Halloween safety: Fire prevention tips for a ‘spooktacular’ time

Ensure that Halloween is a time of fun and games by taking a few precautions to keep everyone safe. While stocking up on sugary sweets is a top priority for little tykes this time of year, Halloween fire safety should be at the top of your list to keep everyone’s experience fun and enjoyable. The spirit of Halloween may be spooky, but nobody wants a real tragedy on All Hallows Eve. With a few precautions, you can avoid the most common Halloween fire hazards and help everyone have a good time. We have some easy tips you can follow, including costume and decoration tips and other Halloween safety ideas. Have fun, get creative, enjoy your candy – and make sure to avoid the most common Halloween fire risks. Nobody goes out trick-or-treating thinking they’ll catch on fire, but the wrong costume in the wrong scenario can turn a magical evening into a real nightmare. Halloween costume fire safety Halloween costumes are the perfect chance to highlight your creativity, while adding a little spooktacular fun to the evening, but it’s also important to make sure that the costumes you, your friends and your children wear are safe. Nobody goes out trick-or-treating thinking they’ll catch on fire, but the wrong costume in the wrong scenario can turn a magical evening into a real nightmare. The Flammable Fabrics Act was passed in 1953 to regulate the manufacture of highly flammable clothing and has since been expanded to include interior furnishings — but just because a fabric passes the minimum standard doesn’t mean it’s entirely fire-proof. Whether you’re buying your Halloween costumes or making them yourself, it’s ultimately up to you to take precautions and double-check that the materials you choose will help keep your family as safe as possible. When in doubt about the fire safety of your costume’s materials, a spray-on fire retardant option can provide an extra layer of protection. (Photo: Shutterstock) Store-bought costumes Most store-bought costumes are rated fire-safe for kids and come prepackaged as one outfit. You can take some of the stress out of fire-prevention costumes by shopping for looks that are bundled into one selection. That way, all you have to do is check the packaging to see if your choice is rated for Halloween fire safety. If you buy costumes online, you might be able to find fire-resistance information in product descriptions. If you’re not sure, see if the website has a chat, call or email function for customer service. You might be able to get the answer in just a few minutes. Many fabric stores also offer spray-on fire retardant for clothing. When in doubt about the fire safety of your costume’s materials, these spray-on options can provide an extra layer of protection. Carefully consider the costume fabric you choose for safety. Making your own costumes Some families love making their own costumes. The creative rewards are high, but you should carefully consider the fabrics you choose for safety. For instance, a toilet-paper mummy sounds like a fun and easy costume to create, but one quick lick of a flame from a candle or a Jack-o-lantern could send it instantly up in flames. In addition to paper, you should stay away from big, billowing styles and long, trailing capes and accessories, too. With one ill-timed twirl or gust of wind, these loose fabrics can easily catch fire. Halloween masks Make sure you and your kids can see clearly and breathe easily in any mask you wear or create. You don’t want anyone to trip and fall into a flame or drag a costume through fire without realizing it. Teach kids to remove masks immediately in case of a fire. Some fabrics, like cotton and silk, are more flammable than others for Halloween costumes. Fire-safe fabrics for Halloween Technically, all fabrics can catch on fire — but some choices are safer than others. Tightly woven or knit fabrics tend to be more resistant to fire, while snug-fitting costumes are less likely to waft into a nearby flame. In addition, certain materials are manufactured for fire-resistance and offer the best protection. Here are some of the safest costume fabrics your family can wear: Natural fibers Wool is one of the most fire-resistant natural fibers because it is difficult to ignite, burns slowly and can even snuff out flames before they spread. If your outfit requires an outer layer or you want to wear something over your costume to keep warm, consider choosing a wool sweater over another material. Cotton and silk are more flammable than wool. If either material is part of your costume, see if it’s already been treated with a chemical solution to increase flame resistance, or consider using a spray-on flame retardant to make it safer. Synthetic fabrics & fabric blends Modacrylics are generally the most fire-resistant fabrics you can get. This type of fabric is manufactured specifically for fire safety, but that still doesn’t make it completely fire-proof. You should still be cautious around any fire hazard. Nylon, polyester, and acrylic are also safe bets, but it’s important to note that they are not heat-resistant. If they do catch on fire, these synthetics also tend to melt quickly, which could cause increased damage the skin and extremely painful burns. Open candles pose a major fire risk around decorations. Halloween decoration fire-safety Elaborate decorations are a huge part of Halloween, but watch out! Halloween decorations can also catch fire easily if you aren’t careful about which ones you pick, where you put them and how many people are around them. Decorations to avoid Some decorations are more flammable than others. Consider avoiding the following decorations entirely for a safer Halloween: Dried flowers or floral arrangements. Corn husks or dried corn stalks. Crepe paper garland or other paper decorations. Homemade paper-towel ghosts. Driveway lanterns with real candles. For safety’s sake, always look for fire-retardant Halloween decorations. You can usually find information about fire retardation on the product’s packaging or in a quick search online. If you love the look of the more flammable decorations listed above, try using store-bought options that have been treated for fire-resistance, or choose live decorations like fresh flowers, leaves and autumn vegetables that are less dry and prone to catching fire. Jack-o’-lanterns and candles It wouldn’t be right to suggest getting rid of jack-o’-lanterns all together at Halloween! But there are a few fire safety tips you can follow to ensure your carved pumpkins are safe and just scary enough to still be fun. Consider using flameless LED candles that are bright enough to illuminate your carving but don’t pose any of the risks of a real flame. If you do use real candles, never leave them burning unattended. Whenever you light your jack-o’-lanterns for guests or trick-or-treaters, stay outside to monitor them. Blow out the candles before you go back inside. Make sure you scrape pumpkins out all the way before carving them. It not only makes the carving easier, but also eliminates excess pumpkin debris that could more easily catch on fire. Light candles with long-stemmed butane lighters, matches or fire starters. The extra length will help keep the flame farther away from your fingers and sleeves. Make sure the path to the front door is clear and doesn’t pose any tripping hazards. Where to put decorations for Halloween safety Where you place your Halloween decorations can help prevent a fire too. Make sure the path to your front door or candy bowl is clear of candles and flammable debris like dried leaves and sticks. Place your decorations close to your home where you can keep an eye on them — but never place lit candles under low roofs or overhangs. If you have yard decorations, make sure batteries are fresh and don’t leak. Use outdoor-safe extension cords for any items that run on electricity, and always check the wires for damage before plugging into an outlet. Inspect your exterior outlets for signs of sparking or shorting out. If rain is in the forecast, unplug everything and safely cover outlets. General safety tips Fire isn’t the only thing that can cause harm on Halloween. Here are a few general safety tips for you and your family: Give kids an emergency contact card to keep on their person at all times and a flashlight on a lanyard to wear around their wrist or neck. Teach kids to never enter anyone’s home or car without you, no matter what candy they offer or how cool their decorations are. Check all candy your kids collect before they eat it. Decide on start times, neighborhoods and meet-up areas before you head out into the unknown. Trick-or-treating in a group can be fun, but make sure no one gets lost in the crowd. Consider using a buddy system when going out in groups. Take charge of Halloween fire safety When Mischief Night arrives, Halloween safety is really up to you and your community. Go through these tips, share them, and double-check that you’ve considered how to make your costumes and decorations as safe as possible. With just a little extra preparation, Halloween will be the right kind of scary and still a ton of fun!

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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