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UPMC Mercy Burn Center Offers Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 27, 2012 - With the holiday season upon us, many people are decorating their homes and planning parties. Unfortunately, it’s also a season that can bring accidents and injuries. Federal officials estimate there are 128,700 fires in in the U.S. each December, which result in 415 deaths and 1,650 injuries.
“Cooking those holiday meals and decorating the house can be overwhelming. Basic safety precautions can be overlooked; something as innocent as a potholder placed too close to the stovetop can result in a fire,” said Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director, UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center.
The UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center team recommends following these tips for a safe holiday season:
• Cooking: More than half of holiday season fires stem from cooking accidents. Keep a 3-foot zone around your stove and oven. Keep towels, wooden utensils and potholders away from the stovetop. When serving meals, be especially careful with tablecloths; kids and pets can pull on the cloth, bringing down hot food like gravy or soup and causing a splash burn. Deep-fried turkey may be popular and tasty, but preparation is extremely dangerous. Consider treating yourself to this dish at a favorite restaurant instead. If you must deep fry a turkey, the fryer should be outdoors and at a safe distance from buildings. Never leave the fryer unattended.
• Candles: Holiday candles offer a lot of great scents, but open flames are always a hazard. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Make sure candles are always in sturdy holders or candlesticks. Avoid using candles on meal tables, and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Blow out candles every time you leave the room.
 Trees: Place the tree away from heat sources, such as radiators or fireplaces. If possible, place it near a smoke detector. Aluminum and metallic trees should not be decorated with lights. They may conduct electricity and cause electrocution. Use flame-resistant ornaments. Never decorate trees with unlit candles or other flammable decorations.
 Lights and Decorations: Always inspect your lights before use for damage and frayed wires. Replace them with new ones even if there is just a little damage. Some retailers now offer trade-in credits toward new lights during the holiday season. Make sure lights are marked with the UL Seal (Underwriters Laboratories Inc., an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization). Always check indoor and outdoor wires, bulbs, electrical plugs and sockets before using. Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords. Do not run electrical cords under rugs or carpets. Cords can fray and cause a fire. Turn off holiday lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
• Fireplaces: Keep the flue clean and clear before use. Use a screen over your fireplace to keep embers from escaping. Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. It ignites faster and burns very hot with high flames that can cause a chimney fire. Don’t burn your tree in the fireplace. Pine and fir needles ignite quickly and burn like tinder. The trees also contain sap which can explode.

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