have become stunningly efficient at taking blue prints to retail shelves in record time, U.S. shoppers have grown accustomed to easy on-line access to knock-off products that can be offered at an attractive lower price point, however many of these products are lesser quality and not built to the same safety standards as in the U.S.  This is exactly the case with the thousands, if not millions, of trendy hover boards that have been purchased this year for the holidays.  Reports of hover boards bursting into flames have caused numerous fires, including devastating home fires in Louisiana and Alabama. 

I spoke with Ken Willette, Division Manager for Public Fire Protection at NFPA, on the Christal Frost radio show about the dangers of these hover boards.  Ken pointed out the specific risks associated with inferior lithium ion batteries and internal components.  And just as the huge on-line retailer Amazon has recently demanded, Ken urged consumers to take care to look for that seal from an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), when purchasing a hover board from any site.  And for those consumers who have already purchased a product, we covered the NFPA safety tips to help prevent future fires and injuries that may lurk with some of these hover board devices.

Whether it’s a hover board or any electronic or electric product, it pays to utilize the expertise of an independent testing laboratory to help navigate the complexities across the supply chain from compliance to regulatory issues.  While the holidays may be the season of peace, it’s always the season for peace of mind.

Fire underscores importance of safety while celebrating the holidays

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Winter Holiday Tips SheetAfter firefighters in a Massachusetts town responded to a fire last week blamed on an overloaded and improper extension cord, the chief is urging the community to celebrate safely by using precautions when decorating their homes.

“The holidays are a festive and wonderful time of year where we come together to celebrate,” Groveland Fire Chief Robert Lay is quoted as saying in the Georgetown Record. “This means using properly rated electrical wires and outlets and using best safety practices when putting together annual big holiday meals.”

Firefighters responded after a passing motorist noticed a fire burning in the bushes of a home. The passerby ran up to the house and unplugged the Christmas decorations, and the fire was quickly put out with no damage to the home.

NFPA’s Project Holiday offers a wealth of safety information to ensure that the holiday season is a safe one, including the Winter Holiday safety tips sheet and the Christmas Tree tips sheet.

Smoke Alarm Central is a complete source for smoke alarm information.

Related articles

Rolf Jensen Grant recipient exceeds program goals

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Officials with the North Shore Fire Department, Bayside, Wisconsin, say expectations were exceeded with the Prevent, Prepare, and React initiative, funded by NFPA’s Rolf H. Jensen Memorial Public Education Grant. The major goals of the program were to ensure that residents over 65 had working smoke alarms on every level of the home and that they understood escape planning.

The objective, to complete 125 home assessments between early January and mid-December, was exceeded. The department conducted 160 home assessments and installed 258 smoke alarms. Additional partnerships have been formed that will allow the program to continue into 2016 and beyond.

Recently, the Prevent, Prepare, and React program received news coverage from WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

The next deadline for grant applications is February 5, 2016.

Related articles

One news story highlights the life-saving power of fire safety education and working smoke alarms; another shows the potentially fatal consequences when they’re missing

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Eight-year-old Isaija Hodge helped his 86-year-old great grandmother and four-year-old Chihuahua safely escape a home fire this week, thanks to working smoke alarms and fire safety lessons he learned at school.

Isaija grandmother and dog

In October, smoke alarms were installed in the home by the Covington, VA, Fire Department and Rescue Squad in coordination with the American Red Cross’ smoke alarm installation program. Around the same time, Isaija and his classmates were visited by Sparky the Fire Dog and the fire department, who taught fire safety lessons to students, including how to call 911 and get outside safely.

Isaija was clearly paying attention: When he heard a crash in the front of the house, he went to see what happened and saw flames and smoke coming from the porch. Then the smoke alarms began to sound. Isaija found his great-grandmother and dog, grabbed a cellphone on their way out and dialed 911.

“The prevention part is the key to any fire department,” said Kevin Pettitt, fire chief of the Covington Fire Department and Rescue Squad, who spearheaded the school visits and the smoke alarm installation program. “Education of kids is critical.”

Sadly, a series of deadly fires in Worcester, MA, this year, including one that occurred earlier this week, reinforces the consequences of not having basic fire safety measures like working smoke alarms in place.

