Christmas Tree Safety

Christmas Tree Safety

The National Fire Protection Association reminds us, as you deck the halls this holiday season, be fire smart. A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly.

Picking The Tree

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing The Tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting The Tree

  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.


  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes roughly one in every four of the fires.
Kids in the Kitchen

Kids in the Kitchen


From our great friends at the National Fire Protection Association:

Do you like helping out in the kitchen and cooking up tasty snacks for your friends and family? Preparing yummy treats can be lots of fun, but it’s important that kids who like to cook know how to be safe in the kitchen. These tips can help you figure out what you’re old enough to do on your own—and when it’s time to ask an adult for help.

Getting Started: Before you get cooking, you need to get a grown-up’s permission. If you plan to use a recipe, look it over with a grown-up first to decide what you can do on your own and what you need help with. And once you get started, never be afraid to ask for help. Even the best chefs rely on their assistants to help them out in the kitchen.

Helping Out is Fun: From mixing up cake batter to cutting shapes out of cookie dough, helping out a grownup in the kitchen can be lots of fun. So, if you’re not old enough yet to cook on your own, not to worry; being the chef’s helper is the most important job in the kitchen.

Cooking for All Ages: All kids are different—and a grown-up should always decide what is safe for you to do in the kitchen—but here are some guidelines that you can use.

Kids aged 3 to 5 can:

  • Get ingredients out of the refrigerator
  • Measure and mix ingredients together in a bowl
  • Pour liquids into a bowl • Wash fruits and vegetables off under cold water
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of cookie dough or sandwiches
  • Lick the cake batter off of a spoon (yum!)

Kids age 6 to 8 can:

  • Open packages
  • Use a butter knife to spread frosting, cream cheese, peanut butter or soft cheese
  • Peel vegetables
  • Measure ingredients
  • Stir ingredients in a bowl
  • Set the table

Kids age 9 to 12 can:

  • Begin to follow a recipe
  • Open cans
  • Use electrical kitchen appliances, such as a microwave oven, when a grown-up is present
  • Use a grater to shred cheese and vegetables
  • Turn stove burners on and off and select oven temperature when a grown-up is present
  • Help plan the meal
  • Make a salad

Kids aged 14 and over can:

  • Operate the stove or oven without an adult present
  • Heat food up in the microwave without an adult present
  • Drain cooked pasta into a colander
  • Take a tray of food out of the oven
The hazards of holiday cooking

The Hazards of Holiday Cooking

The holidays and all the chaos that comes with them once again loom on the horizon. Soon our brains will be overwhelmed by an onslaught of holiday commercials, the stress of shopping for gifts, and the hecticness of family gatherings.

One piece of information we hope isn’t lost in the hubbub is that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. Keep that in mind as your kitchen becomes Mission Control as you prepare food for friends and family.

What you should know about home cooking safety

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stove top.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stove top.

If you have a cooking fire

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove top. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Cooking equipment is leading cause of home fires
Stoves account for the majority of home cooking fire accidents
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 47% of home fires
  • 66% of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials
  • Stoves account for 62% of home cooking fire incidents
  • Unattended equipment is a factor in 33% of reported home cooking fires and 43% of the associated deaths
  • Frying dominates the cooking fire problem
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve

Home Fire Sprinklers

Over 80% of fire deaths occur in the home. Home fire sprinklers can save lives and property from fire. They respond quickly and effectively to fire, often extinguishing the fire before the fire department arrives. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water on the fire.

