Have a happy—and safe—holiday season

By Tyler J. Moffitt
The Safety Advocate

It’s December, and the Christmas holiday season is quickly approaching.
The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, decorating, and entertaining.
Unfortunately, the month of December also is one of the most dangerous times of the year. Each and every year, firefighters attend fatal home fires all too often during the Christmas season.
It’s extremely important for all of us to correctly locate, install, and maintain working smoke alarms on every level of the home and cottage, and outside (as well as inside) all sleeping areas.
A well-rehearsed home fire escape plan, with two ways out of each room, is just as important.
However, the unfortunate truth is most Canadians do not have a home fire escape plan. And many people who said they had a plan have never practised it!
When fire strikes a home or cottage, the occupants have less than one minute to escape. If fire strikes your home or cottage, will you have time to escape?
Correctly located and installed working smoke alarms can increase your chances of surviving a fire should one strike.
Working smoke alarms … test yours now!
Meanwhile, keeping safe from the “silent killer” (carbon monoxide) is of vital importance. It often is referred to as the “silent killer” because carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, and toxic gas.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, or a running gasoline/diesel engine.
So, if you have any devices that burn a fuel, make sure you have working carbon monoxide alarms in the home and cottage.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for additional information regarding proper installation, use, and maintenance.
‘Candle’ with care
Candles are pretty to look at, but they are a cause of home fires—and home fire deaths. Remember, a candle is an open flame, which means it can easily ignite anything that can burn.
Always secure candles in sturdy holders and, if possible, place glass chimneys or shades over them.
Candles should be placed far enough away from combustible materials (such as curtains, bedding, and Christmas cards) to prevent ignition.
Never place candles near a door because if a fire starts, your exit out of the room could be blocked. And never place a lighted candle in a window—it could easily fall off the ledge or ignite the curtains.
Lighted candles should never be left unattended in a room, and they should be blown out when you leave the room or go to bed.
Like matches and lighters, candles should be placed out of the reach of children.
Children should never be left alone with a candle, nor should they be allowed to light or use a candle without adult supervision!
Also, due to family tradition and the ethnic background of many people in Canada and the United States, people still use candles on Christmas trees!
This practice is extremely dangerous—and can result in a furious fire within seconds.
Take responsibility for your safety, and the safety of your loved ones! Don’t use candles on Christmas trees!
Think about using flameless candles in your home, which are powered by batteries. They look and smell like real candles.
Finally, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are an “open early” gift to you and your immediate family, as well as other family members and friends.
Sounds corny? Well, not having these life-saving devices could mean the difference between life and death.
Tyler J. Moffitt is a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder, as well as a continuous improvement advocate.

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