(BPT) – You bake their favorite treats, search stores for the toys they have begged for all year, stuff stockings and deck the halls to help ensure your children’s holidays are full of warm, happy memories. However, it is also important to ensure the holiday season is safe for kids and the whole family.
In December 2015, 415 people died and 1,650 were injured as a result of home fires, according to data from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). In fact, home fires increase dramatically between October and November, and do not taper off again until warmer temperatures arrive in spring, USFA statistics show.
A recent survey conducted by Shriners Hospitals for Children found that while most Americans are aware of the steps they should take to stay safe during the holidays, they are not putting that knowledge into action. For example, while 70 percent are aware that live Christmas trees should be watered daily, more than half of those surveyed said they do not, even though it is one of the most dangerous fire hazards in homes during this time of the year.
“Some of the survey findings are alarming, and each year our hospitals that provide burn care see the results — children who’ve been injured in cooking related accidents or in fires associated with decorations or candles,” says Kenneth Guidera, M.D., chief medical officer at Shriners Hospitals for Children. “These injuries can result in years of extensive rehabilitation and ongoing treatments to a child’s growing skin.”
As part of their Be Burn Aware holiday fire safety campaign, Shriners Hospitals for Children offers some tips for reducing burn and fire risks during the holidays:
Holiday decorations build the excitement of the season for children, but they can also be a source of danger. Follow these guidelines for decoration safety:
* Place trees at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles and heat vents. Keep fresh-cut trees well-watered and promptly dispose of trees after the holidays or when they become dry.
* Inspect holiday lights before putting them up. Discard strands that have frayed wires, bare spots or excessive kinking. Replace broken or missing bulbs and always follow manufacturer warnings to limit the number of light strands plugged together. When using an extension cord or power strip, plug the light strands into the cord before plugging the cord into the electrical outlet.
* Extinguish candles when you have to leave them unattended. The Shriners Hospitals survey found 25 percent of people admit to leaving lit candles unattended and 27 percent leave them within reach of a child. Make sure lit candles are in stable holders out of the reach of children and pets and placed where they cannot be easily knocked over. Consider using battery-operated, flameless candles instead.
Cooking is the leading cause of all home fires and fire injuries, according to the USFA. During the holidays, be mindful of safe cooking habits, including:
* Never leave pans unattended. Be sure to turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so children can’t reach them. The Shriners Hospitals survey found 25 percent of adults fail to position pot handles for safety.
* Reduce the risk of clothing catching fire while you cook by wearing short sleeves or rolling up long sleeves.
* Keep safety items, like a working fire extinguisher, on hand in your kitchen. Have a lid or cookie sheet nearby to cover a pan and snuff out the flames if the contents catch fire.
You can take some steps to prepare for the holidays that will also help keep your home and family safer throughout the year.
* Make sure smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are in place and in working order. The holidays are a great time to change the batteries in all smoke alarms and check fire extinguishers.
* Ensure that children know what natural gas smells like and instruct them to leave the house immediately if they detect the odor of a gas leak.
* Have a family escape plan and practice it.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is changing lives every day through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education. Their 22 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Visit shrinershospitalsforchildren.org to learn more.
For more fire safety information, Be Burn Aware activity books for kids, tip cards and additional online tools for families, visit beburnaware.org.