While the winter holiday season is traditionally a festive time of year filled with colorful decorations and family gatherings, it is too often a time of tragedy and loss as well. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics indicate that 30% of all home fires and 38% of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February. These winter fires result from a variety of sources. According to reports from the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the number of fires caused by cooking, heating, and open flame all increase during the winter holiday period. USFA also notes that winter holiday fires are more severe than the average fire during the year across all loss measures. Holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires, in particular, are substantially more damaging than other fires. These fires result in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities per fire as the average winter holiday home fire. During 2004-2008, an average of 260 home fires each year started with Christmas trees. Another 150 home fires per year were caused by decorative and holiday lights.
Fire is not the only danger facing families during the holiday season. Injuries resulting from falls are a serious concern this time of year as well. About 5,800 individuals are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained from falls involving holiday decorations. In addition, 4,000 people a year are treated in emergency rooms for injuries associated with extension cords. Half of these injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains as a result of people tripping over the cords.
The risk of poisonings also increases during the holiday period, resulting not only from common household items, but also carbon monoxide (CO). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2007 the majority of CO deaths occurred in the colder months of November through February.
Fortunately, holiday home fires, fatalities, and injuries are most often to increase awareness of holiday hazards so that they may be identified and corrected before a holiday tragedy can occur.
For more information on holiday safety, check out the Electrical Safety Foundation International website.
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