Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a busy time; cooking, cleaning, entertaining, decorating, traveling, rushing about and ultimately, sharing time with loved ones. Unfortunately, holidays are a prime time for fire-loss and other accidents.

Primrose Insurance Brokers sent us these precautions to protect your family and friends from tragedy and to make sure your holiday season is safe and joyous.

Cooking Safety

Cooking is the number one cause of house fires in Alberta. Take caution when frying foods. Never leave heated oil unattended. Here’s what to do if cooking oil or fat in a pot catches fire: Turn off the heat immediately; Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid; Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires; Never turn on the overhead fan, this could spread the fire; Never throw water on a grease fires, as an explosive fire-ball could fill the kitchen.

Home Heating

Safety tips courtesy of Primrose Insurance Brokers.   Art by Bill Roy

Safety tips courtesy of Primrose Insurance Brokers.         Art by Bill Roy

Space heaters: Keep the space heater at least one metre away from combustibles, such as paper, bedding, furniture and curtains; ensure space heaters always remain upright; turn off the space heater before going out or going to bed.

Fireplaces and woodstoves: Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks; keep decorations, wrapping and other combustibles well away from the fireplace/woodstove; never burn gift wrapping, boxes or other packaging as they burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat; never leave the fire unattended or let is smoulder; clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.

Electrical Outlets

There is a tendency to overload wall outlets during the holiday season. Avoid overloading outlets, even for short durations.

Inspect all cords before using. Make sure they are CSA certified. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire. Discard any defective cords. Read the labels and manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper use; insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock. To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord which is in use and do not run it under carpets or rugs.

 Home Decorating

While beautiful and fun, home decorating can pose a serious risks to the safety of your home and family members.

Christmas trees: Choose an artificial tree if possible as they are cleaner and much safer; a live tree should be purchased freshly cut with a high moisture content (no needles falling off or brittle, vibrant green and strong fragrance), freshly cut the bottom of the tree (2-3cm diagonally) before placing in a secure stand and water daily; place tree away from heat sources such as fireplace; wood stove; television, sunny window or heating vents; never use candles on or near a tree. Shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. A live tree can be used for a period of two weeks – after that even the freshest tree can start to dry out.

Lights: Use Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified light strings/sets; Do not use Indoor light strings/sets for outdoors because they lack weatherproof connections. Some outdoor light strings/sets burn too hot indoors; inspect light strings/set before use. Check for cracked bulbs and for frayed, broken or exposed wires, and discard if faulty; turn off all tree and display lights before retiring for the night or before leaving the house.

Candles: Never leave burning candles unattended; candles, preferably votives and tea-lights only, should only be burned in non-combustible containers; place candles on a sturdy surface where they will not be knocked down, well away from drafts, children and pets. Keep candles well away from anything that could catch fire.

Decorations: Choose decorations that are flame-retardant, non-combustible and non-conductive; if there are young children or pets in your home, avoid very small decorations. Avoid using angel hair (glass wool) together with spray-on snowflakes as this combination is highly combustible; do not use metal ornaments on the tree. If they make contact with defective wiring they could become a shock hazard.

Smoking: Encourage smokers to go outside. Never smoke in bed or lying down. Keep large, deep ashtrays on hand and ensure they are cleaned of butts and debri regularly.  Allow ashes to cool before disposing

Home Security & Other Concerns:

Smoke Alarms: Smoke alarms must have a source of electricity either from household current or from a battery. Batteries should never be removed for other uses or to stop false alarms. Smoke alarms can fail with age. To make sure that they are in working condition, test every month by pushing the test button.

At least one smoke alarm must be installed on every level of a home and outside sleeping areas. Most fire deaths happen during sleeping hours and a smoke alarm outside the bedrooms can alert you to escape. A smoke alarm inside the bedroom will provide additional protection.

When the smoke alarm sounds, everyone must know what to do and where to go. Develop a fire escape plan, keeping the following in mind:

  • Know two ways out of every room, the first way out would be the door, while the alternate escape would be a window that can be exited safely.
  • Make sure all designated escape routes are accessible and free of clutter.
  • Leave the building as quickly as possible. Once outside, don’t re-enter the building for any reason.
  • Call 9-1-1 or your local fire/emergency services department from outside the building using a cell phone or neighbour’s phone.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, poisonous and potentially deadly gas. You can’t see it, taste it or feel it but carbon monoxide can have lethal consequences. A carbon monoxide detector helps keep your home and your family safe from potential danger. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home. The initial unit should be installed in the hallway near where family members sleep. Batteries should be replaced regularly and the unit tested each week to ensure it is operational.

Other loss prevention and safety tips:

  • Ensure all doors and windows are locked when you leave home and at night when you go to sleep; do not leave gifts unattended in your vehicle;
  • Do not store combustible materials (ie, wrapping paper, bags, blankets, etc) in the furnace room. All combustible materials should be kept at least one metre from the furnace and hot water tank;
  • Rely on a buddy to string lights by having them ensure the ladder is secure as you climb it. Over-reaching may cause you to lose your balance. Take precautions to limit the risk of falling.
  • Check road conditions prior to traveling. Ensure your vehicle is winter-roadworthy and equipped with an emergency kit. Advise family or friends of your intended travel route and schedule.
  • If you are out celebrating and consume alcohol or if you serve alcohol to your guests at dinner or a party ensure you and your guests arrive home safely. Take a taxi, use a designated driver, call a sober friend or family member to pick you up or spend the night and make the journey home when it is safe. A celebration shouldn’t end in tragedy. Be safe.


Wishing you a joyous and safe holiday season!

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