Nailing It Down — Celebrate New Years in fun, safe ways

We hope you’ve enjoyed your Christmas celebrations and that you have some fun — and responsible — plans for tomorrow night and New Year’s Day.

All of us here at NeighborWorks wish you a safe, happy, healthy 2013!


Here are a few safety reminders for your New Year’s festivities:

• If it still is up, go water that Christmas tree right now, (and plan on taking it down soon). Don’t plan on burning it. Instead, recycle it for safety’s sake.

• Do you have candles as part of your party? Keep a close eye on them. (New Year’s Day is the third most frequent day that residence fires are started by a candle.)

• Hectic kitchens can be a concern. Keep your wits about you. Avoid loose clothes and keep pot handles turned in.

• When the bubbly is flowing, judgment gets weaker, so plan ahead to have a safe environment.

• Make sure as you move furniture to accommodate guests that you don’t block any entrances or exits.

• Do you or your friends and family smoke? Make sure you have plenty of deep ash trays available. Before you head to bed, check upholstery to make sure a stray cigarette isn’t smoldering.

• Consider ringing in the New Year with pots and pans and whistles instead of shotguns, fireworks and cannons. (Fireworks are the most commonly cause of fire during New Year’s.)


The winter season brings the highest number of residential fires than any other time of the year.

Each winter, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. In addition, winter storms can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources, which contribute to the increased risk of fire during the winter months.

Here are some key things to remember.

• Have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

• All but the smallest home or apartment needs more than one smoke alarm. You should have one in each bedroom, at least one outside the bedroom area and at least one on each level of the house.

• Practice finding your way out of the house with your eyes closed, crawling or staying low and feeling your way out of the house.

• If there’s a fire in your house, get out — don’t worry about your belongings.

• Escape first, then call 911.

• Teach your family to stop, drop to the ground and roll if their clothes catch on fire.

• Plan ahead now and designate a “family meeting place.”

• Make sure now that your home address signs are clearly visible from the street or road.

• Folks living in rural areas need to ensure that they provide access for emergency vehicles.

Winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking between 5 and 8 p.m.

It’s safest to make a habit of closing each bedroom door at night. If you suspect a fire, feel the door or the doorknob with the back of your hand – it’s more sensitive to heat. Never open doors that are hot to the touch. Bedrooms should have two ways out; so if the door is hot, go out a window or another door.

And remember that as you escape from a fire, stay as close to the floor as possible. The good air is down low.


Apartment dwellers need to keep fire safety in mind too.

• Know your exits out of your building — one could be a fire escape stairway or ladder.

• Have an escape plan and practice it.

• In case of fire, activate the fire alarm pull station to notify the other tenants.

• If you would need assistance to get out and you currently live on one of the upper stories, consider moving to a lower floor apartment, so you don’t have as many stairs to navigate.

• Never assume an alarm sounding is false.

We now have a rich diversity of cultures and languages in Grays Harbor. It’s important that building owners and landlords make sure that all the tenants understand important safety information related to the building.


In the case of a fire in your apartment building, get out if you have a safe exit.

If the hallway is passable move to the stairwell and get out of the building safely – don’t use elevators!

Once you’re out, or once you realize that you cannot safely get out, call 911.

Then, if you’re inside your apartment, put something like a wet towel at the base of the door. If smoke enters your room, put a wet cloth over your mouth then move to a “protected” area such as a balcony.

As we said earlier, the apartment building owner should have an evacuation plan for their occupants’ safety. Ask your building manager what that plan is.

Again, Happy New Year!

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.