Seasonal & Holiday Safety Tips
Happy New Year from the Upper Merion Township Fire and Rescue Services
The Upper Merion Township Fire and Rescue Services wish you a safe and happy New Year’s. As you go out to celebrate the coming of the New Year, drop your keys at the door or have a designated driver for your group. Don’t make us your designated driver. Stay alive, don’t drink and drive!
Spring Safety Tips
Ah, springtime. That glorious time of year when you suddenly realize the lawn needs mowing, the garden needs weeding and the house could use a fresh coat of paint. But with many families’ budgets a little tighter this year, buying new spring-cleaning tools isn’t always possible.
Using last season’s tools is a good idea, provided they’re in good condition and can be used safely. The last thing you want to do is take a trip to the emergency room. Yet that’s exactly where more than 350,000 people end up every year, thanks to injuries from improperly used ladders, lawn mowers and power garden tools. So before you get too ambitious, take a few precautions to help keep your family safer.
- If you’re reusing last season’s lawn and garden power tools, inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. If the item is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician or replace it.
- Never carry a power tool by the cord or yank a power cord from a receptacle. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug, not the wire. Keep cords away from heat, oil and sharp edges.
- When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory by reading the owner’s manual. Be sure you know how to stop the machine in case of an emergency.
- If you have a gasoline-powered mower, store the gas in a UL Classified safety can.
- Always start your mower outdoors. Never operate it where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.
- Don’t operate an electric or gas-powered lawn mower on wet grass.
- When you’re through with power tools and garden appliances, store them away from water sources to avoid electric shock. Never use them in the rain.
- Whether your ladder is brand new or it has seen a few spring cleanings, read the instructions and warning labels before using it. They’ll help you choose the right ladder for the job and describe ladder weight and height limits.
- Remember the 4-to-1 rule. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against.
- Use a fiberglass ladder if you’re working near electricity or overhead power lines.
- If you purchase new tools this spring, look for the UL Mark, which means representative samples of the product have been tested against stringent safety standards for fire, electric shock and other safety hazards.
Summer Safety Tips
Summer is the time for outdoor cookouts, pool parties and backyard play dates – not a time for bandaging scrapes, nursing burns – or worse. Learn these important summer safety tips and make sure everyone in your family knows them by heart too. That way, it will be a summer to remember, for all the right reasons.
- Supervise constantly: Good supervision means you are able to scan the pool area every 20 seconds and be able to reach the pool in 10 seconds.
- Put multiple safety barriers between children and the pool: Install a four-foot fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate that has a locking mechanism beyond a child’s reach. Also cut overhanging tree limbs and remove chairs or ladders from the pool area to prevent children from climbing over the fence surrounding the pool.
- Always check the pool first if a child is missing: Child drowning is often a silent death that alerts no one with splashes or yells for help. Many drowning accidents happen when children have been missing for less than five minutes.
- Empty small wading pools and remove all toys after children are through playing: Infants can drown in just a few inches of water. Floats, balls and other toys may attract children to the pool when it is unattended.
- Keep grills at least 10 feet from any structure: Grilling mishaps cause more than 8,300 fires and send 3,000 people to the emergency room each year. Never grill indoors or near garages or porches, even if it’s raining.
- Have a spray bottle or fire extinguisher handy: An unexpected flare up can burn more than your burgers. Use a spray bottle to avoid flare ups and have a fire extinguisher nearby. Also, coals get hot – in some cases up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit – so dispose of charcoal away from kids and pets and cool it down with a hose.
- Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire: Both can cause an explosion. When grilling, use insulated, flame-retardant mitts and long-handled barbeque tongs and utensils to handle food and coals.
- Check gas grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks: If the tank valve or grill needs repair, do not attempt to do it yourself. Take it to your local home improvement store or qualified appliance repair person.
- Inspect outdoor decorative lights carefully: Some families add backyard ambience with outdoor decorative lighting. Do not connect more than three midget light string sets together. Light strings with screw-in bulbs should have a maximum of 50 bulbs connected together. Be sure to use light strings bearing the UL Mark, which means UL has tested samples of the product for risk of fire, electric shock and other hazards.
