Heating systems, holiday decorations, inclement weather and candles all lead to an increased risk of fires in the home during winter. Hannukah, with its candles, twinkly lights and chilliness, is rapidly approaching. Here are some ways for you and your loved ones to stay safe during the upcoming holiday season.
According to the United States National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating is the second leading cause of US home fires and fire-related home injuries, and the third biggest cause of home fire deaths. Portable space heaters are most frequently involved in such fire accidents.
Electric space heater safety
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends keeping space heaters on a solid, flat surface at least three feet from any flammable materials. Plug your space heater directly in the wall - do not use an extension cord or power strip. Finally, check the heater for damaged or cracked cords and plugs before you use it and turn it off when not in use.
The NFPA also points out that carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning risk goes up in the winter months; any heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of CO. When you're making your latkes this year, make sure to keep a close eye on the stove and consider replacing the batteries in your CO detector.
Candle-related home fire incidents also spike during the winter months. To avoid any adverse events, keep any flammable items - siddurim, decorations or paper goods, for example - far away from the area where your Hannukah candles are lit. Do not leave the candles unattended while they burn, and keep a close eye on children and pets while the fire is going. These are also good guidelines for any candles you may burn in the home year-round for religious purposes or otherwise.
The Israel National Fire and Rescue Rescue Authority (INFRA) had a handy list of Hannukah-specific fire safety guidelines:
- Most "arts and crafts" Hanukkah lamps ("Hanukkiya") made by children are not suitable for lighting and may burn down when used.
- Place the Hanukkah lamp on a sturdy surface made of non-flammable material such as marble, glass or metal.
- Place the Hanukkah candles ONLY inside the Hanukkah lamp or in candlesticks made of non-flammable material.
- Do not place the Hanukkah lamp near or under any flammable material such as curtains or books.
- Do not walk around while holding a lit candle.
- Do not place the Hanukkah lamp in a location where it can be knocked over - either by a passing person or the wind, or where something can fall on it.
- Keep matches and lit objects away from children.
- Make sure your pet cannot reach the Hanukkah lamp.
- Never leave a lit Hanukkah lamp unattended!
Data from FEMA and the NFPA indicate that electrical fires are the leading cause of home fires in the US and about half of them involve home wiring or electrical equipment.
INFRA also has an extensive set of guidelines that you can follow to keep your home safe from electrical fires.
- Never leave clothing or wet laundry on heating fans or heating devices with an open fire.
- Only let a certified electrician repair electrical wiring or electrical devices.
- Do not operate multiple electrical devices simultaneously. This can cause an electrical overload and lead to electrocution or a fire.
- Do not fold an electric blanket or pillow while it is plugged in.
- Never leave electrical devices or open fires unattended.
The INFRA is a handy resource for any further fire safety questions. By being as diligent as we can around electricity and heating, we can have a safe and warm holiday season.