Halloween safety advice: Fire industry issues recommendations for a secure celebration

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As Halloween arives, fire and rescue services and industry organisations from various regions highlight the need for caution to ensure safe celebrations.

The National Fire Protection Associations (NFPA) and Fire departments from Northern Ireland, South Wales and Devon and Somerset have issued guidelines on how to safely partake in Halloween festivities, with a strong emphasis on the use of fireworks and the dangers they present.

Halloween decorations and fire risks

“From decorating with jack-o-lanterns and other seasonal items to costume parties and trick-or-treating, many hallmarks of Halloween can present potential fire hazards,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA.

According to recent data from NFPA, in the US, candles resulted in an average of 7,400 home fires annually, causing 90 deaths, 670 injuries, and damages amounting to $291 million from 2015 to 2019.

Furthermore, decorations were the root cause for an average of 790 home fires annually, leading to one civilian death, 26 injuries, and a property damage worth $13 million. Significantly, 44 percent of these fires ignited when decorations were in proximity to heat sources like candles.

NFPA recommendations for a fire-safe Halloween

The NFPA proposes several guidelines to enjoy a safe Halloween:

  • Decorations: Ensure highly flammable items such as cornstalks, crepe paper, and dried flowers are distanced from open flames or heat sources.
  • Candles: Be cautious with candles. Position them in supervised areas, away from trick-or-treaters’ pathways. Educate children about open flame dangers, and always snuff out candles before leaving.
  • Jack-o-lanterns: Using glow sticks or electric candles is the safest. If opting for real candles, ensure they’re away from other decorations.
  • Costumes: Steer clear of fabrics that can catch fire easily. If crafting costumes, select materials that aren’t flammable.
  • Visibility: Equip children with flashlights or glow sticks. If wearing masks, ensure clear visibility.
  • Smoke Alarms: A timely reminder to verify that smoke alarms function properly.
  • Exits: Ensure exits remain unobstructed by decorations.

Halloween safety advice from Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS)

According to NIFRS, everyone should exercise extra vigilance due to fire hazards associated with Halloween.

On 31 October 2022, NIFRS responded to 84 incidents.

This was a reduction from the previous year when they were called out 90 times in the same 24-hour period.

NIFRS Station Commander Karen McDowell said: “We understand that you want to celebrate, however if you plan to use fireworks, sparklers or candles please follow our fire safety advice.

“Please remember that fireworks are dangerous and can set fire to buildings and clothing.

“The explosive force of a firework can also cause serious injury, particularly to your hands and face.

“Only light them outside, in an open space, and keep children and pets well away from them.

“Sparklers can also cause serious injury, especially without proper supervision, as they burn at very high temperatures.

“Never give them to children under the age of 5 and always wear gloves when using them.

“Fancy dress costumes can be highly flammable. If you’re making your own, don’t use flammable materials such as black plastic bags.”

The advice also emphasised the importance of supervising children, ensuring costumes are labelled with safety marks, and understanding the “STOP, DROP and ROLL” method if clothing catches fire.

Safety advice from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS)

SWFRS is also preparing for a busy period, with a particular emphasis on the dangers of fireworks.

Head of Community Safety and Partnerships, Group Manager Bleddyn Jones, commented: “Our message is simple – be sensible and look after yourselves, and consider your neighbours and any animals that are nearby.

“We attend many unsupervised fires, and see many injuries caused by fireworks and out of control bonfires.”

SWFRS urged the public to attend professionally organised firework displays, highlighting the risks of at-home celebrations.

Use battery powered candles says Devon and Somerset FRS

Firefighters from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service have advised people to add battery-powered tealights to their shopping lists as they head out in search of the perfect pumpkin.

The fire services said that this alternative to traditional candles will prevent decorations and Halloween costumes being set alight and reduce the number of callouts fire and rescue services attends.

Around one in eight dwelling fires start with naked flames, such as matches, candles and cigarettes and Halloween is a high-risk festivity for the fire service.

Kate Saint, Head of Prevention Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Nearly half of fatal fires we have attended in the southwest in the past year have involved accidents with naked flames, highlighting such how dangerous they really can be.

“If you knock over a pumpkin with a battery-powered tealight, or leave it on overnight, nobody gets hurt, and nothing gets damaged. They are a stress-free option and create just the same effect as a naked flame.”

My Kitchen Nightmare

Elsewhere, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has published a Halloween-themed kitchen fire safety video, playing on the popular Scream franchise.

IFSJ Comment

The emphasis on Halloween safety advice from various fire departments is a timely reminder of the potential hazards that come with the festive season.

With the increasing popularity of Halloween celebrations and home firework displays, it’s crucial to heed expert advice.

By raising awareness and providing clear guidelines, these organisations are playing a vital role in ensuring that Halloween remains a fun, yet safe, occasion for all.

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