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Holiday Fire Safety and Fire Insurance

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The end of year features many holidays for all Americans. And, while the traditions may differ, and cultures may celebrate different things in different ways, Americans love two things about their end-of-the-year holidays:

  • Lights, and
  • Fire.

Whether it is the Jewish Menorah, the Kwanza Kinara, the Christmas Tree, or other American traditions, or the fact that the days are shorter, our winter holidays are filled with lights and fire. Our greatest traditions, brought from around the world, can pose dangers if not practiced safely.

Keeping your business safe and keeping your property and casualty premiums low comes from practicing fire and electric safety. I have assembled here a set of holiday fire safety tips put together by the security people at SimplexGrinnell. It is a list focused on the home; but, any business open and decorated for the holidays can follow the safety pointers here and employees can take the advice home with them.

Christmas Tree Fire Safety

The leading cause of Christmas tree fires and property damage was short circuit or ground fault (21%). In this category, electrical failure other than short circuit ranked second in number of fires, injuries and property damage with the exception of the "other known" category. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cords and plugs were the leading type of equipment involved in the ignition of Christmas trees.

Safety points to remember:

  • Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used.
  • Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving the business for the evening.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and place them well away from tree branches.
  • Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles.
  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over.
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source and try to position it near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances.
  • Do not place the tree where it may block exits.
  • Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

Holiday Fire Safety

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment. Tips:

  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday customers and visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range, or any food heating equiptment, such as sterno stoves.
  • Provide deep ashtrays and outside smoking for guests who smoke and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, locked, or under the control of one designated employee(preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • If a company party is catered, ask the caterer what fire safety precautions are followed.

Candle Fire Safety

December is the peak month for candle fires, with nearly twice the average number of incidents. 44% of reported candle fires in the home started in the bedroom. Safety points to remember:

  • Keep candlewicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material. Votives and containers should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt. Avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them.
  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or closing the business.
  • Keep candles away from items that can catch fire.
  • Use candleholders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that can't burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
  • Don't place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them.
  • Place candleholders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface and do not use candles in places where they could be knocked over by customers, employees, or children.
  • Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.

Your insurer and insurance professional can provide you with fire prevention tips and checklists for your business. Practicing fire and electrical safety will keep your business safe and your fire insurance premiums low.

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