State Fire Marshal's Office releases candlelight service safety advisory
BATON ROUGE - As Christmas looms just around the corner and organizers finalize preparations for holiday events, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has put out its annual safety guidelines for event organizers who intend to use candles as part of their celebrations.
Officials say candles have been used for centuries by various religions and secular groups as a part of “candlelight services”, but the fact that these services are held in decades-old, wood-frame structures with candles distributed to hundreds of participants, including small children, means the conditions are just right for a tragic fire sure to put a damper on holiday cheer.
The mixture of open flames, boosted attendance and highly combustible construction components, added to seasonal decorations, make for an especially volatile combo. The State Fire Marshal’s Office says this is evidenced by a report from the National Fire Protection Association which showed that in all religious structure fires from 2007 to 2011, more than 350 of the estimated 9,000 fires were directly attributed to candles.
With these statistics in mind, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is issuing an advisory to the public that includes guidelines that should help keep ceremonial practices safe this holiday season.
The following guidelines are for those organizations that expect to an increase in attendance and/or plan to use candles during the season:
-The staff of each organization should become familiar with established and posted emergency evacuation procedures, ensuring that expanded crowds can exit the facility as quickly and as safely as possible.
-Organizational leaders should consider increasing the number of events in order to avoid an over-capacity crowd that may attend a single service.
-Never add chairs, tables and other obstacles in aisles or pathways to accommodate visitors. Remain at or below established capacity numbers.
-Each facility should have the proper number of portable fire extinguishers easily accessible throughout the structure.
-Don’t issue candles to young children. Should young children be issued candles, parents should monitor their children throughout the service.
-Never place candles near decorations or other combustible materials, such as drapes, books and other paper items.
-Make sure that all candles have been effectively extinguished after use. Embers can stay lit for hours and pose a danger of ignition, especially in older, wood-frame structures.
-When in doubt, go flameless. Organizations should consider using small, inexpensive battery-powered LED-based candles that emit a realistic, flickering “flame” that is cool to the touch, reusable and an overall safer alternative to traditional open flame
For more info about seasonal fire safety guidelines, drop by the National Fire Protection Association website at www.nfpa.org.