Every year at this time I can't help but notice the beautiful holiday lighting and adornment. It's great to see that even homes with a "For Sale" sign on the front lawn have been bedazzled with lights! But this good deed seldom goes without also decking the halls with many holiday hazards.
You may be feeling happy for the holidays, but you'll be roasting more than chestnuts if you lose respect for the dangers inherent in the season! It is sad to say, but more homes burn during December than any other month. And electricity is not the only hazard contributing to the risk.
Candles! Gosh they look so good and the scent can set the perfect holiday mood. But always remember this about candles - they are on fire! Seasonal candles on windowsills near your beautiful curtains and shears is a perfect blend for combustion. Please be sure candles are always attended when lighted, shielded by a glass enclosure, and located so the cat doesn't knock them over. And put out all candles before snuggling in for the night!
And what about space heaters! These little gems can put just the right amount of heat right where you need it. But, they can also burn the house down. Space heaters need to be in a clear space! That might even be why they call them "space" heaters, cause if they are too close to bedding, curtains, or clothing there is a fair chance of fire. Many a home has burned even with the heater in clear space. Please be careful about flinging a towel, shirt, or sheet as you climb under the covers. Any article landing on the heater is certain to burn.
While we are thinking about space heaters, be especially cautious about the misuse of kerosene-fired space heaters. These babies can really put out the heat! But please, read the directions and follow them like your life depended on it. Of special concern is ventilation. If your space heater's directions require outside air for ventilation, crack a window or what ever it takes to be compliant. The risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning is far greater than fire. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless ensuring a sound sleep for all eternity.
Gotta love stockings hung by the fire - but gotta also be sure they are removed before the fire is a blazing! Maybe back in the day when wool stockings hung by the fire, it was not so risky, but these days those fuzzy fake flannel stockings burn better than fat lighter. So choose your effect - either stockings hung by the fireplace, or a fire in the fireplace, but certainly not both at the same time!
For some strange reason, otherwise sane and contentious homeowners decide to do their most creative electrical lighting, decorating, and wiring this time of year. Some of the more festive observations have been:
- Twelve indoor extension cords lying in a garden fountain - Eleven lighted candles each behind a curtain - Ten cracked cords in a single outlet - Nine rocking reindeer sparking on a rooftop - Eight unattended potpourri pots a bubbling and a boiling - Seven realtors cell phones charging near a wet counter - Six spliced wires wrapped with duct tape - Five frosty snowmen hanging by frayed wires - Four flood lights on a single broken fixture - Three space heaters blowing on a Christmas tree - Two light bulbs covered with red plastic bags - One extension cord draped over a chimney while the fire's a blazing
Okay, I confess! I took some liberties in putting this list together. But keep in mind that electrical hazards know no season! Our friends at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSO) estimate that about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. They also estimate that each year, about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords.
The real point is, be it in our own homes, homes we visit, or homes we list, keep an eye out for the hazards that need to be addressed. Lives depend on it. Plus, if one of your property listings burn to the ground, it makes for some very difficult disclosures!
Be safe and enjoy the holidays!
Wally Conway is President of Florida HomePro Inspections, and has been featured regularly on HGTV's "House Detective". Wally has recently written a book entitled "Secrets of the Happy Home Inspector", available at GoHomePro.com or Amazon.com. As a speaker, writer, instructor, and host of The Happy Home Inspector radio show every Saturday at 3 PM on WOKV 690, Wally blends the right amount of up-to-date information with just the right amount of humor, insight, motivation, and real-world application. Visit WallyConway.com for more information!
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