Top tips to help prevent fires during the festive period

Christmas Fire

Fires, unfortunately happen all year round. But with the added decorations, lights and gifts around the house during the Christmas holiday season, the risk of a house fire can be significantly higher than normal during this time.

In a study said to have been conducted by the NHS and noted by SELLHOUSEFAST.UK in December 2016 it was estimated that ‘as many as 80,000 people need to be hospitalised each year due to injuries directly related to winter festivities, while the risk of death in a house fire increases by 50% during the holiday season’. The study goes on to state that ‘the merriest day of the year has been shown to be particularly prone to fire accidents- these are reported to increase by more than 100%’.

Here on the Budget Blog we outline some of the potential fire hazards that accompany the Christmas holiday season and provide you with some helpful tips on how to safeguard your family and home during the festive period.

1. First things first, check your fire alarms

The has reported that ‘you are twice as likely to die in a house fire that has no smoke alarm than a house that does’. We have all been guilty of taking the batteries out of the fire alarm to shut it up when it’s been bleeping for 20 minutes because you mildly burnt your dinner. But doing just that could cost you your home and in some cases could even cause death.

Smoke alarms are self-contained devices that incorporate a means of detecting a fire in the home. When a fire is detected, the fire alarm gives a warning, usually a very loud bleeping sound. This then allows house residents to vacate the building and call the fire brigade.

With so many fire hazards around the home during the festive period, it is always a good idea to test your smoke alarm at regular intervals, if you haven’t done so for a while, Christmas is definitely a good time to start.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, just a few minutes of your time at regular intervals during the year will ensure that your alarm is working correctly and could even help save your life. To test your fire alarm, the Fire Service advise that you should:

  • Test your smoke alarm when the clocks are changed and vacuum it gently using the soft brush attachment to remove dust from the sensors
  • Once a year change the battery (unless it’s a ten-year alarm)
  • After 10 years it’s best to get a whole new alarm.

2. Check faulty fairy Lights

Fairy lights never fail to put a smile on the face of even the biggest Christmas Grinch. But they can be dangerous and even in some cases deadly!

Ashley Martin from the The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says ‘Please remember – accidents need not happen, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from injury by following RoSPA’s safety advice for a safe Christmas’.

RoSPA has the following advice for enjoying your Christmas fairy lights the safe way:

What to think about when buying Christmas lights:

  • Don’t risk using old lights. If you have old lights, consider buying new ones which will meet a higher safety standard. New lights tend to be 24 volts only for added safety.
  • Look for safety marks
  • Always buy from a reputable provider
  • Never buy second hand lights unless you have had them professionally checked first
  • Check that cables and wires aren’t snagged or exposed

How to check your Christmas lights:

  • NEVER change or remove a bulb when the lights and electricity point is turned on
  • Carefully inspect cables and bulbs for damage
  • Do not use lights which are damaged

How to safely use Christmas lights:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Use an RCD (residual current device) for added protection against shock
  • Do not use the lights outdoors unless specifically made for such use
  • Don’t run the cable under carpets or where it can be damaged
  • Keep lights clear of decorations and other flammable materials
  • Avoid cables becoming a tripping hazard
  • Use a stable support when hanging the lights
  • Don’t leave the lights on when the room is empty. Remember to switch them off when you go to bed and when you go out of the house
  • Don’t allow children to play with the lights

How to store Christmas lights:

  • Take care when dismantling and packing the lights not to damage them
  • Keep them safely stored away out of reach of children
  • Avoid damp or excessively hot conditions

3. Be aware of the beloved Christmas tree

We know that the Christmas period is a busy one, and you will have 101 things to think about, but there are some preventative measures you can take to reduce the chance of a house fire caused by a Christmas tree. Surely safety is with a thought?

  • Get a freshly cut tree. This will stay greener for longer and so be less of a fire hazard. Additionally, buying A tree with high moisture content is safer
  • Put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. Make sure it is always immersed in water
  • Do not place your tree near a radiator or near any appliance that emits heat such as a television
  • Never use lighted candles on the tree
  • If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labelled as fire resistant
  • Keep naked flames, such as candles, away from the tree
  • Only have your Christmas Tree lights on when you are in the room to supervise and NEVER leave them on when you go out or go to bed
  • Keep paper decorations away from fairy lights. Decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard burn easily
  • When burning candles, put them in sturdy holders on a stable surface, well away from drafts, curtains, children and pets
  • Never burn wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, or other types of packaging in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat

4. Paper, paper everywhere

With Christmas comes lots and lots of paper…from decorations, to wrapped gifts or Christmas cards, there is paper everywhere. Whilst this is lovely and festive, it is also a fire hazard and one worth bearing in mind when setting up your Christmas decorations.

The Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service recommends that you choose decorations that are flame retardant, non- combustible and non-conductive. Non-combustible materials are those that do not burn if exposed to fire, so for example, paper is highly combustible. Non-conductive materials can be measured by passing the electric field through them to a stationary conductive target behind, for example, plastic is a non-conductor.

Other points to consider when choosing and putting up your decorations are:

  • If you have young children or pets in your home, make sure flammable materials are out of reach and cannot be knocked off the side and onto a flame or electric point
  • Do not use metallic ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard
  • Avoid using angel hair and spray on snow; these items are highly flammable
  • Keep paper and cardboard decorations from leaning against fairy lights

What else can I do during the festive period to reduce the chances of a house fire?

Christmas is a time when your home appears full to the brim with people and gifts and with the excitement of the season, accidents can often happen. That said, with a little more care and forward planning, most accidents can be avoided. Read our top tips to further help prevent a house fire:

  • Remember to buy batteries for children’s toys that need them- that way, you won’t be tempted to remove batteries from other appliances such as fire alarms
  • Don’t hang anything above a working fireplace
  • Keep decorations, cards and wrapped gifts away from fires and naked flames
  • Never leave a candle unattended
  • Take care when cooking with hot oil and think about using thermostatically controlled deep fat fryers
  • Do not overload plug points
  • Have a home fire escape plan
  • Check that you home insurance covers fire damage caused by Christmas hazards
  • Ensure that lights used on the outside of the house are marked for such use. Indoor fairy lights outside in the damp, wet and cold are surely a recipe for disaster!
  • Take care when cooking with hot oil and think about using thermostatically controlled deep fat fryers
  • Do not overload plug points
  • Have a home fire escape plan
  • Check that you home insurance covers fire damage caused by Christmas hazards
  • Ensure that lights used on the outside of the house are marked for such use. Indoor fairy lights outside in the damp, wet and cold are surely a recipe for disaster!
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