Christmas safety tips

 

Stay safe and protect your home from fire this Christmas by following these 12 festive fire safety tips:

Tip 1: Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard.

Fairy lights

  • Unplug fairy lights or other electrical Christmas decorations when you leave the house or go to bed.
    Check fairy lights are in good working order and replace any bulbs that have blown.
  • Bulbs can get very hot, don’t let them touch materials that can scorch or burn easily, such as paper or fabrics.
  • Make sure the fuse in the plug is the correct rating.
    If you need to plug more than one appliance into an electrical socket use a multi-socket adaptor which is fitted with a fuse and has surge protection.

Tip 2: Never place candles near your Christmas tree or furnishings. Don’t leave them burning unattended.

Lots of us use candles to help decorate the house or give the place a more festive feel, however, candles do pose a significant fire risk.

If you do use candles or tea lights here are some key safety tips to keep you, your home and your family safe:

  • Make sure that when in use, candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains, Christmas trees, decorations and toys.
  • Children and pets should not be left alone with lit candles.
  • Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night.
  • Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on burn time and proper use.
  • Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause flaring (mainly with tea-lights).
  • Always make sure tea-lights are placed in a proper holder. The foil container which tea lights come in can get very hot. They can melt through plastic, such as a bath, and have the potential to start a house fire.
    Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles. It’s safer than blowing them out when embers can fly.

Tip 3: Make sure your family and guests staying for the festive period know what to do in an emergency. Make a fire escape plan.

Escape Plans

Wherever you are, it’s important that you and your family know how to escape if there’s a fire. It doesn’t take long to make an escape plan and it could save lives, especially if you check and practice your plan regularly.

Think about:

  • Who’s usually at home?
  • How will they know there’s a fire?
  • If there are children, who will help them?
  • If there are elderly people, who will tell them there’s a fire and who’ll help them?
  • If there are people who can’t see, hear or move around easily, who will help them?
  • Where can you set up a safe meeting place away from the property?

Plan A – The first choice route of escape is always through the main door. Make sure you close it once everyone is out.

Plan B – If it’s not safe to leave by the main door, how else could you escape?

  • Is there another door you could use or a fire escape?
  • Could you climb out of a ground floor window?
  • Could you climb out of a first floor window onto a garage roof or extension and get down safely?

If Plan A or B are not safe, you might need to find somewhere to stay safe and await rescue. Make sure everything is ready so that you can:

  • Go to a room with a phone and a window that opens
  • Pack clothes and blankets around the door to keep smoke out
  • Stay by the window and shout for help
  • Practice your emergency escape plan together

Practicing your plan in advance will help everyone to stay calm if there is a fire. It will also help you get to safety more quickly.

If you live in Scotland, request a free Home Fire Safety Visit; you’ll get advice on making an emergency plan and free smoke alarms fitted too.

Tip 4: Decorations can burn easily; don’t attach them to lights or heaters.

Trees and decorations

Christmas is a special time for celebration and should not end in tragedy because of the extra hazards that are present at this time of year. So when you’re decking the halls make sure you follow our simple advice and stay safe.

Decorations

  • Decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard burn easily.
  • Don’t attach them to lights or heaters.
  • Don’t put them immediately above or around the fireplace.
  • Keep them away from candles.

Christmas trees

Special fire safety precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.

Selecting a tree for Christmas

Always buy your tree from a reputable retailer to ensure the freshness and quality. Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a potential fire hazard.

Caring for your tree

Don’t place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace, heat vent or candles. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of your tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling centre or having it taken away by a community pickup service.

Tip 5: Never overload electrical sockets. Take special care with Christmas lights.


Whether it’s fairy lights or new electronic toys, most of us will be plugging in more than usual at this time of year.

Most of us use extension leads in our homes all the time, using four-way bar adaptors to increase the number of appliances that they can plug into a wall socket.

However, although there is space to plug in four appliances, this does not mean it is always safe to do so. Different electrical appliances use different amounts of power. To avoid the risk of overheating and possibly fire, you should never plug into an extension lead or socket appliances that together use more than 13 amps or 3000 watts of energy.

Use this calculator, provided by the Electrical Safety Council, to plug in some typical household appliances to see the effect on the load, and to get useful tips on how to avoid overloading your sockets.

The Socket Calculator has been brought to you by Electrical Safety First. For more safety information visit http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk


Tip 6: Celebrate Christmas and New Year safely. The risk of accidents, especially in the kitchen, is greater after alcohol is consumed.

If you’re tired, have been drinking, or taking drugs, you will be less alert to the signs of fire. You are more likely to fall asleep and you are less likely to wake up if a fire does start, particularly if you don’t have working smoke alarms in your home. Consider fitting a heat alarm in your kitchen to give you early warning of a fire.

If fire does break out, alcohol or drugs can heighten feelings of disorientation, making it difficult for you to escape.

If you’re out at a Christmas party or if you’re just having a night out down the pub, it’s best to buy food on the way home, rather than attempting to cook when you get back. If you do want to make something when you get home, then it’s best to prepare cold food – a sandwich could save your life!

If you’re not concentrating, then cooking even the simplest meal can cause a fire – so when you’re doing turkey with all the trimmings, it’s even more important to keep alert.

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re cooking a big meal and it’s easy for fire to start – it only takes a minute: NEVER leave hobs unattended while you’re cooking.