  • Home fire sprinklers save lives and property. In many situations, a family who has survived a fire will also have their “home” to live in and enough of the items and space in their home to continue living their lives as they did before.
  • The cost of a home fire sprinkler system in a new home averages $1.35 per sprinklered square foot totaling an amount similar to what is spent for carpet upgrades, paving stone driveway or a whirlpool bath.
  • A home fire sprinkler system can reduce the homeowner’s insurance premium.
  • Fire departments typically use roughly 10 times as much water as a fire sprinkler would use to contain a fire.
  • Fire sprinklers are environmentally friendly. They can reduce the amount of water run-off and pollution, fire damage by up to 71%, and water usage to fight a home fire by as much as 91%.
  • Cigar smoke or burnt toast will not activate a fire sprinkler. Only the high temperature of a fire will activate the sprinkler.
  • A home fire sprinkler system is easy to maintain. Just inspect your home to make sure the sprinklers are not blocked by something that would prevent the water from coming out such as paint and be sure the main control valve is never turned off.
  • Home fire sprinklers are effective in cold and warm climates. Guidelines have been created for the proper installation of systems to avoid pipes freezing. A home fire sprinkler system should be winterized the same as you winterize a domestic water supply.

Don’t forget …

  • If moving into an apartment or condominium building, make sure common areas and individual apartments are sprinklered.
  • If building a new home or remodeling an existing home, consider installing a home fire sprinkler system.
  • More than 2,500 people die in home fires each year.
  • If a home fire occurs, the risk of dying decreases by about 80% when the home is equipped with a fire sprinkler system.

Source: NFPA Public Education Division

Contact the professionals at Best Defense and let us show you how we can protect the lives of those you care about and the property you worked hard for!

Updating historic buildings with modern fire security systems

Everything Old (and Fire Prone) is New Again

Emergency exits that wouldn’t open. An unreliable smoke detection system from the 1980’s. A lack of audible and visual fire alarm signals. Faulty emergency lighting.

Edgartown District Court BuildingAll of these were to be found in the 161-year-old Edgartown District Court building on Martha’s Vineyard. Conditions were so bad, the fire chief ordered that the building be closed … that, or court officers patrolled the hallways every 15 minutes, conducting fire watch tours.

Which is exactly what they did until upgrades were made and the patrols could be stopped, according to an article from National Fire Protection Association Journal.

Many American courthouses were built in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nothing in their design or construction includes the robust fire and life-safety protection systems we expect and count on today, such as fire sprinklers and modern fire alarm systems.

Due to the love of these old buildings, many communities have chosen to preserve and update the structure rather than erecting a new, modern facility. There’s a pride and dedication to the structures, many of which are the grandest building in a town in which the work of local artisans was employed. The courthouses are often prominently located, their presence a symbol of community pride.

In Texas alone, there are 242 county-owned historic courthouses that were built 50 or more years ago and are still in active government use. Architects have had to figure out how to update these buildings while maintaining its historic look. It’s also important to remember that these facilities house the archives of the community: paper files for birth, marriage, and death records, so easily destroyed by fire.

Some clever solutions to this problem include discreet, fire-resistant curtains which drop down to close off an atrium in which a smoke evacuation system couldn’t be installed, recessed sprinkler heads, retractable emergency lighting, and transparent frameless exit signs. In one case, a fire sprinkler head was placed in the center of a decorative ceiling rosette, causing it to appear more a part of the interior design and less a piece of hardware.

There are a number of changes planned for the 2019 edition of NFPA 914 – Fire Protection of Historic Structures, including removing the word “Fire” from the title. In a day where concerns about active shooters and other threats are being considered, the code will be expanded to cover a wider array of dangers.

Greenfell Tower fire

How to Spread Fire on the Exterior of a Building

The Greenfell Tower was a 24-story building in London, designed and built in what is called the Brutalist Style. This architectural style flourished from the early 1950’s until the mid 70’s and is comprised of raw concrete or brick in a blunt layout and lacking ornate features.

It doesn’t sound like the sort of building whose exterior could be completely engulfed in flames in 30 minutes but that’s exactly what happened on June 14, 2017. The blazed burned for 60 hours and required the efforts of 250 firefighters to bring it under control. It was the worst United Kingdom residential fire since the Second World War and resulted in 72 deaths, 70 others injured, with an additional 223 escaping the conflagration.

Starting two years before the fire, a major renovation was started, part of which was the addition of a new composite cladding to the building’s exterior. The cladding’s purpose was to help heating and energy efficiency and to soften the look of the tower’s rough exterior. This material was composed of two aluminum sheets bonded to a flammable polyethylene core, chosen because it saved approximately $385,000 on the $12 million renovation.

