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.
When you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time, don’t forget to test your alarms as well (even those that are hard-wired or have long-life batteries). Having a working smoke alarm reduces your chances of dying in a fire by nearly half.
Don’t stop there. Now is the time to be sure everyone in your home knows what to do and how to get out and stay out when the alarm goes off. Learn:
As the weather turns colder, many people will turn to alternate home heating sources, either because they have no central heating, to supplement central heating, or to keep down their heating fuel costs. Space heaters are a very popular way to do this.
Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. Space heaters, whether stationary or portable, account for three-quarters of these deaths.
To keep yourself and your family both warm and safe, follow these simple tips:
Keep anything that can burn—paper, bedding, clothing or furniture—at least 3 feet away from the heater. Having combustibles too close to heat source is the leading factor contributing to home heating fires.
Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Keep children away from space heaters, especially when they’re wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can easily catch fire.
With electrical heaters, make sure the circuit isn’t overloaded. Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
Keep electrical heaters well away from water.
Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions
December is the darkest month. The nights are longest, and in many locations December is also the cloudiest month, making the days seem even shorter. No wonder we jump at the chance to light up the winter holidays. Candles bring a warm glow to the rooms where we gather. Electric lights are used indoors on mantles, doorways and Christmas trees as well outdoors in colorful displays.
Our desire to light the darkness is, unfortunately, a big reason why December is also the peak month for candle fires. And overloaded circuits contribute to electrical fires.
A few simple precautions can help keep the holidays a season of joy.
Prevent Candle Fires
Consider flameless battery-operated candles, which are becoming very widely available, give a realistic glow, and can last longer than flaming candles.
Put out all candles before everyone leaves the room. Almost one in five home candle fires starts by candles left unattended. A tip from the American Red Cross: Designate one person to walk around your home to make sure all candles (and smoking materials) are extinguished after guests leave.
Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that might burn. Nearly a quarter of candle fires start when combustible materials are left or came too close to a candle. That includes furniture, bedding, curtains, and decorations.
Place lighted candles out of reach of children, and remind them that, like matches and lighters, candles are tools for adults only. During the winter holiday season, an average of 40 home fires a day are caused by children playing.
Be especially vigilant on major holidays, when candles can combine with the distraction of festivities. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires, with almost three times as many fires started by candles as the daily average.
Prevent Electrical Fires
Make sure light strings and all electrical decorations are in good condition before you put them up. Don’t use anything with frayed electrical cords.
Don’t staple or nail through light strings or cords.
Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
Avoid overloading outlets. Flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, and blown fuses are warning signs. Don’t ignore them – unplug!
The winter holidays bring together family and friends. Suddenly the size of your household can skyrocket, whether for a few hours or for a few days. Young children, and older adults, may now be part of your household. The company brings warmth, laughter and special memories. It can also introduce hazards you haven’t considered during the year. Take a look at your home through the eyes of your visitors:
Do you have good lighting at the top and bottom of stairs? Sturdy handrails on all stairs? You need these year-round, but they’re even more important when you have visitors who are less familiar with your home–especially older relatives who may have vision or mobility challenges.
What’s on your floors now? Children’s toys, visitors’ shoes, the food dishes of visiting pets—all of these can become tripping hazards. Keep pathways clear.
Speaking of pets, do your holiday decorations include plants that are poisonous? Most people believe poinsettias are the most dangerous to pets. But according to veterinarians, poinsettias can cause illness but are unlikely to be fatal. Much more dangerous are bulb plants like amaryllis and lilies. Holly and mistletoe are also considered moderately to highly toxic to pets. Learn more about the signs of pet poisoning here.
What’s on the guest room nightstand? Visitors accustomed to leaving their medications in easy reach may need to be gently reminded to keep them out of sight and reach when there are young children around. That could include grandma’s purse if it contains medications.
If the smoke alarm goes off tonight, would everyone be able to get out? Tell overnight guests about your family’s fire escape plan, including your meeting place, and show them how to open deadbolts or security bars. Guests with mobility challenges may need sleeping areas on the ground floor (Learn more about planning and practicing your home escape at homefiredrill.org)
Wood stoves and pellet stoves (which burn compressed sawdust) are becoming a popular alternate heating source. They’re believed to cut energy costs and be environmentally friendly. Like all heating equipment, though, they must be used with care. Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. If you are heating with a wood or pellet stove:
Be sure it’s properly installed, complying with manufacturer recommendations and local codes for installation and use. Make sure your stove has at least 36 inches clearance from anything that can burn, and proper floor support.
Wood stoves should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
Burn only the materials for which your stove is designed. Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
Remember, wood stoves and pellet stoves are designed for heating. Cooking stoves should never be used for heating.
Learn more about wood and pellet heating, including safe installation and maintenance, from the Department of Energy.