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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

December 21, 2017 - 3:44pm --

It is a festive time of year for many families! As we gather with one another it is important to keep safety in mind as we put up decorations, cook and stay warm in the coming months. Below you will find important safety tips when using electric blankets, candles, shoveling snow, putting up a tree for the holidays, and cooking. Happy Holidays from OSU Extension!

Electric blankets - There is nothing better than nestling down in a warm bed during the cold winter months, but if you are using an electric blanket there are some precautions you want to make sure you are taking to keep you and your family safe.

  1. Routinely check to make sure that the cording is not bunched or twisted. This can lead to a wire breaking or overheating.
  2. Electric blankets are not recommended for infants, small children, or anyone who is unable to care for themselves or has certain health concerns such as diabetes. Women should avoid the chance of overheating by skipping the electric blanket during pregnancy.
  3. Although there is much documented research on the use of electric blankets, there is no conclusive evidence as to whether they are linked to health risks due to the electromagnetic fields (EMF’s). If you have concerns about using an electric blanket you should consult your doctor.

(Sources: Electric Blanket Institute, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)

Candle safety - The warm glow of candlelight can make your home seem even more inviting during the holidays. However, since two out of five home decoration fires are started by candles, it is important for even frequent users to be reminded of the increased risks associated with them.

  1. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns. Ensure holders are sturdy and on a level surface.
  2. The holidays are the peak time for home candle fires. During this time of year, we may have additional paper, decorations and other combustible materials in our homes.
  3. The chaos of family and friends or other visitors may be a distraction from our normal routine of extinguishing candles. Setting a timer or alarm may help you to remember to extinguish candles.
  4. Never leave a child or someone who is unable to care for themselves alone in a room with a burning candle. Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach. 36% of home candle fires are started in the bedroom so if you plan to burn a candle, consider a space where you are less likely to fall asleep.
  5. Never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home.
  6. Keep wicks trimmed and don’t allow it to burn to the bottom of the holder or container. Consider using battery powered candles in place of those that burn.

(Sources: National Candle Association, National Fire Protection Association, US Fire Administration)

Shoveling Snow - Although Ohio didn’t make the top 10 locations for snowfall accumulation, (check here for the list), we will surely have at least a few inches this winter. Whether you dread it or love it, when your driveway and walkways are covered, safe removal is of the upmost importance. Here are some tips to help you until spring…

  1. People who have already had a heart attack, have heart disease, high blood pressure, or smoke are at a greater risk for having a heart attack while shoveling snow. Snow shoveling is the cause of as many as 100 deaths per year.
  2. Shoveling snow can be vigorous exercise. The cold weather can make breathing more difficult. That combined with an elevated heart rate, decreased blood supply and decreased body temperature can put some people at risk.
  3. While some at-risk people should avoid shoveling snow, for others, it can be a terrific workout. 30 minutes of snow shoveling can burn approximately 250 calories.
  4. If you are going to shovel snow:
    1. Take it slow, stretch, push snow rather than lifting, using your legs, not your back
    2. Do not overfill your shovel.
    3. Shovel fresh powdery snow rather than ice or snow that has been walked or driven on.
    4. Do not eat or smoke while shoveling snow.

(Sources:, National Safety Council, US Department of Labor)

Holiday Tree Care - As the holidays are upon us many of us will be celebrating by decorating our homes with a tree. Here are some safety tips for ensuring safety when showcasing your tree in your home:

  • Place your tree a good distance away from any heat sources like fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters (three feet is a good distance). Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Make sure your live tree is fresh. How to tell:
    • Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
    • When bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
  • Cut about two inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Make sure the stand has wide-spread feet for stability.
  • Keep the tree stand full of water. Fresh cut trees will suck up lots of water, it is important to check this daily.
  • Always turn off tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Replace worn (loose bulb connections or broken cords) strings of lights.
  • Use lights for what they are labeled for such as, indoor or outdoor usage.
  • Lights and ornaments may look like appealing toys to pets, many of which may be dangerous if ingested or chewed. Other decorative items that are potentially toxic or dangerous include mistletoe, poinsettia plants, lilies, tinsel, electrical cords, gift-wrap ribbons and lit candles. Do not let pets drink water in the base of your live Christmas tree if you have added plant preservatives.
  • If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled “Fire Resistant.”

(Sources: OSU College of Vet Medicine, Ohio University Risk Management and Safety Department, and Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan)

Cooking Safety Tips – Many of us will be in the kitchen a little extra during the holiday season to prepare all of the yummy, delicious treats that we are used to indulging in during this time of year. The Division of State Fire Marshal office offers some good tips on cooking safety. The following factsheet provides great information on cooking safety at: Below are some cooking safety points to take note of:

  • Have a safety zone: keep children and pets three feet away from the stove and oven.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you’re cooking multiple dishes, ask for help.
  • Never hold a child or pet while cooking.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.
  • Keep potholders, oven mitts, towels and anything flammable away from your stovetop.
  • Clean food and grease from burners and the stove top.
  • If you must use a turkey fryer, keep it outside, away from buildings and other structures, such as garages, carports and decks. Never leave the turkey fryer unattended. The turkey should be thawed prior to frying. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep an ABC multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water on a grease fire. Water and grease are a dangerous combination. Water can cause hot grease to splatter.
  • If you are cooking and a fire starts, turn off the heat source, put a lid on it, and get out of your home!
  • Have a working smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm greatly reduces your chances of dying in a fire.

(Source: Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshal)

For additional information on any of these topics, please call the OSU Extension, Butler County, at (513) 887-3722, or in Middletown at (513) 424-5351, ext. #3722.

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