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Proven Need for Holiday Safety Awareness

Tracy Thornton

While the winter holiday season is traditionally a festive time of the year filled with colorful decorations and family gathering, it is too often a time of tragedy and loss as well. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics indicate that 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February.  These winter fires result from a variety of sources.  According to reports from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), incidence of fires caused by cooking, heating, and open flame all increase during the winter holiday period.  USFA also notes that winter holiday fires are more severe than the average fire during the year across all loss measures.  Holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires, in particular, are substantially more damaging than other fires.  These fires result in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities per fire as the average winter holiday home fire.  During 2004-2008, an average of 260 home fires each year started with Christmas trees.  Another 150 home fires per year were caused by decorative and holiday lights.

Fire is not the only danger facing families during the holiday season.  Injuries resulting from falls are a serious concern this time of year as well.  About 5,800 individuals are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained from falls involving holiday decorations.  In addition, 4,000 people a year are treated in emergency rooms for injuries associated with extension cords.  Half of these injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains as a result of people tripping over the cords.

The risk of poisonings also increases during the holiday period, resulting not only from common household items, but also carbon monoxide (CO).  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2007 the majority of CO deaths occurred in the colder months of November through February.

Fortunately, holiday home fires, fatalities, and injuries are most often preventable.  ESFI strives to increase awareness of holiday hazards so that they may be identifies and corrected before a holiday tragedy can occur.

The Kitchen is the heart of the home.  It’s where families gather to cook favorite recipes, share warm meals, and reconnect with each other, especially during the holidays.  Unfortunately, it’s also where two of every five reported home fires start.
Take steps to protect your home and family from cooking hazards:
•    Never leave cooking equipment unattended.  Turn off burners if you have to leave the room.
•    Supervise children closely in the kitchen.
•    Prevent fires by making sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease and dust.
•    Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly.
•    Keep the cooking area around the stove/oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins, and pot holders.
•    Wear short or close-fitting sleeves. Loose clothes can catch fire.
•    To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
•    Locate all appliances away from the sink.
•    Plug countertop appliances into Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)-protected outlets.
•    Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster.
•    Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use.
•    Be sure to turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.

For more information, contact the Butler County Extension Office at 113 East G L Smith Street, Morgantown or call 526-3767. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.  


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