Carefully inspect backyard playground equipment: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 70 percent of all playground-related deaths occur on home playground equipment. Make sure equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed and bolts are not protruding. For more information on playground safety.
Fourth of July Safety
The Fourth of July traditionally presents the biggest fire danger to citizens and is the cause of a great number of fires and burn injuries due to fireworks. Fireworks include devices which make a visible or audible effect when set off. Fires are caused by careless handling of fireworks in areas exposed to sparks or live fireworks.
Nationally, more than $36 million in property is damaged each year due to fireworks.
The Fourth of July also is responsible for many burn injuries associated with premature detonation or misuse of fireworks. Most fireworks burn injuries involve children. These are usually burns to the hands and eyes causing vision impairment and disfiguring scars. Sparklers are the biggest danger to children. A tip temperature at the end of the sparkler reaches 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and can easily cause a burn.
Leave fireworks to the professionals.
Restrictions on fireworks are for a good cause. No matter how small or large a fireworks may be, it is a potential fire starter. But it is still possible to celebrate and enjoy the holiday. Families can consult the newspaper or local activity calendar and attend one of several approved, licensed fireworks displays.
Halloween is meant to be spooky and fun but it's also important to keep it safe for your children, your friends and yourself.
A simple ghost costume made from an ordinary bed sheet can be consumed by flames if ignited. Purchase only flame-retardant costumes and masks. And be sure costumes fit properly to prevent tripping and falling. Masks should allow full vision.
If trick-or-treating door-to-door, wear something reflective, carry a flashlight and travel in groups for safety. Keep well off the streets and remove masks before crossing the streets. Better yet, have a spooky party and stay in with your friends.
Check all treats carefully before eating them. Report anything suspicious. Instead of a candle to light a jack-o-lantern, use a small flashlight or a liquid light that glows for several hours after you bend it.
Never use combustible materials in a haunted house, especially styrofoam and other plastics, gauze type materials and other loose flammable such as leaves and papers. These materials can quickly cause the spread of fire. This situation can be especially dangerous when the fire starts in a confined space such as the dark interior of a haunted house display.
Stay safe and have a fun time trick-or-treating!
Halloween Safety - Safe and Spooky Home Decorating
Don't Frankenstein Your Lights:
When purchasing electrical decorations, make sure to shop at a reputable retailer and look for the UL Mark. Don't plug in electrical decorations that draw more watts than the rating of the cord. Use special, heavy duty extension cords for high wattage decorations such as fog machines and electrically-powered inflatable decorations.
Inspect Decorations with Fiendish Care:
Look for loose connections, frayed or bare wires, and broken or cracked sockets when using lights to decorate the home for Halloween. When hanging lights, use plastic hooks or clips to reduce the risk of electric shock and fire hazards. Never nail or staple light strings. Look for a red UL Mark to indicate that lights are certified for both indoor and outdoor use. A green UL Mark indicates certification for indoor use only.
Beware of Candles:
According to the NFPA, candles are the cause of approximately 15,000 reported house fires every year. To help prevent avoidable accidents, place candles far from decorations, window treatments and paper to avoid potential home fires. Candles, especially in a jack-o-lantern, should be off the ground and out of children's reach. Try battery-operated LED candles for an even safer option.
Light the Way for Trick-or-Treaters:
Place lights on the outside edge of walkways and make sure all decorations are clear of where kids will be walking. Decorations that obstruct a walkway could potentially cause eager trick-or-treaters to trip or fall. Avoid using candles to light your walkway.
Clear the Cobwebs and Look for the UL Mark:
When stringing up those skeleton and pumpkin decorations, check for the UL Mark on light strings, electrical decorations and extension cords. The UL Mark means the product has been found free of foreseeable hazards and is safer for your family.
Halloween Safety - Safe and Spooky Costumes
Say Boo! To Unsafe Costumes:
Look for fire-resistant or flame-retardent materials - such as nylon - when purchasing costumes, fabric and accessories. Although these labels do not mean these items are fire-proof, it does indicate the fabric will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source.
Don't Trip up Your Goblins:
Avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts, which could increase the risk of tripping and are more likely to come in contact with candles or other ignition sources.
