For most Americans, the holidays mean turning on the heat and putting logs on the fire. What this also means is an increased risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO gas can come from several sources besides cars, including gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills being used in a garage and wood-burning fireplaces. To prevent CO poisoning, consumers should have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances at least once a year. Additionally, consumers should refrain from using their charcoal grills or running their vehicles inside their garage. Even when the garage door is open, deadly levels of CO can still build up and find their way inside the home. For added safety, consider having a CO detector included as part of a monitored home security system. This ensures that in the event you are disabled by CO gas, a monitoring station will notify the fire department.
Fire safety is another consideration during the holidays. Both Christmas tree and candle fires are highest in December, with Christmas being the peak day for candle fires. Some easy tips to keep families safe include:
- Always keep candles away from holiday decoration and other combustible materials.
- Whenever possible, choose decoration made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
- Use care when selecting lights and electrical decorations and check for certification by an independent testing lab, and then follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Carefully inspect all strands of lights (new and used) and replace broken bulbs before plugging lights in.
- Do not overload extension cords and make sure that you do not connect more strands than allowed.
- Turn off all lights and electrical decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. During the holidays, when friends and relatives are around, it’s easy to leave the stove unattended. Just remember to keep your eyes on the range as you entertain.
- Consider adding fire detection devices to a monitored home security system; not only will the alarm sound, but the fire department will be alerted when you are away, or in the event you don’t hear the alarm.
Discourage the thief: Since burglars prefer to break in to houses that look unoccupied, lower your home’s appeal by making it look like you’re there. For example, use timers on lights, radios and televisions; ask neighbors to put trash cans out on trash day and arrange for mail and newspaper deliver to stop or ask a friend to help.
Prevent easy access: Make your home a more difficult target by increasing the time it takes a burglar to enter. You can do this by locking all doors, windows and garage door; installing deadbolt locks; trimming trees and hedges to minimize potential hiding spots; and replacing burned out yard lights.
Manage the risk: Make sure your neighbors know you are going on vacation; ask them to watch your house. Tell them how long you will be gone and the names or descriptions of anyone that may need access to your house. Leave a house key and a number where you can be reached with a trusted individual. Notify your alarm company when you will be away.
Detect an intruder: ESA recommends investing in a home security system. What better gift for the holidays? In an industry survey of 1,000 public safety officials, 85 percent of police chiefs said security systems decrease the likelihood a home will be burglarized, and almost 90 percent felt security systems increase their chances of apprehending burglars.
For a directory of ESA members that can help keep your family safe this holiday season, visit www.alarm.org and click on Consumers.