Deputy Chief John Sullivan of the Worcester Fire Department noted that they’re doing all they can to remind residents about the extreme importance of working smoke alarms. “It is frustrating when we have these cases of no working smoke detectors or, in this case, none at all,” said Deputy Chief Sullivan. “We’re trying to do everything we know within budget constraints to get that message out.”

Photo courtesy of Amy Friedenberger/The Roanoke Times

In the December issue of Safety Source: new Dan Doofus video, Project Holiday resources, Christmas tree burn video & more

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Dec SSThe December issue of Safety Source, NFPA's public education enewsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you will find;

  • NFPA’s annual holiday fire-safety campaign, “Project Holiday” 
  • New Dan Doofus video, Yule Light Up My Life
  • Live burn video shows how quickly Christmas tree fires can turn deadly
  • Deck the Halls with Fire Safety video 
  • The James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal

Don't miss an issue! Sign up now and be the first to get the latest information on happenings in the public education division, activities, fire statistics, trends, educational tips, Sparky the Fire Dog® and more.

Make the holiday season a safe one

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Projectholiday14banner

Many of us are busy these days decorating our homes for the holidays, choosing favorite recipes for lunches and dinners, and tidying up. As we prepare to make family and friends comfortable when they visit, let’s keep their safety in mind too.

It’s not only important to test smoke alarms every month, but to tell guests about your home fire escape plan. While you’re at it, you can practice your home fire drill with your overnight guests.

Make sure children stay away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay at least three feet away. Kids should also stay away from hot food and liquids.

More tips for this holiday season are available at Project Holiday, NFPA’s winter holiday safety page, which offers an abundance of safety information to ensure that the holiday season is a safe one.

Related articles

Heating safety tips sheet now available in Spanish

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Spanish Tips Sheet

NFPA has just added a new safety tips sheet in Spanish to its library of free, downloadable materials. The tips sheet on heating can be customized with the name of the fire department or organization and contact information.

The new tips sheet is one of many provided in Spanish. Tips sheets in German and easy-to-read handouts and safety tips in more than a dozen languages are also available.

Related articles

9 Signs You’re a Holiday Decorating Disaster…

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  1. Your cat lets you know he’s delighted you’ve finally bought some great toys! ChandlerTree3
    Keep pets and children at least three feet away from burning candles and electrical cords to prevent burns and electrical fires.
  2. That ever-growing pile of fallen pine needles on the living room floor is receiving more comments than the decorations for your Christmas tree.
    Dead Christmas Tree

    Zoe Buller/Instagram

                A dry tree in your home is a fire danger. Think of it as a huge pile of kindling in your home. Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

  3. You’ve spent more time trying to free yourself out of the tangled lights than actually decorating the tree.
    Lady and Lights

    Shutterstock

                                        Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out how many lights can be connected to prevent electric shock and fire.

  4. You know it’s bad to put flammable material near a fire, but you can’t help yourself. These stockings just look so darn cute and festive! Stocking
    Keep anything that can burn away from a heat source, despite how awesome it looks. Flameless candles are also a great alternative to real ones when decorating.
  5. Your house is a holiday tourist attraction and you couldn’t be prouder. House with Lights
    An overloaded electrical outlet is a major fire hazard. Plug strings of lights directly into the wall and keep the number to a minimum.
  6. Some of the bulbs on your string of lights have already taken time off for the holidays. Listicle #4
    Replace any string of lights that has worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. These can easily start a fire.
  7. You’ve remembered to keep yourself well hydrated, but the same can’t be said for your Christmas tree.
    Listicle #2

    Christine Policandriotes/Instagram


    Always keep water in the tree stand. Check daily and add water as needed. Dried-out trees are a major fire hazard.

  8. You’re convinced those strings of Christmas lights make the perfect hat to complement your holiday outfit.
    Lights on head

    Shutterstock

    Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. And most certainly, not for your head.

  9. You’ve been a bit lazy about taking down your Christmas tree so you got creative and came up with a new tradition: a Valentine’s Day tree! Listicle #11br
    Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program.

 

Let’s face it, the holidays are never perfect, no matter how they’re portrayed in magazines and on television. But by following a few simple practices and precautions, you can create a perfectly fire-safe holiday for you and your loved ones!

And remember, have working smoke alarms in your home and create a home escape plan. Practice it with your family so everyone knows what to do if a fire does occur.

Happy Holidays from NFPA!