Burn Center Offers Winter Holiday Safety Tips

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LIVINGSTON—Holidays are times when people enjoy spending with family and friends. During this time, many choose to decorate their homes and places of work to further cherish the holiday feeling with trees, signs, lights, and candles. Unfortunately, the holiday season can be a time for accidents and injuries. Any change in routine can result in problems.

Lisa Jones, community burn educator for The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, recalls a story shared with her by a woman who had been badly burned while preparing a holiday dinner. As she removed the turkey from the oven, the aluminum pan that held the large bird suddenly buckled. The women tried to keep the pan from falling, and hot juices poured onto her skin.

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“Holidays are a deviation from the normal routine,” says Ms. Jones. “We may visit a grandparent’s house that is not baby-proofed, or navigate a home with an unfamiliar layout, or prepare a new meal. Accidents happen because of the newness of the situation.”

Many holidays involve candles and lights, which can have a festive effect if used properly. Jones recommends that candles be positioned in a glass or nonflammable container. They should be kept away from curtains or any object that can be blown in the direction of the flame. Lighted candles should never be left unattended.

For electric lighting, UL-approved decorations should be used and there should never be more than three strands of lights connected into one extension cord. Sockets should be kept dry and outdoor lighting should only be used outside.

Educators with The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical caution that trees and wreaths should be placed far from hot, dry places, such as the fireplace. The freshest evergreens are the safest; needles should bend, not drop when brushed by hand. Live decorations should never be burned, and the same can be said for gift-wrapping.

“The inks and dyes that compose ribbons, paper and garlands break down into poisonous gases when burned. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely,” says Jones. “Instead, place paper and decorations in the trash.”

Households not used to having young children around should give some thought to their safety when visiting during the holiday season. Jones especially cautions that young children can easily be scalded from hot foods spilled down onto them from a tabletop or kitchen counter or suffer serious injury from playing too near a stove.

The following are additional safety tips from The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center:

• Keep lighters and matches away from young children.

• Check electrical lighting for fraying strand and broken bulbs before stringing.

• Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).

• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

• Place a Christmas tree in water as soon as possible and refill the container often.

• Purchase an artificial tree labeled “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

• Keep tree trimmings with small, removable, shape or breakable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

• When buying extra batteries for new toys, don’t forget about your smoke detectors.

For more information about burn prevention and fire safety, call the Saint Barnabas Burn Outreach and Education office at 1-973-322-8071.


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