Getting Ready for the New Year

The holiday season is here with family gatherings, office parties, cooking, shopping, and travel. As you hang the lights, pick out a Christmas tree, wrap the gifts and take a break from the office, here are safety tips to make sure your holiday is safe, secure and worry-free.

Prevent Christmas Tree Fires

As someone who has been personally impacted by a Christmas tree fire, I cannot stress this enough. Each holiday season, fire departments respond to an average of 210 Christmas tree fires nationally, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Tree fires aren’t common, but when they do happen, they’re more likely to be serious and like my experience can result in the loss of a good friend or relative.

If you are getting a live tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption; remember to water it every day. Keep your tree at least three feet away from all heat sources (like fireplaces, radiators, and heat vents). If using an artificial tree, check that it is labeled “fire resistant.”

Don’t Overdo the Lights

As much as you may want to cover every inch of your house with twinkle lights (reminiscent of Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation” Bad Mom’s Christmas) you may have to scale back depending on your outlets.

  • Check the lights’ packaging for the power output and never plug in more than what a power strip or outlet says it can handle.
  • Never connect more than three strings of lights in one series.
  • Look for the UL symbol when buying electrical items and pay attention to its color: Green is approved for indoor use, and red can be used indoors and outdoors.
  • If you’re using old lights, check the wires to make sure there are no broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Don’t try to fix them—throw them away.
  • Unplug all lights when you leave the house and overnight.
  • For outside lights, never nail, tack or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off the ground away from puddles and snow.

Candles and Decorations Don’t Mix

December is the peak time of year for candle-related house fires. Sure, they set a cozy holiday atmosphere, but flames and Christmas decorations don’t mix. In one five-year study, the NFPA found that 52 percent of decoration-related fires were started by candles.

  • Keep lit candles at least 12 inches away from surrounding objects.
  • Trim wicks to a quarter of an inch before you light them and only let candles burn for one hour for every inch of diameter, so the wax can melt evenly. For example, a three-inch candle shouldn’t burn for more than three hours.
  • Never leave lit candles in an unoccupied room, including bathrooms.
  • Better yet, use battery-operated candles. They are growing in popularity and availability, have a long battery life, and are affordable. But still, turn them off when you leave the house and overnight.

Fireplaces:  Cozy, Comfy and Careful

  • Always use a screen on the fireplace when a fire is burning.
  • Don’t burn evergreens or wreaths in a fireplace or wood stove. Greenery and tree needles burn much faster than logs, creating sparks, which can fly into the room or onto the roof. They can also cause a build-up of creosote, a highly flammable compound, in the chimney.
  • Have a professional come out at least once a year to inspect the chimney. Memory Hint: Schedule the inspection in October, which is Fire Prevention Month Mark that on your new 2020 calendar now.
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper because it can contain metallic materials that could be hazardous to breathe in.
  • Make sure the fire is out and the embers have cooled before you leave the house or go to bed. Put the ashes in a metal bin that’s at least 25 feet away from the house.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

The rule of thumb is that an outside temperature of 20 degrees or lower can cause pipes to freeze. Pipes exposed to cold air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are particularly vulnerable to freezing at temperatures even above the 20-degree threshold. Pipes can freeze overnight. Worse yet, in extreme cold, they can freeze in just hours. Here are some ways to prevent and thaw frozen pipes in the home.

  • Leave faucets slightly open. Open the faucet attached to the frozen pipe, and open nearby working faucets to a trickle.
  • Add salt to frozen drains.
  • Thaw with a hair dryer.
  • Heat the surrounding air.
  • Wrap the pipe in hot towels.
  • If your travelling out of town for the holidays, make sure to turn your water off in the mechanical room to prevent water flow in case your pipes do rupture.

Keep Multi-Family, Senior Housing Safe

While many of the above safety tips also apply to multi-family and senior housing, there are other safety issues to consider.

  • With more resident and guest foot traffic in common areas, it’s important to ensure that all walkways and common areas are clean and safe. Any holiday decorations should not block common access areas and walkways. Also, power cords and light strings should not be anywhere where other residents can trip over or get tangled up in them.
  • All walkable areas should be shoveled and salted in a timely manner. This prevents slipping hazards on the property, both on-foot and in-vehicle.
  • Remind residents not to let in unknown “visitors,” even if it feels impolite. Visitors may be a guest of someone living on the property, or they may not. Security measures and protocols should be followed, especially during the holidays.

Holiday Business Safety

Many businesses take a longer holiday break to give employees more time with family. Maintaining safety and security are vital when businesses are closed.

  • Ensure all security, fire and monitoring systems are up-to-date and working properly.
  • Keep perimeters well-lit with appropriate lighting to deter unauthorized activity and ensure clear visuals of would-be intruders. This makes it difficult for criminals to stake out your property and should provide recognizable images for the authorities to use.
  • Ensure all electrical appliances are in safe mode. With little or no staff around, there is always a fear of fire or flood damage.
  • Check the water pipes and sprinkler system to spot potential frozen pipes. Frost is a sure sign the water will freeze and compromise the system. If you see frost (or breaks), call Brothers Fire & Security ASAP and we’ll tell you how to shut down the system. We’ll fix the issue before there’s pipe and water damage.

Call Brothers Fire and Security if you want a check-up on your security, fire and monitoring systems, or have safety questions and concerns. We’re around 24/7 during the holidays if you need us, so don’t hesitate to call.

The Brothers Fire & Security family wishes you, your family, friends and business a great and safe holiday season.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access, and kitchen hoods.