PEORIA, SPRINGFIELD and DECATUR, Ill., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ameren Illinois utilities want everyone's holiday season to be safe and joyous by remembering that some of the things that make the holidays special also pose safety hazards.
According to national safety statistics, hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of people each year for injuries resulting from falls, cuts and shocks and from fires caused by holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. The National Fire Protection Association reports that almost half of all Christmas tree fires are caused by an electrical problem or malfunction -- the remainders are caused by placing a heat source too close to the tree or by someone playing with fire or another heat source.
To help make the holiday season safe, use electricity and natural gas safely. The key to staying safe is watching for and correcting problems with cords and faulty sockets and handling wiring with care. Jerking on a wire can break insulation and damage plugs.
Other safety tips for electricity: -- Inspect all holiday lights for broken or cracked sockets. Look for frayed or bare wires, loose connections or damaged plugs. Discard damaged light sets. Never overload electrical circuits or outlets. Use Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) certified surge protector strips if multiple outlets are required. -- Keep holiday lights away from toddlers. Push the wires inward toward the center of the tree and clip wires securely to branches. -- For outdoor lighting, use UL-certified lights approved for outdoor use. Also, use heavy duty UL-certified outdoor extension cords. Plug outdoor cords into GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets. It is recommended that GFCI outlets be used for indoor lights, as well. Stay clear of and avoid contact with overhead electricity wires. Keep electrical connections off the ground and away from water. -- Never leave Christmas tree lights on when away from home. -- Do not place cords under rugs or carpets, where they can be walked upon or where someone can trip over them. -- Use flame-resistant ornaments and decorations around the Christmas tree. -- When selecting a live tree, make certain the branches are fresh and the trunk is sticky with sap. Needles should bend, not break, and should be hard to pull off branches. Keep the tree holder base filled with water. Keep trees away from fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, radiators, heat registers and other sources of heat. -- If you select an artificial tree, select one that has been tested and labeled as being fire-resistant. Trees with built-in electric systems should have the UL certification label. Safety tips for natural gas: -- Natural gas furnace owners should be aware of, and take precautions against, carbon monoxide poisoning dubbed the "silent killer." This advice also should be heeded by those with fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, natural gas/propane water heaters and all fossil fuel space heaters. -- Illinois law requires that carbon monoxide detectors be placed in homes and apartments. -- To help avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is recommended that a qualified plumber or heating professional annually inspect and clean furnace systems. Special attention needs to be paid to the flue. A rusty or loose fitting flue may cause a vent to malfunction. Improper venting of a furnace may result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Flues that also vent through walls must be clear of snow, leaves and other types of blockage to prevent Carbon Monoxide from backing into the home. -- Never hang any item from a natural gas or propane pipe. The added weight could pull down the pipe. -- Never use the kitchen oven as a heating source. Natural gas ovens produce carbon monoxide that will escape into the house when the oven door is left open. In addition, the oven could overheat and cause a fire. Cooking with the oven is safe because the oven cycles on and off when the oven door is closed. -- Never store combustible materials within a few feet of the furnace or water heater. -- Call a qualified plumber or heating professional to inspect the furnace if it cycles on or off with a loud noise or otherwise malfunctions. Ignition should be smooth and quiet in a properly maintained furnace. -- Natural gas contains an odorant that smells like rotten eggs. If you notice a slight smell, follow your nose to the source -- it may be something you can easily and safely correct, such as an unlit pilot light or a partially ignited burner valve. If it's a strong smell, or if it's a slight smell that does not go away, open your windows and doors. Do not turn lights off or on. Do not activate any electrical device, including cell phones and light switches. Leave the building, and then call your Ameren Illinois utility (AmerenCILCO, AmerenCIPS, AmerenIP) or "911" immediately.
Visit the Ameren Web site (http://www.ameren.com/) for more safety tips or other information about Ameren.
The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.
SOURCE: Ameren Illinois
CONTACT: Erica Abbett, +1-618-236-4329, or Natalie Hemmer,
+1-217-424-7541, or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5284, or Leigh Morris,
+1-217-535-5228, all of Ameren Illinois
Web site: http://www.ameren.com/