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NEWS | Nov. 16, 2010

How to make your holiday hazard-free

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer R. Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Tis' the season to be jolly and deck the halls with boughs of holly ... We all know the song, a song that plays during the holidays and brings out the holiday spirit. The holidays are a time for laughter and fun, and for many, a time for showing off your decorating or cooking skills.

However, be mindful when hanging lights or frying up a turkey because the holiday season is one of the busiest times for emergency personnel due to house fires and accidents.

Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 250 house fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, it was estimated these fires resulted in 21 deaths and 43 injuries per year.

"The holidays are a time for friends, family and loved ones to get together and build some great memories," said Deputy Ground Safety manager Darnell Edmonds, 628th Air Base Wing Safety at Joint Base Charleston-Air Base. "However, it is important to keep in mind that safety should still be a part of your everyday habits."

"Do not get complacent; pay attention to the small details because that may very well turn your holiday from a festive joyous time to a tragic incident," he continued.

Safety may be the last thought on a person's mind during the holidays¬, but by taking a few precautions, your holiday season can hazard-free.

"There would be nothing more upsetting than to hear one of our shipmates or wingmen getting hurt or worse during the holidays all because they didn't take the time to think and take a few precautions along the way," said Executive Officer Cmdr. Charles Phillip, Naval Support Activity at JB CHS-Weapons Station.

"Many of us will be traveling this holiday season, so it is essential that Sailors, Airmen and civilians take time out of their day to plan that trip," he continued. "Be smart about it, do not push the limit, and take a break every few hours. Don't worry, you will make it to your destination, but the idea is for you to make it in one piece.

"Also, we all hear it, but it needs repeating; do not drink and drive. If you plan on drinking, have a plan in place or designate a driver for the night. We want everyone to have a great, but safe holiday and we want everyone to return from leave with no incidents." Commander Phillip concluded.

Keep some of these tips in mind as you prepare for your holidays.

Holiday Dinner
· Never thaw a turkey at room temperature, instead keep it in the refrigerator to thaw.
· When cooking, be sure to keep children or pets out of the kitchen. Do not wear loose clothing or dangly jewelry to help avoid spills or burns.
· Never leave cooking unattended with a house full of people, especially children.

Deep-frying a turkey
· Set your deep-fryer up in an open area like a driveway. Do not set it up near flammable materials, indoors or under any roof or in the garage.
· Do not leave the turkey unattended. Deep-frying a turkey takes far less time than an oven and requires your attention.
· Keep a fire extinguisher near.
· Do not overfill your fryer with oil. Use only the amount needed. To figure out how much oil to use, place your turkey in the fryer and fill it with water. Once the turkey is fully submerged, take the turkey out and mark the level of water; that is the oil fill-line. Be sure to dry the fryer completely before adding the oil.

Christmas trees
· If buying an artificial tree, buy ones marked fire-resistant.
· Keep the tree away from all electronic equipment and appliances that produce heat.
· Ensure your tree is tightly secured in its stand.
· Never decorate a tree with candles.
· Hang tinsel and other ornaments high and securely enough to keep out of the reach of small children and pets.
· After the holidays, dispose of the tree properly.

Christmas lights
· Check your light strings every year and discard the ones that are not working, cracked or frayed to prevent any electrical shortages.
· Conserve energy by turning off seasonal lights when sleeping and when you leave your home. Automatic timers are a convenient way to turn lights on and off.
· For outdoors, use only lights designed for exterior use.
· When hanging lights on a roof, make sure you have the appropriate ladder that is at least three feet higher than needed.
· Unplug the entire string before changing bulbs.

Electrical connectors
· Keep outdoor electrical connectors out of puddles and snow.
· Keep extension cords to a minimum to avoid tripping hazards and overloading circuits.
· Wrap plastic bags around light strand connections to prevent moisture buildup.