Safety During the Holidays
By Denise Shannon
Every year, we all have our own routines that we follow for gearing up for the holidays. We start with Thanksgiving and eat until we cannot eat anymore. Then, some decide to go out and jump into the Black Friday madness to get great gifts for the holiday celebration for cheaper prices. But how often do we all think about safety when it comes to the holidays with putting that live, beautiful tree up that could catch fire, or think about the safety of theft when it comes to one’s presents they get in the mail or while out shopping that could be stolen or even about the safety of traveling to other places for the holidays, where wrecks can happen?
Let’s take a look at these different situations dealing with these safety issues and get an opinion of a local official from Kahoka that can help us learn how we can do things to prevent fire from happening during the holidays as well as look at the other situations and how to prevent them.
We begin by looking at the situation dealing with fire safety during the holiday. It is very important to think of fire safety during the holiday season. Many things can create fire in one’s home around this time of year. This would be a very tragic event if it should happen to anyone.
What are the biggest fire dangers during the holidays?
According to Christopher Blomgren, Chief, of Kahoka & Clark County Fire, and Director of Kahoka & Clark County Office of Emergency Management, “The biggest fire dangers during the holidays and winter, in general, come from cooking and heating. With cooking fires, we often see kitchen accidents where a pot/pan flares up and spreads to upper cabinets or catches surrounding items on fire. Sometimes, a well-intentioned person will throw water on a cooking fire or try to take the pan to the kitchen sink. Mythbusters and others have done experiments showing how high a grease fire can flare when water is thrown on it and the danger that it entails. A lid, wet towel, baking soda or a class B or C fire extinguisher are safe and effective means of putting out a stovetop grease fire. Further, when it comes to cooking, turkey frying is a risky endeavor. When frying a turkey, make sure it is NOT frozen; do not fill the fryer to the top with oil, as the turkey will displace the oil; have a means of extinguishing the fire on hand, preferably a Class B or C extinguisher.”
“With heating, the biggest focus on fire prevention is with fireplaces/in-door wood furnaces and space heaters. While we have already had a few cold snaps, it is not too late to take do chimney care, cleaning out old soot that can catch fire in the right conditions. Further, with these heating methods, it is important to also make sure the area around the wood stove or fireplace is clear of items that can ignite with a spark. Like with cooking fires, it is important to have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of an emergency. Many times, we augment our heat with electric heaters. There are two big things to remember with using electric heaters. The first is to NEVER plug an electric heater into a surge protector as these are not equipped to handle the load of a heater and have been known to melt and cause fires. The second is to keep flammable items away from the heater and to place them in an area where a person or pet will not knock them over. It is preferable to have a unit that will turn off when it is turned over”, said Blomgren.
Why are smoke detectors important, especially this time of year?
Blomgren stated, “Smoke detectors are the first line of defense against fire deaths. While they do not prevent or extinguish a fire, they do alert occupants to the impending danger. Between 2018-2019, there were at least two fires where the residents said the smoke detector alerted them to the fire and probably saved their lives. Smoke detectors should be located on each level of the home, in the kitchen and outside of sleeping areas. In addition to smoke detectors, bedroom doors should be kept shut overnight to limit smoke exposure and fire-spread to the sleeping area. A closed-door provides an area of safe haven in a fire, giving people more time until rescue versus an open door.”
Can you tell us why fire safety is important during the holidays this time of year?
“There is an increased focus on fire safety during the holidays because of the changes in routine that we usually have. Colder weather means heating, fireplaces and wood stoves. The holiday season invites more cooking, candlelit decorations, and decorations that have electrical wires and extension cords. As the holiday season comes, we oftentimes become distracted in our celebrations with friends and family, and fire safety can fall to the back of our minds”, stated Blomgren.
What Safety tricks or tips should the people in the community do to help prevent this from occurring?
Blomgren stated, “Following the tips we discussed with regards to cooking and heating safety will help a lot in making one's home safer during the holidays. If you have a ceremony, concert, play or decorations that you want to use candles for, using a plug-in or battery-operated candle is a lot safer than the wax alternative. Prior to hanging Christmas decorations, inspect the wires, plugs, and bulbs for damage, fraying or exposed wires. Do not hang Christmas decorations off of electrical wires. Lastly, for those who use real Christmas trees, it is important to ensure the tree is watered adequately, kept away from open flames and heat and is checked for wire damage on a routine basis.”
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about fire safety during the holidays?
“A fire-related tragedy is a horrible event, any time of the year, but it seems like there is an increase in them during the holiday season, and each of them seems to be more and more tragic. The holiday season is a time for friends and family, and a few simple steps will help decrease the risk of something tragic happening to us and our loved ones,” stated, Blomgren.
Next, we look at the situation of dealing with theft during the holiday. It is very important to think about theft and safety during the holiday season as well.
Some different ways to protect yourself from theft during the holidays could be to follow these safety tips that would help to prevent theft.
Make sure to keep your house and your vehicle locked. Beware of what’s going on around you during the following events as you do them, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Do not display your items so that others may see them, make it a point to break down any boxes that you receive in order to be discreet about what you have purchased. Watch what you discuss on social media, this would prevent anyone from seeing that you have been shopping and have bought things.
Make sure that you get rid of any card receipts from your purchases in a safe manner so that no one else can get ahold of them. A safe way to shop when you go is to just use one card at a time. And, one last idea, is that when you are done shopping at one place, you can put your items into your trunk of your vehicle before your next stop, this way you are being discreet with how much you are showing your items to others around you.
Lastly, we take a look at the situation of dealing with safety and traveling during the holidays and different things that can be done to ensure safety that would help to prevent wrecks while we travel.
Different things that can be done to ensure safety while traveling are to: look over your vehicle to make sure that it is in good working condition to travel with, make sure that the driver of the vehicle can focus on the road and is not tired when starting to travel, be aware and alert of the weather conditions of where you are traveling to, this way there are no surprises, make sure that you follow the rules and the traffic laws as you travel as well. It is important to remember that there are other people trying to get to their own holiday celebrations, so be considerate on the road and do not drink and drive during the holiday travel.
After viewing all of this information over safety during the holidays, we hope that everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday with their loved ones.
The Media would like to thank Christopher Blomgren, Chief, of Kahoka & Clark County Fire, and Director of Kahoka & Clark County Office of Emergency Management for providing the valuable information on helping the community to stay safe during the holidays.