My Turn: Staying safe during the holidays | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Staying safe during the holidays

Steve Hook

Everyone wants a joyous holiday and a Happy New Year, but every winter the North Tahoe Fire District goes on many emergency calls for events that could have been avoided. To help insure those happy holidays, here are a few simple things that can save you holiday grief.One of the most frequent types of calls we go on are injuries related to falls on the ice. Wrist, shoulder, hip and head are the most common of these types of injuries. To maintain good traction wear rubber-soled shoes with a deep tread. Removal of snow from stairs and walkways and using ice melt will help to maintain good footing outside the home. Most importantly, be aware of the conditions of the surface you are walking on.Working smoke detectors throughout the house are the single most important electronic devices for you to own. Smoke detectors that are properly installed and checked monthly will provide protection even while the family sleeps. Install a smoke detector inside each bedroom and at least one on each level of the house. If you already have smoke detectors and they are more than 10 years old, dirty or greasy, it is time to replace them. A smoke detector is an inexpensive gift, and a commitment to install it for a family member who cant, will provide peace of mind long after you have said your goodbyes. Carbon monoxide detectors are again a must have for every home with natural gas appliances, a fireplace or a wood burning stove. Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion and mixes freely with the air. Unlike a smoke detector that needs to be mounted on or near the ceiling, many carbon monoxide detectors can be plugged into a wall socket. Candles are beautiful and popular during the holidays. Placing them near flammable material, in a Christmas tree, or left unattended is dangerous. Put candles on a nonflammable base and place them where children and pets wont knock them over.A fresh-cut Christmas tree in the home can add to that special warmth. Select a tree where the needles are green and when pulling on the outer branches the needles do not come off in your hand. Make a fresh cut at the base before placing in water, and always keep water around the base end of the tree. As soon as the tree begins to turn brown or the needles begin to fall, remove the tree immediately. It is important to remember that an ignited Christmas tree can make a room reach a temperature of 1,250 F in as little as 30 seconds, igniting all of the contents in that room and will produce heavy smoke that will hamper evacuating the home safely.Never dispose of your tree or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove. In our area the Tahoe Truckee Disposal Company will pickup your tree on your normal trash pickup day for free during the week of Jan. 8. The tree must be cut into a maximum 3-foot lengths, all foreign materials removed including the tree stand, and stacked near the street not buried in the snow. During the holidays, much time is spent in the kitchen preparing meals. Never leave a pot cooking on the stove unattended, if you leave the kitchen, turn off the stove. Keeping pan handles turned in and electrical cords out of reach of children will prevent scalding fluids from being pulled down on them.Your furnace should be inspected and if necessary serviced annually by a properly trained technician. Remember to change your filters.Your fireplace and woodstove needs to be inspected and cleaned annually by a professional. Always remove ashes from the fire place in a metal container with a tight fitting metal lid. Disposal of your ashes only after assuring they are completely out and cold. Safety during the holidays is the responsibility of everyone.Steve Hook is the North Tahoe Fire Districts prevention technician.