Making Safe Holiday Memories
By Karen Stickels Lamansky
Lindermann Chimney Supply
Holidays bring home more than family and friends. They bring home memories of loved ones as well as treasured moments from the past. Celebrating this special time of the year creates a memory book of inspired dreams blended with a world of tranquility and peace. An essential part of creating future memories is securing a safe haven for holiday celebrations.
When stockings are hung by the chimney with care, make sure they aren’t too close to the fireplace opening. A stocking doesn’t have to actually touch the fire to ignite. If the material gets hot enough it can spontaneously combust, creating a potentially deadly fire. Also maintain a safe distance for embellished baskets, greenery and other decorations.
Keeping children away from the fireplace or woodstove is the most important aspect of creating those perfect Christmas memories. Use fireplace screens or gates to keep them at a safe distance. Enticing objects like stockings and illuminated mantle decorations draw children like a magnet to a potentially dangerous situation. Young children have no concept of the potential for burns and accidents. Older children may be more responsible, but tripping on a rug in a rush to get the stockings could wind up with an unplanned emergency room visit and a lingering bad holiday memory.
Enjoying the luminosity of the season should include the use of only Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Listed cords and electrical products. Not all products are UL listed. A UL listed product means it’s been put to the test and passed. Always use a UL Listed power strip to guard against unsafe power surges and for ease of use.
Exterior accent lighting can transform a home from an ordinary house to a piece of illuminated artwork. Careful consideration must be used when setting up the lighting. Use only lights intended and UL Listed to withstand the harsh demands of outside temperature extremes and moisture.
Another popular source of holiday illumination is candles. They create a cheery focal point when adding a touch of elegance to any decorating scheme. Scents, like cinnamon rolls, can bring to mind a memory of grandmother’s breakfast on Christmas morning. To create a safe environment, make sure that the candles are used responsibly and observed closely. A candle, set into a luxuriously rugged wreath, can ignite causing a disastrously dangerous fire of wax and dried materials.
Fire extinguishers and smoke alarms can only inspire confidence if they are in working order. An uncharged fire extinguisher won’t do much good against a raging fire. Smoke alarms with bad batteries or the batteries removed don’t provide a bit of protection. Upgrade your smoke alarms to include photo-electric and ionization detection systems. These combination alarms do double-duty, detecting smoldering fires as well as raging fires. Always replace the batteries when decorating for the holidays. This makes it easy to remember and replace since the step stool is already in use when decorating.
An escape plan is essential. There is usually only a 2-5 minute window to exit the home in case of a fire. With no lights and smoke, a home that’s as familiar as the back of your hand can quickly become confusing. Children often have the tendency to hide in situations where they are scared. Since this is the last thing you want, make sure you practice your escape plan on a regular basis and that everyone thoroughly understands the importance of getting out of the house as fast as possible.
Use common sense when using your fireplace or woodstove. Burning wrapping paper, Christmas trees or any kind of trash can send large embers up the flue, potentially igniting creosote and causing mini-explosions or resulting in a deadly chimney fire. Burning these materials can also cause rapid spikes in temperatures, leading to excessive heat transfer or damage to a glass door or other part of the system.
Creating a safe, holiday home sanctuary is an important part of making beautiful memories that last a lifetime. Following safety measures will keep those memories safe and happy. Check with your chimney professional for local code clearance requirements or consult the local fire department for these requirements as well as other holiday safety tips. Most importantly, enjoy these treasured moments with your loved ones as we wish you a Happy Holiday Season and a safe, prosperous new year.
Reprinted, with permission, from the November 2008 issue of The Chimney Sweep News, an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals. Jim Gillam, editor/publisher. 541-882-5196. www.ChimneySweepNews.com