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Friday, December 11, 2009

HOLIDAY FIRE SAFETY AND INJURY PREVENTION

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department sincerely hopes for all citizens and residents to enjoy a festive and fire safe Holiday Season. Traditionally, this is a time of the year when families and friends gather for food, fun, and festivities in celebration of the season. Over the years, the Fire/EMS Department has seen joyous occasions turn quickly into tragedies. The Holiday Season should not negate the practice of good, commonsense fire safety and injury prevention habits. Nationally, more than 300 residential fires involving holiday trees occur annually, resulting in approximately 14 deaths and 40 injuries. “However,” says County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones, “A live holiday tree in the home can be safe if citizens and residents follow guidelines for fire safety.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, about four of every ten holiday tree-related residential fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction. One out of every four, or twenty-four percent, holiday tree-related residential fires are the result of a heat source placed too close to the tree.

Safety and Holiday Decorations

Try to select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green. The needles of pines and spruces should bend, not break, and should be difficult to pull off the branches.

Cut off about two inches of the trunk and put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly.

Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Make sure the tree does not block foot traffic or doorways.

Choose electric decorations that are tested and labeled as fire resistant. Electric decorations and artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. Inspect your previously used decoration carefully, checking for broken wiring, plugs or sockets.

Use no more than three light sets connected to each other.

Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but do not run cords under rugs or furniture.

Turn off and unplug all electric decorations at night and when away.

Never leave candles unattended and NEVER use real candles on your tree.

Install and maintain a working smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every bedroom.

Winter Fire Safety and Injury Prevention

Statistically, the cold winter months are the busiest for firefighters. The leading causes of fires during this time of year are related to citizens and residents trying to stay warm at home. Firefighters are concerned that the decrease in available funds to heat your home this winter might drive residents to use supplemental heating sources, whenever possible. That equates to a busier than normal season for firefighters. Fireplaces and space heaters can make a room toasty, but the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department urges citizens and residents to “think fire-safety first,” and exercise caution when using these devices. Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones, stated, “The most effective way to fight a fire is to prevent it from ever happening.”

Consider using a newer model space heater that have safety devices built-in.

Give space heaters space - use a 3-foot distance between the space heater and any materials that could ignite.

Have furnaces and fireplaces clean and in good working order. It is recommended to have chimmneys cleaned and furnaces inspected annually.

Consider the gift of a smoke alarm for the Holidays. No other gift sends the message that says, “I care for you and want you to stay safe.” Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will install a smoke alarm in your home, free of charge. Please call our Livable Communities Smoke Alarm Hotline at 301-864-SAFE.

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