Tips for safe holidays

By Colin Foster

December 18, 2013

By Colin Foster

Staff Writer

MIAMI VALLEY — Delicious food in the oven, lights and decorations hanging outside and all through the house, children playing, chestnuts roasting on an open fire on a cold winter night …

Indeed, there are of things going on around the house during holiday season — but that’s no reason to abandon safety.

The Northern Miami Valley Red Cross urges people to take extra precautions with cooking and decorating this time of year.

“Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, and as people are cooking, entertaining, and stringing lights this holiday season, we’re urging that they take safety measures to ensure that their homes and loved ones are safe from the threat of fire,” said R. Scott Miller, executive director of the Northern Miami Valley Red Cross chapter.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving are the top three days for cooking fires. Nationally, the Red Cross responds to a disaster on average every eight minutes, with the vast majority of them being home fires.

The Red Cross has come up with a few simple steps everyone can follow to prevent home fires around the holidays:

• Holiday Entertaining

— Test your smoke alarms.

— Check food regualarly while cooking and remain in the home while cooking. Use timer as a reminder that the stove or oven is on.

— Enforce a “kid-free zone” in the cooking area and make children stay at least three feet aawy from the stove.

— Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove, oven or any appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.

— Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

— Purchase a fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen. Contact the local fire department to receive training on the prop use of extinguishers.

• Holiday Decorating

— Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.

— Keep children, pets and decorations away from lit candles.

— Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.

— Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturers’s incructions for the number of LED strands to connect. Some strings of lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.

— Use clips — not nails — to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.

— Keep decorations away from windows and doors.

There is a free American Red Cross app available for download, which provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. Apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play for Android by searching for American Red Cros or by going to

People can also test their knowledge on how to prevent home fires by taking the Fire Safety Quiz, and can educate themselves on fire prevention by visiting