There are specific risks during the holiday period.
While it is generally the case that we all pay attention to safety – and arrange our insurance accordingly – at any time of year, the Christmas period shows a higher than average incidence of damage and injury. This is especially the case in terms of fire risk.
The winter season brings with it higher usage of heating and cooking equipment which contributes to increased chances of fire. Alongside that, any such fire can be made more serious – or even caused – by the familiar seasonal lights, decorations, candles, card displays and so on.
Figures show that there are about 3,000 accidental fires per month across the country at this time of year. That is about 100 per day. Some of these result directly from electrical Christmas decorations or candles. Others have their point of origin in the kitchen area or result from some defect in heating systems. Should a flame start somewhere, the probability is that festive decorations will immediately provide fuel to make it worse.
Luckily, there are common-sense approaches that can reduce or eliminate the risks.
Start by paying attention to all the equipment in the home that can cause a spark or flame. Is everything in good working order? Has it been checked and serviced? This also applies to all the fire safety devices (eg smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as fire extinguishers).
Next, focus on things that are holiday specific: decorations, cards, trees, lights and any display items that use electricity or candles. Apart from checking that all these are in good working order and not crowded together in ways that could be disastrous, pay specific attention to time and changed personal schedules.
During the working year, we all typically have the same pattern. We use the same devices every morning and probably check that they are switched off before we leave for work. This changes during the holidays, when we could easily be doing things at different times of day and without paying as much attention as usual.
One of the key points in fire safety involves not leaving equipment unattended. While this applies to cooking and heating, it is also important when using lights. Even when we have safety devices in place to warn us, the best approach is not to leave things running when you are not present.
A simple checklist is useful:
- Has all new or seldom-used equipment been checked for safety?
- Have flammable displays and decorations been placed safely away from anything that could start a fire?
- Are any candles safely used and carefully placed in safe areas?
- Is everything checked and/or turned off before going to bed or going out?
While home fire accidents are fairly uncommon, the impact they have on people’s lives is devastating. Few people have insurance that covers everything they own. More importantly, very few people put plans or cover in place to enable them to deal with alternative accommodation costs and the related costs involved in the complete disruption of their lives.
This all can be avoided with a combination of careful checking and sensible cover.