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Holiday safety tips

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The N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals offers these safety tips for the holidays

Learn Not To Burn: Recycle Christmas packaging and decor, don’t burn it!

Though it’s tempting to throw wrapping paper, ribbon and other packaging into the fireplace or onto an outdoor fire, it’s a bad idea. Because this material melts, it sticks to the skin and causes a deeper burn. If you insist on burning these items, do so safely. Choose a confined space like a metal barrel or ditch and keep the fire under constant supervision of an adult until all of the trash has burned.


Holiday Fireplace Safety Tips:

• Get your chimney inspected for cracks, clogs and other issues. If it hasn’t been cleaned in two or three years, enlist the services of a chimney sweep.
• Check/install a carbon monoxide detector.
• Verify that the chimney flue is open. 
• Clear the area around the hearth of combustible products.
• Use a fireplace screen to prevent coals or embers popping out of the fireplace onto the floor. 
• Burn seasoned hardwoods like oak or maple. Pine creates creosote build-up in the chimney which can easily ignite and start a chimney fire. 
• Do not use an accelerant to get the fire to ignite. 
• Wear protective, fire-proof gloves when adjusting or adding logs.
• Keep fireplace screens and doors closed, especially if you leave the room.
• Establish a kid- and pet-free zone around the hearth.
• Keep a fully charged ABC fire extinguisher nearby. 
• Let embers and ashes cool completely before removing to a metal container and mixing with water to ensure they’re extinguished. Discard the slurry carefully. 
 
If you do get burned, run cool water over the burned area for 3 to 5 minutes, which helps get the heat out of the tissue and keeps the burn from going deeper. Seek immediate medical attention if the burn:
• Is bigger than a quarter
• Induces intense pain
• Blisters
• Looks moist and beefy-red in appearance
• Appears pearly white, light brown, khaki-colored or charred with no pain

Ring in the New Year Safely:


In many parts of the country, shooting off fireworks is a traditional way of ringing in the New Year. While it’s always best to leave fireworks to professionals, if your revelry includes pyrotechnics, follow this safety advice from the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill:

• Ignite fireworks in open areas, away from porches, landscaping and other combustibles.
• Have garden hose on or ABC fire extinguisher handy in case something ignites.
• Keep a phone nearby in case you need to call the fire department.
• Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
• Avoid fireworks if you’ve been drinking, which impairs judgment and slows reaction time.
• Don’t try to re-light a firework if it failed to ignite the first time (it could ignite and explode in your hand).


Fire prevention tips for your holiday décor:

• Choose a tree with fresh green needles that don’t fall off when touched.
• Keep trees fully watered – check water level daily.
• Place the tree least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, heaters, wood stoves and candles; and that it’s not blocking exits like doors or windows.
• Never light décor with lit candles.
• Use decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant and lights that have been tested and approved by a laboratory and are approved for indoor use. Replace bulbs that appear worn, are broken or have loose connections.
• Turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
 
And when you’re ready to take down the evergreen decorations, recycle rather than burn them. Most towns and cities have Christmas tree collection site or provide curbside pick-up. Check with your municipality about how to safely dispose of your evergreen décor.
 


Be Careful with Candles:

Everybody loves the warm glow of candles, especially at the holidays. But those soothing flames can turn into burning fires in an instant. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association says December is the peak time of the year for candle fires. According to its data, U.S. fire departments responded to 11,640 house fires caused by candles between 2006 and 2010. These fires resulted in 953 injuries, 126 deaths, and a whopping $438 million in property damage.

• Blow out the candle when you leave a room or go to bed. 
• Use a candle holder that is sturdy and won’t tip over easily.
• Never leave a child alone in a room with candles burning.
• Avoid using candles in the bedroom or other areas where you may fall asleep. 35% of home candle fires started in bedrooms and accounted for 42% of associated deaths and 45% of associated injuries.
• Place candles at least 12 to 18 inches from anything that can burn and out of reach of children and pets. More than half of all house fires started by candles involved combustibles placed too close to the flame.
• Make certain your smoke alarm is working and review your escape plan.


Staying warm during cold weather:

• Never use your stove or oven to heat your home.
• Install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
• If you smell gas, leave the house immediately and call the fire department or gas company.
• Do not light an appliance if you smell gas.               
• Choose a space heater approved by a testing authority like Underwriters Laboratory or Factory Mutual.
• Have your furnace and chimney cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional; and get an electrician to verify that your home’s wiring can handle the electrical pull that small heaters often require.
• Properly ventilate rooms where kerosene heaters are in use by opening a window one-half to one-inch wide to create air circulation and avoid carbon monoxide build up.
• Keep a charged ABC-rated fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.

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