A fire in 2009 which spread unexpectedly quickly due to exterior cladding and caused 6 deaths prompted fears about the potential for other fires, however no urgent actions were taken by the government. Another fire, also spreading quickly due to external cladding, took place in 2016.

The Greenfell Tower suffered from other concerns. Residents attempted to bring to the attention of the building’s management company as well as local government details such as firefighting equipment at the tower that had not been checked for up to four years, including on-site extinguishers which had expired. They never received a reply. In addition, the building had only one stairwell and one exit, as United Kingdom regulations do not require a second. Also, building corridors had been allowed to fill with a variety of obstructions and debris, such as old mattresses.

One year before the fire, an independent assessor highlighted 40 serious issues concerning fire safety that were deemed to require immediate action, however by October the assessor contacted the management company to inquire why over 20 of the issues hadn’t been tackled. Then in November, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority served the management group with a “fire deficiency notice” which required action by May 2017.

Very early in the morning of June 14, 2017, fire from a refrigerator broke out on the 4th floor.

Timeline of Greenfell Tower fire12:50 BST (British Summer Time) – fire breaks out shortly after midnight

12:54 BST – fire department called, first crews arrived six minutes after alarm

1:07 BST – responders enter the apartment

1:09 BST – fire had reached external cladding by erupting out of apartment window

1:14 BST – fire fighters start attacking the initial fire. A fire fighter outside tried to prevent the spread but the spray of water couldn’t reach higher than the 4th floor. The cladding’s manufacturer recommended not using the material on a building taller than 3 stories – the Greenfell Tower was 24 stories tall.

By the time fire fighters had the initial fire under control, flames were advancing quickly up the building.

1:29 BST – a rising column of flames had reached the roof and the fire was out of control. Other residents who had called the fire department were told to stay in their rooms, which is standard policy for a fire in a high-rise building relying on the assumption the fire can be contained in one area. Also, as part of this policy, the building had no central fire alarm system which could warn all residents to evacuate.

The fire burning on the cladding spread horizontally and re-entered the building through other windows

1:30 BST – the single stairwell became filled with smoke, making it difficult for residents to escape without help from fire fighters

5:00 BST – the building was still burning. All residents up to 10th floor had been rescued, but firefighters had not been able to get any higher than the 20th floor. Only 2 people escaped from the two highest floors

13:14 BST – fire brought under control

The fire prompted massive investigations into other potential fire risks of buildings covered with cladding, as well as criminal investigations against the building’s management company. Plans are to demolish the building by the end of 2018.

History Lost Due to Inadequate Fire Protection

Artifacts representing 11,000 years of history were destroyed in a recent fire that gutted Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. Over 20 million pieces from fields such as zoology, paleontology, and geology were consumed, including Egyptian mummies and historic artwork.

Fire destroys Brazil's National Museum

Flames from an as of yet unknown cause obliterated a scientific institution some consider the most important one in Latin America. The building, known to be vulnerable to fire, had just received approval for $5,000,000 in renovations which would have included an upgrade to the fire prevention system. While battling the fire, firefighters found two hydrants which didn’t have enough pressure to work properly, forcing the crews to draw water from a nearby pond.

Reports conflict about whether or not the building had a sprinkler system or working smoke alarms, but even those who say there was a fire sprinkler system say it was inadequate to do its job.


Back to School Fire Safety

The National Fire Protection Association reports that in the years 2011 through 2015, fire departments in the United States responded to an average of almost 5,000 educational property structure fires per year.

