The cold weather and darkness this month have us turning on lights, heating and appliances. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, that may be why January is the leading month for electrical fires. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system in a home, especially homes more than 40 years old that have older wiring, electrical systems, and devices.
Protect yourself and your family by making sure all electrical work in your home is done by a qualified electrician and following these tips from USFA:
Always plug major appliances–such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers–directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance.
Unplug small appliances when you’re not using them.
Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn.
Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
Check electrical cords on appliances often. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords.
Don’t overload wall outlets.
Never force a three-prong cord into a two-slot outlet.
Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children.
Use power strips that have internal overload protection.
As you’re counting down to the New Year, keep safety in mind. A warm bottle of Champagne (or any sparkling wine) poses a greater risk than a chilled one. According to the New York Times, Champagne bottles “contain more air pressure than that found in a car tire and can launch a cork at 50 miles per hour.” The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop strongly because the bubbles expand as the temperature rises, so chill that bubbly to at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit before opening it.
While Champagne cork injuries are not common, they can be serious and even cause permanent blindness. Perhaps the most famous victim was Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. On his wedding night a champagne cork hit his left eye, which eventually became blind. He began experimenting to make windshield wipers that worked the same way as the blinking of his eye, moving at intervals instead of a constant back-and-forth motion.
So when opening that bottle, point it at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and everyone else. Hold the cork down while you twist off the wire hood from the bottle. Put a cloth over the entire top of the bottle, then hold the cork and twist the bottle to ease it away the cork. And be sure you keep pointing it away from yourself. Most of the people who are hit directly in the eye by a cork while opening champagne were looking down into it to check their progress. Just keep turning and keep that towel on.
Most families consider their pets part of their family, and we love sharing holidays with family. But many holiday traditions can be harmful to our four-legged family members. The American Kennel Club provides these tips:
Avoid decorating with food, like popcorn or cranberry strands, because they can cause upset stomachs if eaten by your pets.
Be aware of the pet hazards of Christmas trees. Don’t let your pet drink the water in a natural tree stand, which can cause stomach irritation or contain poisonous plant food. Also place sparkly ornaments that can catch your dog’s eye higher up on your tree where they can’t be reached, because eating one can cause major problems. You may want to consider putting a gate around the tree if you have a persistent pet.
Some of the holiday foods that humans love can make our pets ill. Keep them away from chocolate, butter, turkey skin, fat and candy.
The Animal Poison Control Hotline reminds us that: “While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated…medical treatment is rarely necessary unless clinical signs are severe.” Still, you’ll want to avoid the “mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea” that can occur when it’s ingested, so keep these and other holiday plants out of reach of pets.
Thanksgiving is a peak day for gathering with family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also the peak day for home cooking fires. Maybe that’s not surprising, considering that the major cause of home fires is cooking—a big part of Thanksgiving activities. In fact, Thanksgiving has three times the average number of home fires involving cooking equipment as all other days of the year.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers these tips for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking – frying, broiling or boiling – at high temperatures.
Make your cooking area safe. Move things that can burn away from the stove. Turn pot handles toward the back so they can’t be bumped.
Watch what you’re cooking. Use a timer when roasting a turkey or baking.
Be prepared. Keep a large pan lid or baking sheet handy in case you need to smother a pan fire.
Stay awake and alert while you’re cooking. If you see smoke or the grease starts to boil in your pan, turn the burner off.
Prevent burns. Wear short sleeves when you cook, or roll them up. Don’t lean over the burner. Use potholders and oven mitts to handle hot cookware.
Keep young children at least 3 feet away from the stove, oven or any place where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried. Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges.
USFA also wants you to know about turkey fryers:
Turkey fryers can easily tip over, spilling hot cooking oil over a large area.
An overfilled cooking pot will spill cooking oil when the turkey is put in, and a partially frozen turkey will splatter cooking oil when put in the pot.
Even a small amount of cooking oil spilling on a hot burner can cause a large fire.
Without thermostat controls, deep fryers can overheat oil to the point of starting a fire.
The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles can get dangerously hot.
Swimming can be one of the great joys of a child’s summer. But its important to be vigilant around water, and not just at the beach. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children 14 and under. And for children ages 1 to 4 its the leading cause. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools (Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention).
Keep young swimmers safe with a few simple rules:
Lifeguards aren’t babysitters. Keep an eye on your kids, and never leave a child alone near water, whether on the beach or at a pool.