Remember – fire starts when your attention stops!

Tip 7: Most fires start in the kitchen, never leave a cooker unattended.


Did you know that more than 50% of accidental fires at home are started by cooking?

Many kitchen fires start when you are not paying attention or if you leave things unattended. Follow the safety tips on how to keep safe whilst you are cooking and also what to do if a fire starts in your kitchen.

Whilst cooking:

  • Don’t get distracted when you are cooking – turn off or turn down the heat if you have to leave the cooking unattended, for example to take a phone call or answer the door.
  • Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing as it can catch fire easily.
  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol your concentration levels are lower – the risk of accidents is greater in the kitchen if you have been drinking.
  • Keep tea towels, clothes and electrical leads away from the cooker and hob.
  • Don’t leave children alone in the kitchen, keep matches, lighters and saucepan handles out of reach of children and fit a safety catch on the oven door.
  • Make sure saucepan handles are not sticking out from the hob or over a naked flame.
  • Remember to check that the oven or hob are switched off after you have finished cooking.
  • Take extra care when deep-fat frying or cooking with oil – hot oil can catch fire easily – use a thermostat controlled deep-fat fryer which will make sure the fat doesn’t get too hot.

Tip 8: Take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours this Christmas, make sure they are fire safe.


Look out for elderly relatives and neighbours over the festive period.

Year on year, the festive and New Year period sees a peak in deaths and injuries resulting from house fires. Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service offer a free service that can help protect those people most at risk. Many of us know a friend, relative or neighbour, often someone living alone, who could be vulnerable from fire.

You can help us prevent fire deaths and injuries by making sure that you or someone you know gets a home fire safety visit.

Tip 9: Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before going to bed.

Put it out – right out!

Cigarette ends can smoulder for ages if not put out properly.

Do:

  • Stub cigarettes out properly in an ashtray – make sure there’s no smoke.
  • Pour water on cigar and cigarette ends before putting in a bin – ideally an outside bin.

Never

  • Leave a cigarette, cigar or pipe unattended.
  • Balance cigars or cigarettes on the edge of an ashtray or anything else – they can tip and fall as they burn away.
  • Empty a pipe into a bin – the ember can still be very hot even if it’s not smoking.

Ashtrays

Using a proper ashtray is a good start to stopping fires from smoking.

  • Empty and clean your ashtray regularly.
  • Douse with water before putting the contents of the ashtray in the bin.
  • Empty into a metal bin outside if you can.
  • Keep paper, wrappers and other rubbish that could catch light out of your ashtray.

Tip 10: Check the battery in your smoke alarm every week and use Christmas as a reminder to clean it and remove dust.

Push the button, not your luck!

A smoke alarm could help save your home, and your life. Test it weekly and never remove the batteries.

You can find more information on smoke alarms on our webpage www.warwickshire.gov.uk/smokealarms.


Tip 11: Keep candles, lighters and matches out of reach of children.


Lots of us use candles to help decorate the house or give the place a more festive feel, however, candles do pose a significant fire risk.

If you do use candles or tea lights here are some key safety tips to keep you, your home and your family safe:

  • Make sure that when in use, candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains, Christmas trees, decorations and toys.
  • Children and pets should not be left alone with lit candles.
  • Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night.
  • Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.
  • Don’t move candles once they are lit.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on burn time and proper use.
  • Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause flaring (mainly with tea-lights).
  • Always make sure tea-lights are placed in a proper holder. The foil container which tea lights come in can get very hot. They can melt through plastic, such as a bath, and have the potential to start a house fire.
  • Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles. It’s safer than blowing them out when embers can fly.

Tip 12: If you’re celebrating with fireworks, store them in a metal box, read the instructions, never go back to a lit firework and keep water near.


Watching fireworks can be great fun for children. However, figures show that, more often than not, it’s children rather than adults who are injured by fireworks.

We want children to enjoy fireworks but they need to know that they can be dangerous.

Children under five

  • Never give sparklers to under-fives.
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand.
  • Always supervise young children closely.

All children

  • Supervise all children carefully and keep them well back from the bonfire and fireworks.
  • Show older children how to hold sparklers – away from their body and at arm’s length – and teach them not to wave them at other people or run while holding them.
  • Avoid dressing children in loose or flowing clothes that could catch alight easily, and give children gloves to wear when holding sparklers.
  • Steer clear of alcohol if you’re running a display or looking after kids.

Sparkle safely

Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil? Sparklers are not toys and should never be given to a child under five.

  • Store sparklers and other fireworks in a closed box in a cool, dry place.
  • Always light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
  • Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand.
  • Plunge finished sparklers hot end down into a bucket of water as soon as they have burnt out. Remember, sparklers can stay hot for a long time.
  • Don’t take sparklers to public displays. It will be too crowded to use them safely.

In an emergency

  • Cool the burn or scald with cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Cut around material sticking to the skin – don’t pull it off.
  • Don’t touch the burn or burst any blisters.
  • Cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material – clingfilm is ideal – to prevent infection.
  • If clothing catches fire, get the person to stop, drop to the floor and roll them in heavy material like a curtain.
  • Get advice from your doctor or accident and emergency department at your local hospital.

For further information about fireworks and the Fireworks Code visit www.saferfireworks.com.