By Scott Prater
For many, nothing provides a holiday feel better than the glow of decorative candles or the scent of a freshly cut pine tree.
More than likely, however, the warmth provided by holiday decorations involves some type of flame or electrical current. Candles, lighting and evergreen trees bring a heightened level of fire danger. But by following a few precautions, said 50th Space Wing Ground Safety Manager, Tech. Sgt. Sarah Law, families can substantially decrease their chances of experiencing a holiday mishap.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that Christmas trees account for more than 240 home fires each year on average, while holiday and decorative lights typically account for 150 more.
“Fans of natural trees should choose one that’s been cut recently,” Law said. “To test a tree, strike the stump on the ground. If needles fall off, the tree is already too dry.”
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branch, and the trunk should feel sticky. The NFPA advises home owners to keep natural trees away from heat sources such as furnace vents and fire places because they speed up the drying process.
It’s also important to keep a live tree hydrated. Freshly cut trees can absorb more than a gallon of water during their first day.
“The big thing is to keep the tree watered and think about safety before you decorate,” Law said. “Keeping children in mind, don’t hang breakable ornaments near the bottom; don’t place any candy down low and make sure the kids can’t reach any garland they could easily get wrapped up in.”
It’s also a good practice to replace decorative light sets every four to five years and make sure to replace any light set with worn or damaged wires. The same advice also applies when decorating outdoors.
Schriever housing area residents can install decorative lights to the exterior of their homes during the holiday time frame. Tierra Vista Communities does not restrict the times at which lights can be lit. However, residents are asked to remain conscious of their energy consumption and leave their lights on only when they can be viewed and enjoyed.
Aside from safety concerns at home, families should also be prepared before departing on long trips.
“Air Force members, government civilians, contractors and families need to make sure they winterize their vehicle, carry viable safety kits and know what to do if they get stranded,” Law said. “Proper planning for trips, both long and short, is important as well. If you know the weather is going to be challenging, then you need to plan your alternate routes.”
This time of year also brings an increase of holiday parties, providing Airmen with more chances to develop alcohol awareness plans.
“The holiday season provides a wonderful time for our Airmen, civilians and contractors to take some time off from work and relax,” said Lt. Col. Robb Owens, 50 SW chief of safety. “This is especially true this year for members of the 50th Space Wing as the holiday season comes on the heels of the Consolidated Unit Inspection. We expect folks to partake in a number of different traditions and activities during the holiday season: traveling, winter sports and decorating, etc.; we only ask that members of Team Schriever utilize proper risk management in their planning and look out for one another to ensure a safe return in 2013.”
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