BILOXI, Miss. -- The holiday season is an especially critical time for fire safety. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), heating and cooking are the leading causes of residential building fires in December. Heating fires occur more often in the winter months when the use of central heating systems, portable heaters, and fireplaces is most common. The numbers of cooking fires routinely start to increase around Thanksgiving and peak in December, with most cooking fires occurring Christmas Day.
Disaster recovery officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) encourage occupants of the more than 31,000 units in Mississippi to use extra caution as they deck the halls this holiday season. While FEMA provides every disaster housing occupant with instructions on living safely in FEMA housing, awareness and prevention will provide the best defense against fire.
“We want people to have a safe holiday season and take every precaution,” said Alec Watson, Chief of Staff for the Biloxi Transitional Recovery Office. “One of the best gifts you can give your family can be something simple such as making sure every smoke detector in the home has fresh batteries.”
Below are some tips for a safer holiday:
- Trees: Select a fresh tree, sticky to the touch with green needles. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If needles fall off, the tree is already dry and a fire hazard. Don’t place tree near a heating vent or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water. Alternatively, consider using a flame-retardant artificial tree.
- Lights: Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Don’t overload electrical outlets and don’t link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Don’t leave lights unattended.
- Decorations: All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS
- Do not leave cooking food unattended. Keep all cooking surfaces clean.
- Use only the cooking appliances installed in the trailer. Never use charcoal or propane grills inside the trailer. Shut off all appliances before leaving.
- Ensure the propane stove is off after cooking.
- Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
- Never smoke in bed. Do not use an open flame as a flashlight.
- Use only electric or battery-powered lighting in travel trailers. Never use candles or lanterns for lighting, heating or cooking. Keep cooking and heating equipment away from combustibles such as paper, cloth and cardboard.
- Refrain from using electric space heaters as a heat source.
- Take extra care when using portable heaters. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
- Always keep items away from the vent exhaust outside of the travel trailer.
- Only use Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approved electric blankets and warmers. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.
- Ensure fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and smoke detectors are in working order.