Holiday safety tips from Kingston Fire and Rescue

Always use caution with lit candles, ensuring they are not close to other decorations, and that they’re extinguished before you leave the room. Photo by Mariana B.

With a week until Christmas, and less than two weeks until New Year’s Eve, it’s a hectic and stressful time of year for many.

With everything going on from work parties and school celebrations, to family events and, of course, the planning to ensure everything is scheduled in, it’s easy to overlook the little safety measures that can make a big difference – after all, the holidays are a time for fun and festivities, so no one wants to see something bad happen that could cause damage or pain.

“A busy holiday season can leave us less mindful to our own personal safety and can lead to forgetting to ensure hazards are managed,” said Chief Shawn Armstrong of Kingston Fire and Rescue.

Kingston fire and rescue advises that some of these hazards can include unattended cooking, overloaded extension cords, and dry Christmas trees.

“If you’re going with a real tree, make sure it is well watered and keep your tree away from any ignition source such as a fireplace, heater or candle,” said Armstrong.

“We wish all Kingstonians a safe and happy holiday season.”

With that in mind, here are some other helpful tips from Kingston Fire and Rescue to keep in mind this holiday season.

Check all lights before decorating. Before you put up lights, check the cords closely. Discard any sets that are frayed or damaged. Never plug more than three strings of lights together. Never connect LED to conventional lights. This is likely to wear out LED bulbs and could pose a fire or electrical hazard.

Make sure smoke alarms work, and replace any over 10 years old. It’s the law to have working smoke alarms on every storey of your home and outside all sleeping areas. Test alarms monthly and replace batteries once per year, or choose models with 10-year sealed ‘Worry-Free’ batteries that never need to be changed. Check the age of your smoke alarms and replace them every 10 years.

Make sure everyone knows how to get out safely. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your family as well as your guests over the holidays. Once outside, stay outside and call 911 from a cell phone or neighbour’s home. Determine who will be responsible for helping anyone who may need assistance.

Protect your family with carbon monoxide alarms; it’s the law in Ontario. If your home has an attached garage, fuel-burning, wood, or gas fireplace, or other device, you must have a working CO alarm outside every sleeping area. For protection, install one on every storey. Like smoke alarms, CO alarms wear out. Check the age of your CO alarms and replace according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Use extension cords wisely. Avoid overloading circuits with plugs and extension cords, as this can create overheating that could result in fire. Never put cords under rugs.

Give space heaters space. Keep them at least one metre (three feet) away from anything that can burn such as curtains, upholstery, or holiday decorations.

Go flameless. Avoid using real candles, opting instead for safer flameless candles. If you use real candles, remember to blow them out before leaving the room or going to bed. Keep lit candles safely away from children, pets and anything that can burn.

Watch what you heat. Always stay in the kitchen and pay attention to your cooking –especially if using oil or high temperatures. If a pot catches fire, carefully slide a tight-fitting lid over the pot to smother the flames and then turn off the heat.

Keep matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children. Matches and lighters can be deadly in the hands of children. If you smoke, have only one lighter or book of matches and keep it with you at all times.

Encourage smokers to smoke outside. Careless smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires. Encourage smokers to smoke outside and use large, deep ashtrays that can’t be knocked over. Make sure cigarette butts are properly extinguished.

There’s more to responsible drinking than taking a cab home. With all the festive cheer this time of year, keep a close eye on anyone attempting to cook or smoke while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is a factor in many fatal fires.

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