Unmask Your Little Ghouls:
Try to avoid outfitting your children in masks and instead use face paint. Masks can obstruct vision, and children may find it hard to breathe when wearing them. If a mask is used, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision.
Be Safe and Bright:
Light and bright fabrics will be clearly visible to motorists. If your children do wear dark materials, decorate costumes with reflective tape or carry a flashlight for better visibility.
Halloween Safety - Light the Way for Trick-or-Treaters
Place lights on the outside edge of walkways and make sure all decorations are clear of where kids will be walking. Decorations that obstruct a walkway could potentially cause eager trick-or-treaters to trip or fall. Avoid using candles to light your walkway.
Thanksgiving Holiday Safety - Turkey Fryers
A longtime favorite in the southern United States, the delicious deep-fried turkey has quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs. While some people rave about this tasty creation, there is concern that backyard chefs may be sacrificing safety for good taste.
Here’s why using a turkey fryer can be dangerous:
- Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot.
- If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
- Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can also cause a spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire.
- With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
- The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, here are some tips for safer use:
- Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors, located a safe distance from buildings and flammable material.
- Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
- Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don’t watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. After use, continue to exercise extreme caution as the oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours.
- To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
- Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix and water can cause oil to spill over, starting a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.
- Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
- If the fryer starts a fire, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.
Thanksgiving Holiday Safety
Home Cooking Fires Peak on Thanksgiving Day
Home cooking fires are three times more likely to occur on Thanksgiving Day any other day of the year. It’s easy to get wrapped up with guests; however it is imperative that cooking never be left unattended. Keep a 3-foot “kid free” zone around all cooking appliances and never hold children while cooking. Turn all handles toward the inside of the stove. Avoid wearing any loose clothing that could ignite. Keep all combustible items away from the stove and clean the stovetop of food and grease. The popularity of turkey fryers has increased as well as the number of fires and injuries from them. Fryers can easily tip over, overflow, overheat and ignite if they are overfilled. Follow all manufacturers’ directions and safety instructions.
Winter Safety: Adopt A Hydrant – Save A Life
The Upper Merion Township Fire and Rescue Services wants to remind citizens as they clear their driveways and sidewalks this winter that if there is a fire hydrant on or near your property, please take a few moments and shovel the snow away from it as well. Clearing the snow away from a hydrant increases its visibility and can save precious time when firefighters need additional water to fight a fire.
Please clear a path around three feet around the hydrant and shovel a path from the street or roadway up to the fire hydrant. Fire hydrants that are blocked or concealed by snow may potentially delay gaining a water supply, which ultimately disrupts the timely manner in which firefighters are able to fight the fire.
We strongly encourage all residents to adopt a hydrant on their street during this winter. With the winter season on the way there is concern that hydrants may become hard to locate. In addition, please make sure your street address signage on your mailboxes and homes is also clear from snow to allow proper identification and make it easier for emergency crews to location your house during emergency responses.
The Upper Merion Township Fire and Rescue Services want citizens to know that they appreciate their help in the removal of snow from around local fire hydrants.
Winter Holiday Safety
A lighted tree, brightly colored presents, stockings hung and a blazing fire - the scene is quintessential for the holiday. But is it safe? Whenever you add fire to a scene, you need to add an extra level of caution. There’s a reason the holiday classic A Visit from St. Nicholas said that the stockings were hung “with care.” Here are some tips for fireplace safety around the holidays:
Hang stockings with care
Never hang stockings in front of a burning fire. Stockings can be hung when the fire is not lit, but should be moved to another location when the fireplace is in use.
Manage your mantel
When decorating your fireplace mantel, be sure to keep combustible materials such as greenery or ribbons away from any possible spark or flame.
Steer your tree clear
Your tree should be positioned at least three feet away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources.
Use candles with care
Keep candles away from items that easily catch fire, such as decorations, window treatments and paper. Also, be sure candles are kept far from children’s reach and are extinguished any time you leave the room.
Toss your wrap
Never burn used wrapping paper in the fireplace as it may cause intense flash fires. Consider recycling instead.
