Safety Tips for Decking the Halls

Holiday candle and tree decorationsHaul out the holly, string up the lights, and hang the stockings by the chimney (with care)!

The holiday season is finally here, which means it’s time to deck the halls with all kinds of festive decorations.

Our Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents want to ensure your holidays are as merry and bright as possible, so before you adorn your mantle with garland and dangle mistletoe over your door, please read these holiday decorating safety tips.

Christmas trees

Trimming the tree is the main decorating event in many households, but the tree can become a fire hazard if it’s dried out.

Remember to replenish the water in your tree stand on a daily basis, so that your tree remains healthy and hydrated for the duration of the holiday season.

Holiday foliage

Poinsettias, holly, Jerusalem cherries, and mistletoe are all toxic if ingested. If you have pets or small children in the house, avoid using these decorations or opt for the artificial versions.

Artificial snow

If you’re longing for a white Christmas, spraying windows with artificial snow can give your house a frosty glow – even if you live in a warm climate. However, spray-on snow can irritate your lungs, so make sure to follow the directions carefully and only use the spray in well-ventilated areas.

Fireplaces

Adorning the mantle with garlands, stockings, and other decorations is a holiday tradition in many households, but keep these trimmings clear of working fireplaces. You should also be careful when using fire salts, which produce colored flames, since they are highly toxic if ingested.

Lights

Before hanging lights indoors or outdoors, check the strings for cracked sockets, broken bulbs, or frayed/bare wires. Also, only use lights that are approved by a national testing lab, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA.

Do not use electric lights on metallic trees because faulty lights can cause branches to become charged and possibly electrocute someone.

If you’re using outdoor lights, make sure they are approved for that use and plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter device.

Candles

Flickering candlelight can give your home a cozy, warm glow, but candles cause more than 11,000 fires every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If you’re using candles to decorate for the holidays, keep a close eye on them when they’re lit, and don’t leave the room without extinguishing the flames. Never put a lit candle on a tree.

Fry the Turkey, Not the House!

Thanksgiving is near and visions of fried turkeys already are dancing in more than a few heads.

Yet even as you are salivating, our Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents hasten to caution you. The old joke that men love cooking only if it involves flames and danger is not so funny after an accident. Every year too many folks are harmed and homes are burned due to the combination of large pots of hot oil and big turkeys. Your homeowners insurance may respond for the fire damages and your health insurance for the emergency room visit, but is that really the new Thanksgiving tradition you had in mind?

Fried turkey can be a great alternative to traditional oven-roasted fare, but be certain to take into account the much higher risk factors. Use a fryer designed specifically for turkeys, rather than jury-rigging other cooking equipment.

Safe Frying Tips

Once you have the proper fryer, follow a few tips from the experts that can make the difference between taste sensation and flaming disaster:

  • Turkey deep fryers should always be placed outdoors, on a flat, preferably concrete surface located a safe distance away from anything combustible. Never use a turkey fryer in the garage, on a wooden deck, or anywhere near the house.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Even after you are finished cooking, do not let pets or children near the unit. The oil in the fryer remains extremely hot for hours after cooking.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy. The best is a Class K wet chemical fire extinguisher. If fire erupts, do not throw water on it. Water cannot extinguish a grease fire and will cause the oil to spatter violently. Use common sense. If the fire is small, use the extinguisher, but dial 911 for emergency assistance before the blaze becomes unmanageable.
  • Use oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut or canola.
  • Do not overfill the turkey fryer. If oil spills over?because the turkey is too large or the oil level is too high?flames can engulf the unit and endanger bystanders. Before frying, conduct this test: Put the unseasoned turkey into an empty fryer. Then fill the fryer with water until the turkey is fully submerged. If the turkey fits comfortably, mark the water level. When preparing to cook, dry the fryer thoroughly. Then fill it with oil to an inch shy of your level mark to allow for expansion of the oil as it heats.
  • Thaw the turkey completely and dry it with paper towels. Injected marinades are fine, but season the turkey skin with a dry rub. Excess water in a partially frozen or wet turkey will cause the pot to bubble over, resulting in a fire hazard. The National Turkey Federation recommends 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds of bird before cooking in a turkey fryer.
  • Most turkey fryers do not come with a thermostat, and if left unattended may overheat, resulting in combustion. Turkey fryer thermometers and other accessories are available.
  • Use heavy oven mitts or well-insulated potholders. The lid, handles, and sides of the cooking pot become very hot, posing a severe burn threat. Protective eyewear is also recommended.

