The winter holiday season is a festive and eventful time, yet statistics show that home fires and electrical incidents increase during this time of year. In the spirit of the season, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is reminding homeowners of safety tips and providing free resources to help them prevent household fires and accidents caused by improper cooking and heating practices.

Nearly 900 people die in home fires each year during the winter season, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Thirty percent of all home fires and nearly four-in-ten home fire deaths take place from December through February. With cooking tasks responsible for many home fires, it is critical that holiday hosts cook and heat their homes safely.

Basic safety guidelines

“Entertaining during the holidays can be stressful, but statistics suggest simple cooking and heating safety practices can ensure everyone enjoys the celebration,” said ESFI President Brett Brenner. “This includes taking proactive measures to make sure our homes are free of electrical hazards, as well as making sure we follow basic safety guidelines during our holiday celebrations.” 

Follow these simple tips from ESFI to ensure that your home is ready to safely celebrate the holidays:

Heating Safety

  • Have your heating system inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Keep space heaters out of high-traffic and exit areas, and at least three feet from anything that can burn.
  • Do not leave a space heater running unattended. Turn off and unplug when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on top of furniture.
  • Never leave an open flame, including the fireplace, unattended.
  • Have a qualified professional install heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

Cooking Safety

Fast Fact: Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries. Ranges or cooktops cause 62 percent of home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association. Learn how to stay safe with these tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling.
  • Keep children at least three feet away from cooking appliances.
  • Wear short or close-fitting sleeves.
  • Make sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease and dust.
  • Keep the cooking area clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins, and potholders.
  • To protect from spills and burns, use the back burners and turn the pot handles in.
  • Locate all appliances away from the sink.
  • Plug countertop appliances into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets.
  • Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use.
  • Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.
  • Turn off all appliances when cooking is completed.
  • It’s easy to forget about something that’s cooking, especially when you’re entertaining guests.

Electrical Safety

  • Test GFCIs and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) monthly to ensure that they are working properly.
  • Outdoor outlets should be protected with GFCI technology to reduce the risk of electric shock.
  • Multi-outlet power strips and extension cords are handy for decorations, phones, cooking gear and new gift gadgetry, but plugging in too many things can overtax your home’s electrical capacity.
  • Never use an extension cord or power strip for heaters as this could cause cords to overheat and result in a fire.
  • Do not use extension cords on a permanent basis, and never use them with major appliances.
  • Look and listen for warning signs of an electrical problem such as outlets and switches that are warm or make crackling, sizzling or buzzing noises.   
  • The best decorations are safe decorations. When you’re decorating make sure not to run cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Give lit decorations a holiday break. Reduce the likelihood of fire by simply shutting everything off when there’s no one home (or awake) to enjoy them.
  • More Christmas tree, more water. If you put up a real tree, make sure you water it daily. A dried-up pine tree is nothing but kindling. On average, an unfortunate 260 home fires in the U.S. start with Christmas trees each year.
  • Only use electronics in dry areas.

Visit ESFI’s holiday safety website, which provides all of the safety tips and tools needed to Make Safety a Tradition for your family this holiday season. 


The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school, and play. ESFI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit

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