Ocean City, Maryland – (December 7, 2016): For most of us, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities and good cheer. What few of us consider is that the holiday season is a time when there is an increased risk of home fires. According to the Ocean City Fire Department, many households engage in holiday activities that serve as some of the leading causes of U.S. home fires. Christmas trees, candle usage and holiday decorations significantly contribute to the seasonal causes of home fires. Add to that the hectic nature of the holidays, when people are trying to accomplish multiple tasks at one time, and the chance for home fires grows even more.
“As everyone gets busier during the holidays, we often become rushed, distracted or tired,” said Ocean City Fire Marshal David Hartley. “That’s when home fires are more likely to occur. Our main priority is to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors while making the holiday season an enjoyable one”
According to NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 210 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees per year. One of every three of them is caused by electrical problems, and one in six result from a heat source that’s too close to the tree. On average, one of every 34 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death. Fortunately, with a little added awareness and some minor adjustments to holiday decorating, the season can remain festive and safe for everybody. “By taking some preventive steps and following simple rules of thumb, most home fires can be prevented,” Hartley continued.
The Ocean City Fire Department offers the following advice for picking, placing and lighting the tree:
- If you have an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
- If you choose a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched; before placing it in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and be sure to water it daily.
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, and is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
- Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
- Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
- After Christmas, get rid of the tree. Dried-out trees are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside the home.
- Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.
- Please Note: Live trees are not permitted within hotels or assembly occupancies (bars/restaurants/nightclubs)
Although good maintenance of holiday equipment can help lessen the risk of a home fire, it cannot entirely prevent it. Working smoke alarms are vital in notification of a fire, allowing you and your family adequate time to escape. Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home (including the basement) and outside each sleeping area. It’s a good idea, especially if you sleep with your doors closed, that a smoke alarm is also installed inside your bedroom. Alarms mounted on the wall should be positioned 4-12 inches from the ceiling, while ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches or more away from the nearest wall. Alarms must be tested every month, and have their batteries replaced twice a year.
By following these fire prevention tips and measures, the Ocean City Fire Department says you can greatly reduce the risk of fire in your home, and enjoy a safe holiday season. For more tips on how to make this holiday season a safe one for you and your family, or to inquire what decorations are permitted in your business, visit www.nfpa.org or contact the Ocean City Fire Department, Office of the Fire Marshal at 410-289-8780.