Common Sense Fire Safety From the Red Cross

Seasonal Warnings Begin With Caution and Preparation

Because of the heightened use of energy due to low temperatures and the increased use of candles, fireplaces, and holiday lights, home fires during the holiday are a major concern for the American Red Cross. Nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, claiming more than 500 lives each year. In Santa Barbara County alone, the American Red Cross has responded to 27 home fires in the past year, free of charge, helping people recover from the devastation to their homes.

With the dramatically increased risk of fire and other dangers during the holiday season, the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter encourages the community to be cautious and to keep safety in mind while enjoying this holiday season. Follow these simple steps to help ensure you and your loved ones enjoy a safe and happy holiday:

– Having a working smoke alarm reduces one’s chance of dying in a fire by nearly half. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

– Avoid the use of portable space heaters. In the event that a portable space heater is used it should be kept far away from all items in the home, especially furniture. Space heaters should be turned off before bedtime and when away from the home.

– Always make sure children have full adult supervision while cooking. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains – away from your stove top. Always turn pot handles inside where they can’t be reached.

– Decorate only with flame-retardant or noncombustible materials. Place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents and candles. Always unplug tree and holiday lights and extinguish candles before leaving home or going to bed.

– Purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial tress. If you purchase a real tree, make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water. Use only sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Keep curious pets and children away from Christmas trees.

– Make sure that string lights and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Consider using LED holiday lights; LEDs emit less heat than standard holiday lights and therefore much less likely to present a fire hazard.

Your American Red Cross in Santa Barbara County needs your support! Give the gift that saves the day – contribute to disaster preparedness and response in Santa Barbara County by making a donation online or by calling (805) 687-1331 in Santa Barbara or (805) 928-0778 in Santa Maria.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; and taught lifesaving skills to millions. Locally, the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter provided services to more than 30,000 people in Santa Barbara County and distributed disaster preparedness and health and safety materials to over 13,900 school children, seniors and community members. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time and money to do its work. For more information, please contact the American Red Cross, Santa Barbara County Chapter at 687-1331 in Santa Barbara or 928-0778 in Santa Maria. Now, find the Red Cross on Twitter @SBRedCross!


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