The holiday season brings many changes to your home: visitors, decorations, trees, gifts, candles, cords and lots of excitement. Pets and children are running around the house. Guests are drinking. Candles, tree lights, extra baking projects and chafing dishes all need your consideration when ensuring the safety of your home during the holiday season. Fire exits are often the last thing on your mind during this time of the year, but they deserve your attention.

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Christmas trees are normally the focal point of your decorations. Before deciding on where to place your tree, you must first identify the location of all of your fire exits. It is important that each family member knows of at least two fire exits. Lives are saved when fire drills are practiced at home. Doors and windows must operate smoothly and be checked regularly. Family members and overnight guests must be aware of and able to use these fire exits without the use of keys or special tools. Do not place your Christmas tree where it may block access to a fire exit. People often panic in fires. Smoke makes it hard or impossible to see. Fire exits must be visible and accessible.

Before hanging lights and other decorations, check them for safety. Frayed wires and decorations placed too close to a heat source cause hundreds of home fires each year. When placing these items, keep in mind their proximity to fireplaces, wood stoves, furnace and heater vents. These can all reach temperatures sufficient to start a home fire. Be sure that decorations do not block or hide fire exits.

As your guests arrive, they will probably bring luggage, gifts and coats. These items often get spread around the house haphazardly. Suitcases can block doorways and windows, piles of coats can block walkways, gifts can make moving through a room difficult. This can cause dangerous conditions if fire exits are blocked. The host and hostess must remain observant with safety in mind. Prevention is simple with some pre-planning. Be sure to make room in hallway closets to hang your guests’ coats. Set up tables in safe locations for gifts. Show guests where they can put their luggage and, at the same time, be sure to inform them of the locations of all fire exits within the home.

You can also protect your family and guests by labeling your fire exits. Bunting and ribbon can be used to frame and identify fire exits throughout your home. A simple sign or sticker may be all the reminder necessary to save a life. A gilded card taped to a bedroom or bathroom window may be just the help a panic-stricken holiday guest may need to get out of a burning room.

Serving tables and extra furniture used when entertaining must be placed in locations where wires won’t cause a hazard and in such a way as to leave a clear, visible path to all fire exits in the home. Often, tables and chairs get shifted around as guests arrive or gifts are opened. Make a point of keeping these activities away from all fire exits and encourage other family members to be mindful. Reward children with lavish praise when they spot a potentially hazardous situation. It will make them more likely to do so again, forming a life-long, life-saving habit.

Take the time to plan for safety along with your menu and guest list. Keep fire exits visible and accessible. Practice fire drills. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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