Health and Safety Podcast Transcript: Dec. 12, 2013


Hello, and welcome to the Fairfax County Health and Safety Podcast. I’m your host Jim Person. Coming up, learn about holiday fires and staying safe during snow and ice. Links to topics mentioned in this podcast can be found online at

The holiday season is a festive and joyous occasion. However, it's also a dangerous part of the year; over 400 lives are claimed, more than 1,600 injuries occur and over $990 million in property damage is lost. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, taking simple, common-sense, lifesaving steps will help ensure a safe and happy holiday – and residents can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty. Reduce your risk of home fires by following these important safety tips. For holiday trees:

  • Do not use candles on or near the tree.

  • Place the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces and heaters.

  • If you have a live tree, keep it in a sturdy base filled with water. Check the water level every day. 

  • Safely dispose of your tree before it becomes dangerously dry. Never burn the tree or tree parts in your fireplace.

When using holiday lights:

  • Use “UL” approved lights.

  • Examine all indoor and outdoor lights for frayed cords and replace if necessary.

  • Lights should not touch combustible materials.

  • Indoor lights should never be used outdoors.

  • Avoid using extension cords, but if you do, follow instructions carefully.

  • Do not overload electrical circuits such as wall outlets and extension cords.  Use a circuit strip.

Also pay close attention to holiday gift wrap:

  • Keep papers, bows and trims away from heat sources such as fireplaces, space heaters, radiators, etc.

  • Never burn gift wrappings in your fireplace.

And don’t forget fireplaces and wood stoves:

  • Have the chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney specialist.

  • Leave glass doors open while burning a fire to prevent creosote buildup.

  • Install a stovepipe thermometer to help monitor flue temperature.

As a final precaution, make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, and ensure you have an escape plan — and practice it. During the holiday season, don’t be too busy to be safe. Learn more from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department online at

Even a small amount of ice on walkways and driveways can lead to slips, trips and falls, which often lead to serious sprain and strain injuries. The Fairfax County Risk Management Division recommends these safety tips if you’re outside in icy weather:

  • Slow down and watch where you walk. Walk slowly and deliberately.

  • Use handrails when you can.

  • Keep your hands out of your pockets; you need to have both hands free for balance.

  • Concentrate on what you’re doing – avoid texting or using your cellphone until you are inside a building.

  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear. Flat footwear with a good rubber tread provides the best traction.

  • Walk in designated walkways. Avoid shortcuts that could conceal hazards.

  • Be careful getting into and out of vehicles – and hold on to the vehicle for support.

  • Use floor mats when entering a building to remove moisture from the bottom of your shoes. This will prevent you and others from having to walk on wet or slippery surfaces.

  • If the ice causes tree limbs to fall in your yard, be careful when you are picking up the debris. Keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Also, know your physical limits. If there is a substantial amount of debris, get professional assistance with the removal.

To stay informed on winter weather, visit And for the latest emergency preparedness news and information, visit the county’s emergency information blog at

That’s it for this edition of the Fairfax County Health and Safety Podcast, produced by the Fairfax County, Va., Government. Thanks for listening. Additional information about health and safety topics and emergency preparedness may be found online at And remember, if you have a police, fire or medical emergency, call 9-1-1. For non-emergency needs, call 703-691-2131.

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