For most people, the holiday season represents a time for family festivities, good cheer and decking the halls. Christmas trees or menorahs are put up, wreaths welcome visitors at the front door, and strings of sparkly, blinking lights drape balconies and clubhouses at apartment complexes. But what few consider is that these decorations can contribute significantly to holiday fires. Dry holiday trees and lighted candles comprise some of the greatest dangers. Is your property ready for the holidays? The statistics are a stark reminder that decorations – and other holiday festivities – should be approached with care.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees from 2005-09. Nearly half of these fires were caused by electrical problems, and one in four resulted from a heat source that was too close to the tree. Also, half of all candle fires start because candles are placed too close to flammable objects.
By following a few fire prevention tips and measures suggested by the American Red Cross and NFPA, the risk of fire resulting from holiday fun can be greatly reduced. Here are 10 tips that property owners and managers can use to educate apartment residents and staff when decking the halls:
1) When using an artificial tree, wreath or garland, be sure that the product is labeled, certified or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
2) When choosing a fresh tree, make sure the green needles don’t fall off when touched. Before placing it in the stand, cut 1-2” from the base of the trunk. Add water to the tree stand, and make sure someone is responsible for watering the tree daily.
3) Make sure the tree and other holiday decorations are not blocking an exit, and that they are at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, candles and heat vents or lights.
4) Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory, and make sure you know whether they are designed for indoor or outdoor use. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords, or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini-light sets or a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
5) Never use candles to decorate the tree. Artificial candles are an available and safer alternative.
6) Never leave children or pets alone in a room with a lit candle.
7)Always turn off all holiday lights before leaving the home, office or clubhouse, and before going to bed.
8) After the holidays, get rid of live decorations. Dried-out trees, wreaths, and garlands are a fire hazard and should not be left in the home, garage, storage building, or placed outside on the property.
9) Do not hang decorations from fire sprinklers. Also, make sure smoke alarms are in working order.
10) When hanging decorations, use the correct ladder for the job and have help on hand, especially for tough jobs.
The holidays can quickly turn from joyful to tragic when a fire occurs. By taking simple precautions, property owners and tenants can avoid potential fire hazards and make this time of year a healthy and happy one.