Enroll children older than age three in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. But keep in mind that lessons don’t make your child “drown-proof.”
Always follow posted safety precautions when visiting water parks.
Many people don’t think of sparklers as a hazard, and readily hand them to children. In the states that permit their sale, sparklers and some other fireworks of comparable strength such as party poppers have been labeled “safe and sane” by their advocates. But the National Fire Protection Association flatly states: “safe and sane” fireworks are neither.
Sparklers throw off showers of hot sparks, and their temperatures can exceed 1200º F. Sparklers caused 24% of hospital emergency room visits for fireworks-related injuries—the largest of any single type of fireworks.
“Children are getting burned with sparklers. Around the 4th of July is the busiest time for hospitals for children and burns, whether they are burns to the hands or whether they are stepping on the sparklers when they are still hot on the ground,” said Brian McQueen, Director of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) in a news report from WKTV following the recent legislation legalizing the use of sparklers and other Class C fireworks in New York.
July 4 is a glorious American celebration. Unfortunately, it’s also by far the day of the year that produces the most US fires. Fireworks account for two out of five of those fires—an average of 19,700 fires every year.
Apart from fires they may start, fireworks themselves can cause serious injuries: between 8,500 and 9,800 injuries annually.
In this video a family gives their first-hand account of a consumer fireworks incident and the impact it continues to have on their lives
The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a group of health and safety organizations coordinated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.
“When things go wrong with fireworks, they typically go very wrong very fast, far faster than any fire protection can reliably respond,” states the NFPA Fire Analysis and Research report Fireworks. Children and fireworks are an especially dangerous combination: “Children can move too fast and be badly hurt too quickly if they are close to fireworks, as they inevitably are at home fireworks displays.”
Tornadoes, floods, thunderstorm winds, and lightning, can be deadly for the unprepared. The Storm Prediction Center of the National Weather Services issues about 1,000 Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches every year.
Take these tips from the National Weather Service:
If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and very dangerous. Do not touch or try to move it — and keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines immediately by calling 911.
No place OUTSIDE is safe in or near a thunderstorm. In 2014, there were 26 lightning fatalities – six in Florida alone. Stop what you are doing and get to a safe place immediately if:
You hear thunder. If you hear thunder it’s a safe bet the storm is within 10 miles. Since a significant lightning threat extends outward from the base of a thunderstorm cloud about 6 to 10 miles, so you should be in a safe place when a thunderstorm is 10 miles away.
You see lightning. The ability to see lightning varies depending on the time of day, weather conditions, and obstructions such as trees, mountains, etc. In clear air, and especially at night, lightning can be seen from storms more than 10 miles away provided that obstructions don’t limit the view of the thunderstorm.
In a tornado:
Flying debris is the greatest danger, so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds’ notice
Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure during a tornado. Avoid windows and use your time to get to your shelter space. Learn more about tornado safety.
Any time you come to a flooded road:
Whether driving or walking Turn Around Don’t Drown®. It only takes 12 inches of water to carry off a small vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. Don’t underestimate the force and power of water!
Whether it’s the blizzards currently wracking much of the country, hurricanes or tornadoes, storms in any season can leave your home without power. Use these tips from the Red Cross and National Fire Protection Association to stay safe at home:
Never use your oven to heat your home. An open door on either a gas or electric oven creates a burn hazard, and with windows sealed against the cold and an open door, the oven can produce a concentrated exposure to carbon monoxide.
Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
Keep fire hydrants on your street free of snow.
Make sure all fuel-burning equipment vents to the outside and is kept clear. They give off carbon monoxide (CO) which can build up and is odorless and invisible.
Use a generator only in a well-ventilated location outdoors (not in a garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area) and away from windows, doors and vent openings.
If you use a wood stove or pellet stove for heating, burn only the materials for which your stove is designed. Never burn charcoal indoors, which can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide
Have both smoke alarms and CO detectors with battery back-ups in your home, ideally in the hallway near the bedrooms in each sleeping area and on every floor.
Put together a supply kit that includes flashlights and extra batteries. Keep a flashlight and phone by your bed within easy reach.
If you have no other choice than candles for lighting, be sure everyone knows the rules for safe candle use.
Maintain all heating equipment and have chimneys cleaned and inspected every year.