Holidays are busy times. It can be easy to lose your bearings amidst all the bustle and hustle of holiday shopping, traveling, decorating, and celebrating. However, fires at home can be most likely to occur during these busy winter months, according to the National Fire Protection Association. So while you’re running around buying last-minute gifts, throwing the turkey into the oven, putting up the Christmas tree, and stringing your home with lights, you want to also make sure to decrease your fire risk. So, keep the following fire prevention tips in mind during the holidays.

The exterior of a home showing fire damage.

1.) Take Care of the Basics

Before we go into the more complicated fire prevention tips, make sure you have your basics down. This means you have equipment on hand like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in order to prevent a fire before it starts or put it out quickly if it becomes a problem.

First, it’s important to make sure your smoke detectors are functioning properly. Keep them up-to-date, and make sure they have fully charged batteries in them. You can do this by individually testing each of the smoke alarms in your home. If you have a smoke detector that keeps ringing, it may be malfunctioning. These malfunctions can be caused by dust that has gathered inside overtime or certain triggers like bathroom steam or cooking vapors.

If your smoke detector is malfunctioning, the first step is to clean it by removing its cover and using a vacuum to clear out the dust bunnies inside. Then, test to make sure it’s working by placing the cover back on and pressing the test button. If it still keeps ringing, move the smoke detector farther from the triggering sources of steam or vapor.

Second, make sure to keep fire extinguishers easily accessible and near exits on every floor of the house. You should also be comfortable with using a fire extinguisher. An easy mnemonic to remember is PASS. This stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. This means Pull the pin to release the lock on the handle, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle to start unloading the fire extinguisher and Sweep the end of the nozzle back and forth at the base of the fire until the flame has gone out.

Lastly, create a fire plan with your family. Make sure that each family member knows what to do in case a fire breaks out, and designate an outdoor meeting area where everyone can get back together after escaping the fire.

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2.) Be Conscious When You’re Heating Up the Room

With winter comes the cold. And as the temperature drops, heating systems are turned on and activated. These can include boilers, fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters. According to the NFPA, heaters are the second largest cause of home fires annually. It’s important to decrease the risk of heaters initiating fires by using the following rules.

Space heaters should be kept at least 3 feet from easily flammable items, like upholstery or a Christmas tree. Ideally, you should keep them in a separate room.

Before you light a fireplace, you should make sure your damper is not blocked. After the fire has been lit, place a grate or other protective screen in front of the fireplace to keep sparks in.

3.) Be Careful When You’re Working in the Kitchen

The kitchen is another large source of heat in the house, especially during the holidays when you’re making large meals for family and friends. In the chaos of prepping a feast for the crowds, it can be easy to get distracted and forget about that turkey in the oven. According to the NFPA, unattended cooking is the biggest cause of fires in the kitchen, and Thanksgiving is one of the riskiest days of the year.

In order to decrease your fire risk in the kitchen, it’s important to make sure you stay present while you’re cooking. This helps you keep an eye on things so they don’t get too overheated. Additionally, it can help to keep clutter around the kitchen down by storing flammable objects such as paper food containers, cooking utensils, and towels away from the stove and oven.

4.) Keep Your Christmas Tree Hydrated

According to the NFPA, American fire departments answer over 200 calls for fires involving Christmas trees every year. These fires can be easily prevented by following just a few fire prevention tips.

First, you should make sure your tree is hydrated. When picking a live tree, choose the freshest in the forest. After you bring the tree home, you should make sure that it is set up at least 3 feet from any source of heat, like a space heater, fireplace, furnace, or radiator. Other ways to decrease fire risk with your Christmas tree are to cut the bottom inch from the trunk and fill the stand with water every day. This can make sure to keep the tree as hydrated as possible so you don’t have a six-foot tall piece of dry kindling at the center of your home.

You can also use a heat-sensing device to monitor the heat on your Christmas tree. This can be a good preventative measure to make sure things don’t get out of control.

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5.) Don’t Overpack Electric Outlets

During the holiday season, decorative lights are incredibly popular. Although they can be festive and a great source of joy, you should be careful not to overpack electric outlets. Malfunctions involving these electric outlets, also known as shorts or arc faults, cause half of all home fires. To help prevent this from happening, you can install an Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) outlet. This will detect and automatically shut down an outlet before it shorts.

If you’re using string lights, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, you should keep an outlet’s total load under 15 amps. You should be able to find this information on the box. You should also make sure to replace any broken worn out or loose strings. To save energy and give your outlets a break, unplug the lights during the day or even before you go to sleep as well.

6.) Keep an Eye on Candlelight

According to the NFPA, the month of December hosts the greatest number of house fires caused by candles. This can be prevented easily. First, you should never ever use real candles to light your any ornaments on your Christmas tree. Next, keep burning candles at least 1 foot away from flammable objects. Never place burning candles directly on top of a flammable material without a holder or dish underneath to catch hot wax. You should always use a sturdy candleholder that isn’t likely to tip over.

Lastly, consider using flickering LED lights in place of candles. They can look exactly the same without the fire risk.

7.) Beware of Flammable Gifts and Giftwrap

Wrapping presents is a Christmas tradition in America. However, because gift wrap paper can be flammable, it’s important to be aware of where and how you store both the gifts and the wrapping paper. Even though it can be fun to hide gifts, we strongly recommend that you don’t hide them near a heat source such as a hot light, near any heaters, or in a boiler room.

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