Christmas is the perfect antidote the dark days of Winter. It’s a time to festoon a home with decorations, light a few candles and curl up in front of a real fire or invite family and friends over for festive celebrations.
However Christmas is also a time when accidents can easily happen as homes get packed full of guests, a bit of Xmas tipple is consumed and safety concerns go out of the window as everyone starts to enjoy themselves. To ensure everyone stays safe this Christmas, here are just a few simple precautions you can take to ensure your home remains safe from the risk of fire.
- Check the age of your fairy lights. If they’re old, consider replacing them with a new set which will conform to higher safety regulations.
- Whatever the age of your Christmas tree lights, check that they carry the British Safety Standard sign.
- Before placing your lights on the tree, inspect all bulbs and cables for damage and wear and tear. Replace any blown bulbs.
- Check that the fuses are the right type and don’t exceed the maximum size you should use (the box they originally came in will give details of this).
- Be careful never to overload electrical sockets. Always switch Christmas lights off and unplug them before you go out or go to bed.
- Don’t run cable under carpet or anywhere it could get damaged.
- Ensure that the bulbs aren’t in contact with anything that can burn easily (e.g. paper decorations).
- If you are selecting an artificial tree for your home, make sure it is marked as fire retardant.
- If you opt for a real tree choose the freshest you can get. Check for needles that are strong, green and hard to pull back from the branches. When selecting it, give the tree a bit of a shake, or tap the bottom of the trunk on the ground, to check that only a few needles fall off.
- When you get your real tree home, saw a few inches off the bottom of the trunk and stand it in a bucket of water over night to allow it to soak up some water.
- When you’re ready to bring it into your home place it in a water holding stand and check it daily to ensure it remains topped up with water.
- As tempting as it might be, do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
- Never use real candles on a Christmas tree.
- When it comes to discarding your tree don’t be tempted to put branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. Dispose of it properly either at your local recycling centre or taking it to a community pick up point.
- Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
As the following video from the National Fire Protection Association in the US shows, an old dried out Christmas tree poses much more of a fire risk than one which is fresh and well watered.
- Keep candles away from your Christmas tree or materials that can catch light easily such as decorations or curtains.
- Keep candles, lighters and matches out of children’s reach. Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Always place candles on a heat resistant surface. Plastic is not a heat resistant surface. TV’s are not fire-resistant objects.
- Place candles in a proper holder to keep them stable and from falling over. Check that they don’t wobble and that they are stable enough so as not to get easily knocked over.
- Don’t place candles under shelves, the flames build up a lot of heat that can burn the underside of a shelf. There should be at least 3 feet (one metre) between a candle and any surface directly above it.
- Keep candles out of reach of both children and pets.
- If candles are in a position where someone could lean across it, move it.
- Position candles at least four inches (10 cm) apart.
- Always extinguish a candle before moving it.
- Always extinguish a candle before you leave a room.
- Never go to sleep and leave a candle burning. Never leave a burning candle in a child’s bedroom.
- Don’t let anything, such as match sticks, fall into the candle’s hot wax.
- Extinguish candles using a snuffer or spoon to prevent sending sparks and hot wax flying when blowing them out.
- Always double check to make sure a recently extinguished candle is completely out.
Around the home
- Test your smoke alarms monthly and only remove batteries when replacing them.
- The kitchen is the most common place for fires to start at any time of the year. Avoid leaving a cooker unattended and remember that cooking when under the influence of alcohol can have serious consequences. Slower reaction times can make you clumsier, as well as leaving you impeded should you have to react quickly in an emergency.
- Make sure your family and visitors know how to escape in an emergency.
- Make sure cigarettes are extinguished properly.
- Take time to check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas who are at greater risk from fire.