Harper Expert: Five Tips for Fire-Safe Holidays

Holiday-season fires kill more than 400 people annually in the United States - and Harper College Associate Professor Sam Giordano, who heads up the Fire Science Technology Program, says festive decorations and longstanding holiday traditions are often to blame.

He offers these five tips for fire-safe holidays:

Hang all your stockings by the chimney with care: Never hang stockings in front of a burning fire. Stockings can be hung by the fireplace only when it's not lit; take them down or move them to another location when the fireplace is in use.

Let your heart be light, not your candles: Candles should be stable, placed in secure holders and kept away from combustible materials and small children. Never leave candles unattended, and avoid using them in bedrooms or anywhere that people sleep.

Leave your chimney clear for old Saint Nick: After the gifts have been opened, avoid the temptation to chuck the wrapping paper or boxes in the fire. Home fireplaces are not intended for the debris. Additionally, never leave a fire unattended, and put the fire out before you go to bed.

Water your tree, and check it twice: A dried tree is more susceptible to fire. Keep real trees fresh by checking the water level daily, and keep them away from heat sources that dry them out more quickly. Most trees dry out within two weeks and become a greater fire hazard, so don't leave them up too long after the holiday, and discard a tree as soon as it becomes dry.

Doorways are for mistletoe - nothing more: Doors of the home should be free of holiday decorations or even stray branches from a nearby Christmas tree. In the event of a fire, anything in a doorway could end up inadvertently blocking an escape route.

Media Note: For interviews regarding these and other holiday safety tips, contact Associate Professor Giordano at 815.693.2438 (cell); Fire Science Technology Instructor Andrew Skic at 847.650.2449 (cell); or Fire Science Technology Instructor Mario Tristan 847.274.8571 (cell).

Press Contact: Erin Brooks, 847.925.6159