Our Trusted Choice independent agents always stands ready to offer advice and a comprehensive review of your current insurance coverage and needs. But when it comes to safety, remember: The best claim is the one you never have to make. Whether you’re tending a deep fryer or waiting on the timer to go off on your oven, be safe this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

How to Deep Fry a Delicious Feast >>

Make Fire Emergency Readiness an October Tradition

Home Fire Extinguisher Annual CheckAdd a new custom to the October traditions of Halloween candy, costumes and setting back your clocks: The end of Daylight Savings Time is the perfect time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and to check the readiness of your fire extinguishers.

Smoke alarms are commonplace in homes, but fire extinguishers are still underutilized and misunderstood safety tools for many renters and homeowners. Your Trusted Choice® agents at Neely Taylor Wade Insurance want you to know that owning the proper extinguishers and understanding their correct use could mean the difference between a major fire loss to your property and a relatively minor cleanup.

If you need to brush up on your fire safety knowledge, a great first step would be to study the animated fire-extinguisher tutorial provided at FireExtinguisherTraining.com. With clear and simple explanations, it reveals the four elements necessary for a fire to exist — oxygen, heat, fuel and a chemical reaction — and how the right extinguisher works by removing one or more of those elements. The tutorial also clarifies the different types of fires — classified as A, B, C, D and K — and the specific extinguishers designed for each. Determining the most likely classification of fire to affect your home helps you purchase the proper fire extinguishers.

If you already have purchased appropriate fire extinguishers for your home or apartment, congratulations! But don’t let your best-laid plans be defeated. We recommend that you practice the proper use of each type of extinguisher — since the last thing you want to do when confronted by a sudden fire is to read directions or, worse, waste the power of your extinguisher through improper technique.

So, every October, when it’s time to set your clocks back, make it a tradition to change your smoke alarm batteries and to follow these five extinguisher inspection tips from the experts at the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association. Do these every year as part of your fire emergency readiness:

• Be sure the fire extinguisher is visible and easily accessible.
• Be sure the safety seal is not broken or missing.
• Be sure the gauge or pressure indicator arrow points towards the green section, indicating correct pressure.
• Be sure the extinguisher shows no corrosion or leakage and has no obvious damage, such as dents, gouges or burn marks.
• Be sure the operating instructions are legible.

Smoke alarms and the proper use of fire extinguishers can help minimize the risk of a small fire turning into a major conflagration. But when the worst happens, the proper insurance coverage is an excellent and necessary safety net.  Talk with Your Trusted Choice® agents at Neely Taylor Wade Insurance about a review of both your safety preparations and your current insurance coverage to be sure you, your family and your valuable possessions have the protection you want and deserve.

Keep Home Fires Burning in the Proper Place

Home fires tragically result in thousands of deaths and injuries annually. And the latest statistics show clearly that working smoke alarms and proper fire extinguishers — along with proper evacuation planning — make a difference:

• In the U.S., an average of seven people die per day in home fires.
• Of all fires in structures or buildings, fires in homes cause 92% of civilian deaths.
• Fires in homes that have no smoke alarm cause 37% of home fire deaths.
• Nearly a quarter (23%) of home fire deaths happen in homes that do have smoke alarms, but the alarms do not work.
• From 2007 to 2011, the average annual direct property damage from home fires was $7.2 billion.
• The two major causes of home fires are cooking equipment, which causes 43% of home fires, and heating equipment, which causes 16%.

Sources for more information compiled by our friends at Trusted Choice:

Fire Extinguisher Training >>

Daylight Savings Time Change in October >>

How Big is the Threat of Fire? >>

Leading Causes of Home Fires >> 

Only You Can Prevent Home Fires

Fire Prevention infographic 2013

Today marks the beginning of National Fire Prevention Safety Week!

Use this infographic from our friends at Trusted Choice as a guide for protecting your home from a fire.

Steps to Prevent Fires

Oct. 7-13 is National Fire Prevention Week. In 2010, there were 3,100 unintentional deaths related to fire, smoke and flames, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts, 2012 Edition.

The risk of fire increases as we head into the cooler months. The National Safety Council asks each of us to take a few moments to prevent fires in our homes. Make your family safer by completing a home fire safety checklist and identifying fire risks in your home.

Protect your Home and Family

  • Have properly working smoke alarms
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year
  • Place smoke alarms on each floor of your home and in each bedroom
  • Plan a family escape route and practice it once a month
  • Install a home sprinkler system
  • Place fire extinguishers throughout your home and make sure everyone in the house knows how to use them

Additional fire prevention tools from the National Safety Council: