JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
While people add to their shopping lists for the holidays, one thing they should not omit is personal safety. Fire-related incidents in the U.S. cause more than $18 million in property damage annually, according to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Fire Emergency Services staff.
To keep family, friends and loved ones out of harm's way, members from Randolph's fire department offered preventive tips.
· Decorations and lights
"Check your lights, check them twice," James Smith, Randolph Fire Emergency Services fire inspector said. "Inspect all of your electrical lights and decorations for damage or wear. Cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections may pose a fire or shock hazard."
Cords should not be run under carpets or tacked up with metal nails or staples.
"Small decorations can be choking hazards, so keep them out of reach of toddlers," Smith said.
To ensure buying the safest electrical lights, look for packaging with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and FM Global-approved markings, which means the products are tested by nationally recognized labs to meet National Fire Protection Association standards.
· Christmas trees
Randolph's housing residents are allowed to own Christmas trees and are another point of focus from the fire department.
"A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly," Eloy Uresti, Randolph Fire Emergency Services fire prevention assistant chief, said. "Dry trees pose a fire risk, so choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched."
"Don't buy a tree too far in advance," Smith added. "Three weeks from the holidays is ideal."
"Before placing the tree in the stand, cut two inches from the base of the trunk," Uresti said. "A heat source too close to a tree causes roughly one in every six tree fires, so make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights."
"Once the tree is up, do not connect more than three miniature lights strings together on a tree," Uresti said.
A 6-foot tree absorbs about one gallon of water every two days, so add water daily to the tree stand to keep it fresh.
If preferred, fire-resistant non-metallic artificial trees are highly recommended.
To ensure safe movement through homes, stores and other buildings, place the tree in a location where it is not blocking an exit.
· Fire awareness and escape plans
The leading causes of fires originate in the kitchen, which are usually the result of unattended cooking.
"There are a lot of distractions coming your way during the holidays," Smith said. "If you're cooking, stay in the kitchen and stay focused."
If situations take a turn for the worse, having a plan makes all the difference.
"Use the holidays as a time to practice a fire escape plan with your loved ones," Uresti said. "Identify at least two exits from every room in the house."
Have at least one carbon monoxide alarm installed on each floor and make sure it is always close to sleeping areas.
Sound judgment underlies much about fire prevention, Smith said.
"If something feels wrong, it is wrong," he said. "For example, if a cord feels too warm, don't use it. It's all about having common sense."
For more information on fire safety topics, call 652-6915 and ask for the Fire Prevention Section.