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Candles can provide a warm and festive atmosphere – but they can also be a fire hazard if left unattended or placed near anything flammable. The Stoneham Fire Department encourages families to enjoy the warm and inviting atmosphere of candles while keeping fire safety in mind.
- Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish all candles before going to sleep or leaving the room.
- Do not permit children to keep or use candles or incense in their rooms. Candles should only be used when a sober adult is present and awake.
- Never use lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree or other evergreens.
- Keep lit candles on sturdy uncluttered surfaces.
- Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including other decorations and wrapping paper.
- Always use stable, non-flammable candle holders that won’t tip or burn.
- Trim candle wicks to one-quarter inch before lighting.
- When lighting candles, keep your hair and clothing away from the flame.
- Be careful not to splatter hot wax when extinguishing a candle
- Place candles where they will not be knocked down or blown over and out of the reach of pets and children.
- Always keep burning candles up high, out of the reach of children. If you have children in your home, store candles, matches, and lighters out of their site, preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Avoid using candles during power outages. Have flashlights, batteries, and battery powered lighting on hand for emergency lighting.
- Put candles away from windows or doorways or anywhere drafts could affect the flame.
Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 484 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. The Stoneham Fire Department would like residents to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from electrical fires.
- During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 67,800 fires and $868 million in property loss. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances.
- December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and increase in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical fires start in the bedroom.
- Most electrical fires result from problems with “fixed wiring” such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords, also cause many home electrical fires.
- In urban areas, faulty wiring accounts for 33% of residential electrical fires.
- Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as overloading circuits, poor maintenance and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
- The home appliances most often involved in electrical fires are electric stoves and ovens, dryers, central heating units, televisions, and radios.
- Routinely check your electric appliances and wiring.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old, or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- When buying electrical appliances look for products which meet the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) standard for safety.
- Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons, and hair dryers.
- Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
- 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 extension cord.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
- Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
Holiday Fire Safety
By following some of these tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Preventing Holiday Tree Fires
Special fire safety precautions need to taken when keeping a live tree in the house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases.
Selecting a Tree for the Holiday
- Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from branches. The needle should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
- The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
- Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.
Caring for Your Tree
- Do not place your tree too close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.
- The heat will dry out the tree causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
- Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
- Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up longer than two weeks.
- Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
Disposing of Your Tree
- Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly.
- The best way to discard your tree is by taking it to a recycle center or having it hauled away by the town’s pick-up service.
Maintain Your Holiday Lights
- Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
- Use only lighting listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Do not Overload Electrical Outlets
- Do not link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe.
- Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
- Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
- All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
- Never put wrapping paper in a fireplace. It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
Artificial Holiday Trees
- If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Home Heating Safety
- Have your furnace checked and maintained by a professional.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected for cracks, crumbling bricks, loose mortar, and obstructions.
- Have your woodstove pipes and chimneys checked for damage or obstruction.
- Never put anything on top of a wood stove.
- Electric heaters should be unplugged if you go to bed or leave the house.
Kitchen Fire Safety
- Stick around: never leave cooking food unattended.
- Dress right: No loose clothing. Roll up your sleeves.
- No children/no pets: Declare a three-foot “safe zone” around your stove.
- Turn pot handles in: Avoid bumping a pot and spilling hot food.
- Be alert: Don’t cook if you’re sleepy, you’ve been drinking a lot of alcohol, or your taking medication that makes you drowsy.
- Clear the clutter: Keep potholders, food packaging, dishtowels, and other combustibles off your stove top.
- Wipe up spills and clean your oven: Built-up grease can catch fire.
- Clean your work area: Keep curtains and anything that burns at least three feet away from your stove.
- Hot dishes: Open microwaved food slowly and allow it to cool before eating it.
- Steam Heat: Never use a wet mitt or potholder.
- Prevent dangerous overloads. Use only one heat-producing appliance on the same circuit at a time.
- No shocking behavior: Have ground fault circuits interrupters (GFCI) installed on all kitchen outlets.
- Avoid discord: Replace cracked or frayed appliance cords.
- Don’t get overheated: If an appliance feels too hot or smells funny, unplug it immediately and have it serviced or replaced.
- If a pan or food catches fire: don’t use a fire extinguisher or spray water. Smother the fire by sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Prevent flare-ups by holding the lid firmly in place until the pan has cooled.
- Oven fire: close the door and turn off the heat.
- Microwave fire: keep the door closed and unplug the microwave. Have the oven serviced before you use it again.
Ice & Cold Water Safety
Each winter, many residents are injured from exposure in cold-water incidents. Skaters and ice fishermen fall through the ice; boaters and canoeists overturn their crafts. According to the U.S.Coast Guard, each year there are over 7,000 drownings and 20,000 near-drownings in the United States. Over half of these incidents occur in cold water (water less than 70 degrees F.)
How thick is safe ice?
Ice on moving water in rivers, streams, and brooks are never safe. The thickness of ice on ponds and lakes depends upon water currents or springs, depth and natural objects such as tree stumps or rocks. Daily changes in temperatures cause ice to expand and contract, which affects its strength. Because of these factors, no one can declare the ice to be absolutely “safe”.
The only “safe” ice is at a skating arena!
What to do if someone falls through the ice?
- Act quickly and call 911 for help immediately. Make sure properly trained and equipped rescue personnel are alerted to respond.
- Do not gout out onto the ice. Many times would-be rescuers become victims themselves.
- Reach, Throw or Row. Extend a branch, pole, or ladder to the victim. Throw them a buoyant object such as a life ring or float tied to a rope. If a boat is nearby row out to the victim or push it toward them.
How Cold is cold water?
- Any water that is cooler than normal body temperature (98.6 degrees F.) is by definition “cold water”.
- Cold water drains away body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air!
- Cold water does not have to be icy; it just has to be colder than you to cause hypothermia.
What is hypothermia?
- Hypothermia is the excessive lowering of body temperature. A drop in core body temperature below 95 degrees fahrenheit causes shivering, confusion, loss of muscle strength, and if not treated and reversed hypothermia leads to unconsciousness and death.
- Safety experts estimate that half of all drowning victims die from the fatal effects of cold water, not the fatal effects from water-filled lungs!
Personal Safety Tips
- Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when boating, any time of year.
- Waterlogged clothing makes it difficult to keep your head above the surface of the water.
- Dress properly.
- Keep your head covered, 50% of body heat is lost through the head. Clothing that is made from man-made fibers does not protect the wearer for long when wet. Wool insulates better from the effects of hyperthermia when dry or wet.
- If you fall into cold water, get into HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position).
- Bring your knees to your chest, hold your arms to your sides and clasp your hands, and cover your head if possible to protect your body from heat loss.
- DO NOT try to swim unless a boat, floating object or the shore is close by. Swimming causes “warm” blood to circulate to your arms and legs, where it cools off quickly and reduces survival time by as much as 35-50%!