My husband is insistent that during December, we unplug all the holiday lights—inside and out—before heading to bed. He believes that all of these extra plugs in the sockets are a fire hazard. Turns out, he's a pretty smart guy.
December is the deadliest month when it comes to home electrical fires. Fire deaths typically increase during the winter months as a result of increased indoor activity, use of holiday lighting, and heating and appliances reaching their peak this month.
According to the United States Fire Administration, home electrical problems account for 28,600 fires and $1.1 billion in property losses during a typical year. Fifty-three percent of home electrical fires involve electrical wiring in one form or another.
So how to prevent fires? Here are 6 tips to keep in mind during the winter months so you, your home, and your family can stay safe this holiday season.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Avoid connecting an excessive amount of holiday lighting and decorations to a single circuit whenever possible—probably the single easiest thing you can do to prevent fires.
- Routinely check electrical appliances and wiring to look for signs of fraying. Worn, old, or damaged appliance cords are a fire hazard and should be professionally replaced immediately. In the meantime unplug those items until they can be repaired, or throw them out all together.
- Keep electrical appliances dry. You never want electrical appliances to be on wet floors and counters. Therefore, pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen. Note to self: share this tip with my flatiron-using, hairdryer-loving teenage daughter!
- Only use "certified" electric products. When buying electrical appliances or anything that plugs in, look for products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories—you'll know it from the UL symbol on it.
- Be smart about plug use. If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or another kind of extension cord
- Have working smoke alarms throughout the house. Working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. You're supposed to change batteries whenever you change the clocks. If you forgot to do that when the time changed recently, do it now.
"An electrical fire in your home can result in catastrophic damage, including loss of life and property," says Kurt Dettmer, vice president and chief marketing officer for Fremont Insurance based in Michigan. "Statistics have demonstrated that as the weather turns colder, electrical fires increase. Since December is the most likely month for an electrical fire to occur, we want to make sure homeowners are taking precautionary steps to avoid home fires."