Winter Holiday Safety Tips
Christmas trees that are not kept moist can present a very serious fire hazard. A dried out Christmas tree can be totally consumed by fire in less than 30 seconds. Take special precautions when buying your Christmas tree. Trees with brown shedding needles should be rejected. If the tree looks green and fresh, take a long needle and bend it between your thumb and forefinger. If it snaps, the tree is too dry. Look for trees with needles that bend. When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is dry. When you bring a tree home, cut about an inch off the end of the trunk. This will remove the dried end and allow the tree to absorb water. Make checkerboard cuts into the base at different angles to make a greater surface for water absorption. Always turn off lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave your home. A short circuit in any of this equipment could cause a fire. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. Damaged insulation in lighting on a metallic tree could cause the entire tree to be charged with electricity. To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a metal tree, never fastened onto it. Keep children away from light sets and electrical decorations. All lights present the problem of shock and casualty hazards for curious kids. When you are stringing the lights on your tree, be careful how you place them. Keep all bulbs turned away from gifts and paper ornaments. Lights in windows can cause curtains and drapes to ignite.
Candles are a traditional and beautiful part of the season. But they are still a direct source of fire in your home. Keep candles a safe distance from other things. And remember that a flickering flame is a thing of fascination to little children. Keep candles out of their reach.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
- Always use non-flammable holders.
- Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
- Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
Dispose of gift wrappings soon after opening presents. A room full of paper lying around on the floor is just one more holiday hazard. Place trash in an approved container. Do not burn wrappings in the fireplace. They may ignite suddenly and cause a flash fire.
One of the best Christmas gifts you can get someone is a smoke detector. A smoke detector is worth so much, possibly a loved one's life, yet so inexpensive. Over 90 percent of fire deaths occur in residential dwellings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are asleep. Smoke detectors alert occupants when a fire is still small and there is still time to escape.
Holly and mistletoe can be fatal to a small child and the smaller the child, the smaller the dose that can cause serious medical problems. Poinsettia leaves are not fatal if swallowed, but can cause a skin rash and an upset stomach. Call 9-1-1 if your children ingest any of these holiday plants.
Trimming The Tree
When choosing the finishing touches for decorating your tree, purchase tinsel or artificial icicles of a non-leaded material. Leaded materials may be hazardous if eaten by children or pets. Avoid any decorations that tend to break easily or have sharp edges. Keep tree trimmings that are small or have removable parts out of the reach of your child. These pieces may be swallowed.
Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the UL label from Underwriters Laboratories or another reputable testing agency. Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Check labels of lights to be used outdoors to see that they are suitable for outdoor use. Never use indoor lights outside. Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, walls or other firm support to protect them from wind damage. Use no more than three sets of lights per single extension. Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and do not use more than the recommended number of lights in one circuit.
Holiday Candle Safety
Avoid Using Lit Candles
If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.
Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.
Holiday Electric Safety
Maintain Your Holiday Lights
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!
Winter Holiday Safety - Never Burn Wrapping Paper
This holiday season when you’re cleaning up from opening all the presents, make sure you do not burn wrapping paper or ribbons in a fireplace or wood stove. Doing this will create dangerous toxic fumes and carbon monoxide from the dyes, inks and coatings in many papers. Metallic, glossy or other treated paper can also produce sparks. Burning wrapping paper is dangerous and is even illegal in some states. These chemicals can also build up in chimneys and can cause fires if highly combustible creosote is ignited. Recycle regular wrapping paper and flattened gift boxes. Toss any foil or metallic wrapping paper and ribbons in the regular garbage.
Holiday Safety Tips
Use Only Nonflammable Decorations
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
Don't Block Exits
Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.
Never Put Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace
Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.
Winter Holiday Safety - Ladder Safety Tips
Holiday Ladder Safety
With the holiday season upon us, the Upper Merion Township Fire and Rescue Services wants to remind families to stay safe while using ladders in and around the home. When decorating or cleaning, ladders help get household jobs done, however they can also be a safety risk if not used properly. This holiday season and throughout the year, follow these ladder safety tips:
- When using a ladder outdoors, stay away from all power lines or other overhead hazards. Coming in contact with live wires can be fatal.
- Make sure rungs are dry before climbing the ladder. Do not use in inclement weather.
