Staying safe this holiday season in the mid-Willamette Valley

Staying safe this holiday season in the mid-Willamette Valley

Christmas is right around the corner, and the holiday season is heating up. But the Albany Fire Department wants to make sure your holidays don’t get too exciting, at least in a bad way.

Deputy Fire Marshal Sandy Roberts said there are a lot of simple steps community members can take to avoid a winter disaster this season.

Heating your home

Space heaters are a popular appliance during the winter months, but they can also be extremely dangerous.

Roberts said to keep 3 feet of clearance around a space heater at all times to ensure it doesn’t catch anything on fire.

Winter Safety 01

When using space heaters this winter, be sure to unplug them overnight and plug them directly into the wall outlet instead of into a power strip.

“People don’t often think about the things in their house as fuel,” Roberts said. “Blankets, the couch, other furniture — all of these things are very flammable.”

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Residents shouldn’t use a space heater overnight as these flammable items may catch fire while you’re asleep.

Space heaters and any other appliances that may be running for long periods of time need to be plugged in directly to an outlet and not a power strip, according to Roberts.

She also suggested getting a newer space heater if possible, as these models tend to have safety functions installed like automatically shutting off if it falls over.

Christmas trees

Bringing a real Christmas tree into a home may make the house smell pine fresh, but if not taken care of, that Douglas fir could quickly start a fire.

“Watering your tree makes a huge difference in how dry it is,” Roberts said. “And people don’t realize how quickly a dried-out tree can go up in flames.”

Winter Safety 02

It is important to have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the home. Real Christmas trees can catch fire quickly if not properly maintained.

Once a fire sparks, residents only have about three minutes to get out of the building before smoke engulfs the structure, Roberts said. Housing materials are often synthetic and very flammable, and that, paired with toxic smoke, gives a very limited amount of time to exit safely.

Having properly operating smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors also are crucial during the winter and throughout the year. There should be carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of a home for any gas-fueled appliances, according to Roberts.

Residents should also avoid overloading electrical sockets and should be familiar with their home’s electrical capacity.

Winter driving

Roads can get slick with increased rainfall and snow. Drivers should slow down during any of these conditions and plan ahead.

When it comes to fog, Roberts said to use low-beam lights and give plenty of space between your car and the one in front of you.

If going on a trip, drivers should share travel plans with a friend or family member and have an emergency kit with first-aid items: jumper cables, flares, water, blankets and cold weather clothes.

Flooding and high water is also a concern during the winter.

Winter Safety 04

Snow on the roads in downtown Albany on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021.

“People take the chance when going into flowing water,” Roberts said. “But it doesn’t take much flow to take a car.”

As a general rule, drivers should never drive into water on a roadway, even if it doesn’t appear to be that deep.

Sharing the knowledge

Roberts suggests using these tips to as a teaching opportunity.

“When you’re taking some of these safety steps, share that with your kids,” she said. “Let them know why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

This can be as simple as telling a child why it’s important to never leave a pan on a stove unwatched or explaining why you’re changing the batteries in a smoke alarm.

“When the emergency happens, you want to be prepared,” Roberts said.

Maddie Pfeifer covers public safety for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or Ma[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter via @maddiepfeifer_

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