Keeping the Happy in Holidays


For most, Christmas is a time of joy, family gatherings and giving. About a month before Christmas, decorations are unpacked and put in place for all to enjoy their wondrous display. The sounds of children’s laughter echo through our homes as we close in on that special day.

But unfortunately, for some, the Holidays can be a time of not so peaceful reflection due to preventable mishaps such as residential fires. Emergency management is about reducing vulnerabilities to hazards and coping with disasters. Taking the necessary steps to reduce risk in fire and life safety matters is an important facet of emergency management.

It’s an area that Joe Sobol knows well. Since 2012, he has been the regional manager of emergency management at Eastern Health. As a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer for 32 years, Joe has had a considerable amount of hands-on experience in this area.

“Responding to a residential fire at any time can be devastating, but during the holidays, it just goes to a different level,” said Joe. “Many residential fires can be avoided, and National Home Fire Safety Week, which runs from November 24 to 30, 2015, gives us another opportunity to spread the word and increase personal fire safety awareness.”

Joe Sobol, regional manager of emergency management at Eastern Health

Joe Sobol, regional manager of emergency management at Eastern Health

There are many things people can do to keep the holiday season fun-filled and worry-free. Joe recommends following these quick and easy tips to keep your home fire-safe during the holidays.

The Christmas Tree:

  • When purchasing a real tree, make sure it’s fresh by tapping it on the ground. Pine needles dropping to the ground indicate that the tree is dry. Leave this one alone!
  • Pine needles should be difficult to pull from branches.
  • Keep your real tree away from fireplaces and radiators.
  • Make sure to top up your tree stand water supply every day.
  • Never use lit candles on or near a tree.
  • Remove a real tree within 10 to 14 days.
  • When using an artificial tree, make sure it is fire resistant.

Candles are one of the most common causes of fire. In the warmth and ambience of a candlelit room, it’s easily forgotten that an open flame can reach up to 1,400 degrees Celsius. If you think about it, that’s hot enough to melt stainless steel! When using candles in your holiday décor, remember to:

  • never leave them burning unattended;
  • keep them in sturdy holders on a stable surface, away from curtains, trees and any other flammable objects;
  • never use them in high traffic areas, especially where children or pets could knock them over;
  • put them all out before leaving the room or going to bed; and
  • don’t blow out candles, rather use a candle snuffer.

Did you know?
Combining tinsel and spray-on snowflakes is highly flammable. Also, some Christmas wrapping paper is highly combustible. It should never be thrown in the fireplace!

“We all have a part to play to ensure a fire-free holiday season,” added Joe. “By taking some simple precautions around our homes, we can protect ourselves and our families, and celebrate a happy and safe holiday season!”

Eastern Health’s emergency management team wishes the region a safe and happy holidays (l-r) Joe Sobol, Lisa Shallow, Darryl Prosper and Gerard Tilley

Eastern Health’s emergency management team wishes the region a safe and happy holidays (l-r) Joe Sobol, Lisa Shallow, Darryl Prosper and Gerard Tilley

Joe, and all the staff within the Health Emergency Management Department of Eastern Health remind you that keeping your family safe and happy around the holidays can be as easy as taking a few quick steps:

1. Plan for safety.
2. Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees and electrical connections.
3. Make an emergency plan should a fire break out anywhere in your home. Make sure each family member knows what to do, and practice the plan! ■

This article was written by Joe Sobol, regional manager of emergency management at Eastern Health.

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