IN TIME FOR CHANUKAH, ORTHODOX UNION ANNOUNCES THAT DECEMBER WILL BE OU FIRE SAFETY MONTH
Chanukah candles are beautiful but they also present a fire risk. In recognition that the observance of Chanukah makes December a time in which Jewish homes are particularly susceptible to unwanted blazes, the Orthodox Union today announced that December will be OU Fire Safety Month.
The initiative is the latest aspect of the OU’s “Safe Homes, Safe Shuls, Safe Schools” program, and was instituted, according to Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Services and Special Projects, because “We want to protect our families.”
Emanuel Adler, Chair of the OU Community Services Commission added, “Any fire has the potential to do severe damage, but the pain increases when fire transforms a joyful holiday like Chanukah into a tragedy. Chanukah presents us with the opportunity to sensitize the community to dangers associated with use of fire in many of our observances.”
The OU has posted six fire prevention guides on its website, http://www.ou.org/chagim/chanukah/prevention.htm.
• Chanukah Burn and Scald Prevention tips, which not only include candles, but the making of latkes as well; it advises women to be particularly careful of their sleeves and hair when lighting and blessing candles;
• Play it Safe for Chanukah, which has a variety of safety tips, including keeping a 10 lb. ABS fire extinguisher near the kitchen, away from the stove;
• Fire Safety for Jewish Observances, which among other items advises that candles should be kept at least four feet away from curtains, draperies, blinds, kitchen cabinets and bedding;
• A link to the New York City Fire Department’s fire safety information website;
• Who by Fire: Helping Burn Victims and Their Families, with a special section for Chanukah; and
• Home Safety – Ten Hot Tips to Make Your Home a No Burn Zone, including developing an emergency evacuation plan.
In addition, the OU has provided guidelines from Rabbi Hershel Schachter, OU Halachic Decisor, on Chanukah fire safety. In accordance with Jewish law (halacha) Rabbi Schachter declared:“If one is not going to be home while the Chanukah candles are lit, it is better that they not be lit, but one can light later in the evening if they will be home. There should always be someone watching or near the candles. In terms of using an electric menorah, you shouldn’t say a bracha (blessing) on it, although you are able to say a bracha on electric (incandescent) lights for Shabbat and Yom Tov candles. When lighting in a hotel room, one should make sure he has half an hour to let the candles burn, and then blow them out when he has to leave.”