Back to school time is also safety tip review time:

  • Fire drills must be held at least once a month while school is in session. (Schools located in climates where weather is severe have the option of deferring monthly drills).
  • Principals, teachers or other school staff must inspect all exits daily to ensure that stairways, doors and other exits are working properly and are unblocked.
  • On the day of the drill, the emergency drill alarm should be sounded on the school fire alarm system. Make sure that everyone can recognize the sound of the alarm and knows what to do when it sounds.
  • Teachers, officials and staff should be familiar with the school’s fire protection system, including the location of fire alarm pull stations and sprinklers.
  • Every room in the school should have a map posted identifying two ways out. In schools with open floor plans, exit paths should be obvious and kept free of obstruction.
  • On the day of the fire drill, everyone in the school should participate.
  • students with specific needs should be assigned an adult or a student buddy to assist them. Fire drills are a good opportunity to identify who among the student population requires extra assistance.
  • While it’s important to make sure that students leave the building as quickly as possible, order is more important than speed when it comes to conducting a safe fire drill.
  • Once everyone has safely exited the building, they should remain outside at a predetermined location until the ‘all clear’ has been given to reenter the school.
  • Use rosters to ensure that every student is accounted for.
  • Fire drills should be held both at expected and at unexpected times, and under varying conditions in order to simulate the conditions that can occur in an actual emergency.
  • School fire drills are a model for students to use in their homes. Encourage students to practice their escape plans at home—just as they do at school.

Best Defense Fire Protection & Security has the experts you need to ensure the safest learning environment for students, teachers, and staff!

I’m Taking You Down With Me

Fire at Chocolaterian patisserieIn the case of a fire, most people think about the damage the flames do to a structure, but don’t consider the additional damage the water used to fight the fire can do. Also, what about the costs associated with a business literally not being able to operate? What about the costs associated with production time lost and with the need to setup in a new location?

In April of 2018, the Chocolaterian patisserie in Madison experienced an electrical fire that originated in the basement and expanded up towards the roof through the wall.

Although the fire was ruled accidental, it caused $750,000 in damage that affected the Chocolaterian’s ability to generate retail as well as wholesale and online income, it also affected multiple other businesses whose only mistake was setting up shop in the same building.

Smoke and water damage ruined inventory for Vault Interiors (an interior design firm) and closed their retail location. The company will be moving to a new location in another city. Insight Counseling and Wellness had three of the four suites they rented destroyed and have since moved to a new location on the same street. Bizzy Bizzy and Dirigible Studio, creative and marketing companies, moved to other locations.

The loss of revenue would have been easily avoided if the building had been equipped with a fire sprinkler system. Though simple in operation, these systems are fantastic at preventing the spread of the fire until the fire department can arrive, often extinguishing the blaze outright, all while using considerably less water than the fire fighters are going to need to use.

Best Defense Fire Protection & Security is your best choice for fire protection and security systems – call us today!

Small Aquarium vs. 4-Person Hot Tub – Choose Wisely

Fire extinguishing - sprinkler vs. hosePop quiz: someone walks into your home with a small aquarium in one hand and a 4-person hot tub in the other, both full to the brim. They tell you in no uncertain terms they’re going to dump one of them out in the middle of your living room and give you only five seconds to pick which – there’s no time to ask questions, like “Why are you in my living room?!” or “How are you carrying a full hot tub in just one hand?!”

Which do you choose?

This is the same conundrum you’re facing when deciding whether or not to install a fire sprinkler system in your property.

Contrary to the myth perpetrated by movies and television, all the sprinkler heads in a system do not go off at the same time in the case of a fire – only those nearest to the fire and subjected to its heat will activate. Using only an average of 25 gallons of water per minute, a small aquarium’s worth, the sprinkler head will contain and often extinguish the fire before the fire department can arrive.

Unchecked, a fire grows exponentially when provided with all three legs of the fire triangle – heat, fuel, and oxygen. Fire fighters generally arrive 5 to 10 minutes after 911 is dialed, which is 5 to 10 minutes of the fire growing. The whole time it’s building up the heat and filling the building with toxic smoke and fumes. It will continue to grow until fire fighters can deploy a line and start hitting the fire with water at the average rate of 250 gallons per minute – a hot tub’s worth here, a hot tub’s worth over there, hot tub after hot tub after hot tub.

Contact Best Defense Fire Protection today and let us help you avoid the hot tub!