Are you practicing fire safety as you decorate your home and prepare for the holidays? Michael McLeieer of the west Michigan-based fire safety group ESCAPE tells WBCK his top 5 things you can do to stay safe and help prevent fires at this time of year.

1. Use battery operated candles

An open flame is always dangerous. At holiday time, many folks light holiday candles to add to the atmosphere, but an open flame can easily be knocked over by a human or a pet - and immediately cause fire. These days, battery operated candles have no open flame, give similar ambiance, and will not start a fire if they are tipped over.

2. Turn off and unplug unattended space heaters

Many space heaters are now equipped with timers or thermostats, allowing them to shut off after a period of time. McLeieer tells WBCK this can sometimes create a false sense of security, as he has seen some fire cases in which the timer or thermostat malfunctions, kicking the heater on when it is unsupervised. McLeieer said it is best - and now widely recommended - that space heaters be unplugged when not in use.

3. Dispose of ashes outside in a covered, metal container

An all-year recommendation that comes up again at holiday time, folks are reminded that plastic containers and herby curbies will melt if hot ashes are put inside, which could also ignite other materials nearby.

4. Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms; replace alarms over 10 years old

Batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be changed every six months. As well, the units themselves are no longer considered useful after 10 years of use. Some of them will sound an alarm indicating they have expired and should be replaced. Contact ESCAPE or the Battle Creek Fire Department for information on FREE smoke detector installations in homes which need them.

5. Locate at least two exits when staying at a hotel/motel

The recent fire in the Boyne Highlands hotel in northern Michigan has thrust fire safety in hotels back in the spotlight. McLeieer recommends, immediately as you check in, finding out the fire safety protocol in a hotel where you are staying. Which two exits could you use in the event of fire? Does the building use a sprinkler system in case of fire? Are you prepared to use an exit other than the door to your room if the hallway is filled with smoke or fire?

Another safety reminder: Natural Christmas trees dry out. Keep open flames away, and keep them well watered during the season.

Click the player below to hear more about each of these tips.

Hear The Richard Piet Show weekday mornings from 5:30-9 on WBCK.

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