- Use the proper size ladder for the job and make sure the ladder is secure..
- Place the ladder on level ground and make sure all locks are engaged.
- Rest the ladder against a firm surface at the correct angle. Follow the 4-to-1 rule for extension ladders: for each 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact, move the base of the ladder out 1 foot. If the ladder is at the wrong angle there is a greater risk of it slipping out from under you.
- Always have someone foot the ladder for you (facing the structure) by placing their foot against the beam of the ladder. Face the ladder when climbing; keep both hands on the rungs and wear slip-resistant shoes. Keep both feet on the ladder at all times.
- If you need to carry items up the ladder, use a belt or shoulder bag. Always hold onto the ladder with one hand while working.
- Keep your body centered on the ladder and gauge your position by your belt buckle. If your buckle passes beyond the ladder rail, you are overreaching and at risk for falling. Do not overstretch while on the ladder, if necessary climb down and move the ladder. Remove any equipment / supplies that could fall before moving the ladder.
- For a stepladder, the safe standing level is the second rung from the top, and for an extension ladder, it's the fourth rung from the top. Never go higher than these rungs.
- Follow the manufacture's guidelines and inspect the ladder for any damage, use common sense and never take risks.
Winter Holiday Fire Safety Tips for Merchants
Every year at about this time, we ask that you take the time to assure that fire safety is taken into consideration while you get ready and experience the Holiday Shopping Season. As such, we would like to remind you of a number of issues of which you need to be aware:
Means of Egress - the exit ways from your space
Section 605 of the Fire Prevention Code requires" Aisles, passageways or stairways in any structure shall not be obstructed with tables, showcases, Christmas trees, vending machines or other obstructions." It would be a good idea to mark the exit passageways from the display areas to the exits with floor paint or other markings; this makes it easy for staff to understand the restrictions on storage.
The Code goes on to state "Display boards, signs, coat racks and any other moveable equipment that obstructs the path of egress travel shall be prohibited. Draperies and similar hangings shall not obscure an exit."
Section 610 of the Fire Prevention Code requires "All exit signs shall be maintained visible and all illuminated exit signs shall be illuminated at all times the structure is occupied."
Your fire sprinkler system is your FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE against fires. It is absolutely imperative that it be maintained properly. The biggest problem we encounter with the maintenance of such systems is improper storage practices. Storage is NOT permitted within 18 inches of the level of the sprinkler heads. For most of you, those with dropped ceilings, this means that storage is not permitted within 22 inches of the ceiling.
Each of your stores has at least one electrical distribution panel; regulations require that a 3-foot clearance space be maintained in front of those panels.
The corridors behind your stores are NOT storage areas, for stock or for trash. Trash must be stored within the store, not blocking exits, until the time designated by mall management.
If you have any questions regarding fire safety, please feel free to call one of us:
- William Henderson - Fire Inspector 610-205-8559
- William Daywalt - Deputy Fire Marshal 610-205-8554
- John Waters - Chief Fire Marshal 610-205-8512
Practice these safety tips during your normal daily activities to ensure your business and the public are safe.
We wish you a prosperous and safe Holiday Season.
Hotel and Motel Safety
When traveling, it is important to become familiar with your surroundings. Review the following safety tips to assist you in preparing for fire safe traveling.
- When making your reservations, ask if the hotel or motel has smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.
- When traveling, take a flashlight with you.
- Read the fire evacuation plan carefully. If one is not posted in your room, request one from the front desk.
- Locate the two exits from your room.
- Count the number of doors between your room and the exits. This will assist you in the need of an emergency evacuation.
- Locate the fire alarms on your floor.
- Never smoke in bed.
Life Safety Steps
- If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.
- Always use a stairwell, never an elevator. The elevator could stop at the floor of the fire.
- If the fire is not in your room, leave if it is safe to do so. Be sure to take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.
- To check the hallway for fire, touch the door with the back of your hand to test the temperature. If the door is cool, get low to the floor, brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Crawl low in the smoke to the nearest exit; the freshest air is near the floor.
- If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Turn off the fans and air conditioners. Call 9-1-1 to give your location and signal from your room window.