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Keeping safety in mind for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s

Thanksgiving Christmas New Year's holiday season

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman William Tracy)


Fire and safety personnel from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, remind Airmen to exercise the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their family safe this holiday season.

“Using caution – be proactive instead of reactive – as it is crucial during the elevated risks of the winter season,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Cook, 50th Space Wing Safety Office noncommissioned officer in charge of occupational safety.

Brad Truver, Schriever Fire Department assistant chief of fire prevention, said the season’s cold weather often means use of heating equipment, warranting increased safety measures.

“Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional and keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater,” Truver said.

To prevent burning the Thanksgiving turkey and possibly the whole house down, Truver shared advice.

“Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food and check on the holiday turkey or ham frequently,” he said. “Use an oven mitt when removing food out of the oven or from the stovetop and keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and children should stay at least three feet away.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association’s official website, Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for home cooking fires, next to Christmas day. In 2016 alone, fire departments responded to an estimated 1,570 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving.

Certain equipment, such as gas stoves and especially turkey fryers, add to the safety risk.

“The use of turkey fryers can lead to devastating burns, and the destruction of property,” Truver said. “If you must use one, follow the instructions completely. The fryers use a lot of oil, consider the size and weight of the turkey. Extreme caution must be taken when placing and removing the turkey from the fryer to be sure it’s not dropped in the fryer and splattering oil on the chef.”

Black Friday, while not as established as Thanksgiving or Christmas, has rose to prominence in recent years as another major holiday occasion – and another potential safety risk.

Cook shared how to best deal with the crowds.

“Avoid shopping alone and be alert and aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Do not keep your phone or wallet in your back pocket, it makes it easier for people to steal. Keep purses closed and in front of your body and if shopping alone, inform someone where you plan on going and when you expect to be finished.”

During Christmas, trees and lights are at the forefront of fire risks.

The NFPA states between 2011- 2015 fire departments responded to an average 200 Christmas trees fires per year, with electrical distribution or lighting equipment involved in 40 percent of cases.

Truver said Christmas lights are common sources of fires and injuries. This is usually due to unsafe practices such as daisy chaining (hooking up multiple extension cords in a row on one extension cord for extended reach) and stringing lights near flammables. Additionally, lights often cause electrical injuries due to faulty wiring.

“Ensure all of the bulbs are installed and serviceable,” Truver said. “When one ‘daisy chains,’ you run the risk of potential electrical failure and possible fire hazard. The reason this happens is because you put too much power through a cord that it wasn’t made to handle, and the excess heat can melt the cable and cause fires.”

Truver said leaving Christmas lights and trees up past the holiday is not only in poor taste, it can lead to dangers as well.

“Check with your local community to find a recycling program,” Truver said. “You should recycle your Christmas tree soon after the holiday or when they are dry and begin dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage or placed outside against the home.”

“Typically, in Colorado Springs, trees are collected from curbside during the first two weeks of January; be sure to remove all decorations from the tree before discarding it,” Cook added.

For other decorations, Truver said ensure they are not damaged, have loose or exposed wires and do not obstruct doorways or means to escape fires. Additionally, avoid use of actual candles, as according to the NFPA, candles start almost half of all home decoration fires.

New Year’s Eve and alcohol can go hand-in-hand, and the statistics show it. According to Alcohol.org, a survey conducted on more than 1,000 American adults revealed that the average number of drinks consumed on New Year’s is four – with 47 percent of men and 40 percent of women binge drinking on New Year’s Eve.

Cook said no matter the occasion, it is important one never leaves their drinks unattended, never drink and drive and drink responsibly in general. 

“Be safe, drink water and have a sober ride planned beforehand,” he said.                           

Truver said the greatest gift of the holidays is one’s family’s safety.

“Holidays are a time for family and festivities,” he said.  “Following a few safety tips will provide a joyous and fire-safe holiday season.”

To find out more about holiday safety, contact Truver at 567-5994, or go to https://www.nfpa.org/.

Sources: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Winter-holiday-safety/Holiday-fires-by-the-numbers and https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Thanksgiving-safety.

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