AUSTIN, Texas -- According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), residential fires preceding and following the holiday season are typically more severe as residents fill the home with decorations and add lights and candles to celebrate the festivities.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides every manufactured housing resident with instructions on living safely in FEMA housing, disaster recovery officials are urging special caution this holiday season for the 2,423 households in Texas still living in travel trailers following Hurricane Rita in 2005.
“This is a special time of year for family and friends,” said E. C. ‘Butch” Smith, director of the Texas Transitional Recovery Office. “Taking a few minutes to check your home for fire safety is the best gift you can give them.”
The most common form of ignition is that of gas-fueled equipment. Space heaters, candles and carelessness in cooking can also create a potential for fire, authorities say. Below are some tips for a safe 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 the 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.
- If you suspect that you have a gas leak in your trailer, don’t look for the leak yourself. Get out immediately, leave the door open behind you and then, from outside the trailer, call 9-1-1 or your local fire department to report the leak.
- If a gas leak is suspected, don’t operate the stove igniter knob, and don’t turn electrical switches on or off. If you can do it safely, turn off gas at the propane tanks and turn off power to your trailer at the pole or at the main switch coming from your house while you wait for the fire department to arrive.
- 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.
- Use only the cooking appliances installed in the trailer. Never use charcoal or propane grills inside the trailer. Shut off all appliances before leaving.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS
- Before going to bed, extinguish all smoking materials, and soak them in water. Never smoke in bed.
- Know where the fire extinguisher is in the trailer and learn how to use it. Remember to keep it near the exit.
- Learn how to use the emergency window opening devices in the trailer. Make sure the heater fume vents on the outside of the trailer are not blocked or covered.
- Do not store gasoline or other flammable liquids in or under the trailer.
- Do not store gasoline-powered vehicles (small scooters, mopeds, etc.), lawnmowers and other gasoline-powered equipment in or under the trailer. Do not use kerosene heaters. Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
- Take extra care when using portable heaters; better yet, avoid them. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and ot...