When December comes around, moms throughout the world start thinking about Hanukah. In preparation for the Festival of Lights they begin polishing their menorahs, digging up the dreidels, and buying ingredients for potato latkes. And when the long-awaited eight-day holiday finally begins, the Hanukah lights fill Jewish homes everywhere with that certain special glow that has the power to break through even the coldest and darkest nights of winter. Year after year, the Hanukah candles bring warmth and joy to our homes.
Beautiful Hanukah lights also require vigilance, and fire safety precautions must be strictly observed. Being mindful of how to minimize risk and remain safe allows us to feel secure while the oil and candles burn and this helps us to maximize the special joy of Hanukah.
LIGHT ON A SAFE SURFACE
Consider the surface you will be lighting your menorah on. Make sure it is nonflammable. Tables or stands made of metal, glass, or marble are fine. Stay away from wood, as it is a serious fire hazard.
Make sure the table that you want to mount your menorah on is sturdy, and is not flimsy or shaky. And to be extra safe, place an aluminum cookie sheet beneath the menorah to ensure that if a candle or spark falls, it will go out right away.
KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Once the surface has been chosen, check the area where you plan to light to ensure safety. Make sure that nothing nearby could, Gd forbid, catch on fire, such as drapes, books, papers, napkins, or towels. If you see anything that may pose a fire risk, move it out of the way! Also, make sure that the menorah is located in a place where it will not be knocked over by people passing by, by a gust of wind from a nearby window, or from something from a high shelf or surface falling on top of it.
KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
Children love to run, jump, skip, hop, and climb on things. But those things should never be done near a lit menorah. So, before the candles are actually lit, teach your children about fire safety. Tell them that twisting, turning, and jumping near the menorah can be dangerous. Show them how to stand calmly near the menorah, and have them take turns practicing. Then, place your menorah on a surface that is too high for young children to reach. If that is not possible, continue reminding your children not to enter the room where the menorah is lit, or block the doorway with chairs or another object that will serve as a reminder. And after lighting the menorah, do not leave any lighters or matches lying around. Stow them away immediately.
STAY WITH IT
You may be itching to get out to a Hanukah party or other event, but leaving flames unattended is dangerous. Have someone within view of the menorah, or light later on in the evening when you know you will have time to be attentive yourself.
LATKES AND SUFGANIYOT, PIPING HOT
One of the trademarks of Hanukah is delicacies that are fried in oil, commemorating the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days and nights. The children may ask to fry foods with you, but hot pots and boiling oil are not something to play around with. The kids can eat the foods when you are done frying, but while you are working, insist that they stand back. If they really want to make Hanukah desserts, let them do a safe baking project, like whipping up some Hanukah cupcakes.
When you are frying, make sure your sleeves are rolled up and your hair is pulled back. If possible, wear oven mitts to protect your hands from jumping droplets of scalding oil. And never, ever, ever cover a pot of boiling oil! Covering a pot of oil creates a pressure-cooker effect, which can cause an explosion, spewing hot oil, which can potentially start a fire.
Follow these simple precautions, and you and your family can enjoy a happy, festive, and SAFE holiday!