The threat of fire never sleeps, and never is fire more likely to strike American homes than during the harsh cold of winter.
More fires occur during winter than any other time of year. The good news for home owners: Taking simple precautions can prevent most fires. Home fire awareness starts by ensuring you have properly working smoke detectors in the kitchen, on each floor and outside all bedrooms in your home. Test your smoke detectors at the beginning of every winter. Smoke detectors older than 10 years should be replaced with new units.
While 380 Companies can help get your home back in working order if fire strikes, we also want to offer up some helpful tips to avoid house fires all together this winter. Winter fire prevention starts with knowledge, namely knowing the most common causes of winter fires. Most start from sources that are designed to keep your home warm during the cold winter months.
The most essential thing to remember about heaters is they are a controlled fire source. When out of control, they are extremely dangerous. In 2011 alone, heating equipment caused 53,600 structure fires in the U.S., contributed to 400 civilian deaths and produced $893 million in direct property damage. Heating equipment produces 14 percent of all American home fires annually.
- No heaters present a greater winter fire hazard than portable electric and kerosene space heaters. Be sure to keep at least three feet of open space between space heaters and all other objects.
- Vacuum, clean and remove dust and lint from all heaters. Service your heater if the cord gets hot, frayed or cracked.
- Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. Always turn off portable heaters when leaving the house and going to sleep.
- Always make sure heaters are used with adult supervision when children are present.
- Make sure your portable space heaters are UL approved and have a tip-over automatic shut off function.
- For kerosene heaters, only use fuel approved by the manufacturer.
- For furnaces, leave upgrades and repairs to the experts: Certified professionals.
- But do perform an annual furnace safety check. Inspect the walls and ceilings above your furnace, checking for cracks and discoloration and heat.
- Always be sure to keep trash and flammable materials away from your furnace.
Nothing sets a holiday and winter mood like candles, and fewer objects serve as a quicker ignition switch for winter fires. The United States Fire Administration reports U.S. Fire departments responded to 10,630 house structure fires caused by candles from 2007-11 – an average of 29 per day.
- The three most common days for house candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
- The threat of candle fires can be reduced exponentially by lighting and using candles only in secure, sturdy candle holders that cannot be knocked over.
- Blow out all candles before leaving the house or going to bed. And keep all candles, matches and lighters away from children. Also keep candles away from easily inflammable holiday items like Christmas trees, presents, boxes and wrapping paper.
A place of soothing winter warmth can also become the center of a dangerous house fire if fireplaces aren’t used and maintained properly.
- To prevent flue fires, only burn dry, well-seasoned wood in your fireplace. Place ashes outdoors in a covered metal container located at least three feet away from anything that burns.
- Always have a fireplace screen built of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass. If children are present – especially small children – always use a special child-guard screen.
- Have a professional perform a certified chimney sweep clean (and check for creosote build-up) and inspect your fireplace annually.
- Other fireplace tips to remember: Never use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire, never burn charcoal (which can emit lethal amounts of CO) indoors, when using synthetic logs always follow the directions on the package and never break them apart (they burn unevenly).
- Most importantly, always fully extinguish all fires before going to bed or leaving your home.
The ever increasing rate of home heating bills has many Americans looking for more affordable heating solutions, like wood-burning stoves. Keep wood stoves at least three feet from combustible surfaces and only use high-quality, UL listed stoves.
They are the best backup if the electricity goes out, they can also be a silent, undetectable killer if not properly maintained and used. Generators’ exhaust contains Carbon Monoxide (CO), an orderless, invisible killer. You can’t see or smell CO, which can kill you in just minutes.
- Portable generators should only be utilized for outdoor, non-enclosed use far away from homes and directed away from a home’s openings (doors, windows, vents). Never use generators inside a home, garage, shed or other partially enclosed spaces – even if doors and windows are open.
- Before using generators, read the owner’s manual and warning labels on the generator. Always follow a generator’s instructions for use. Also, always store generator fuel in a safe, secure location.
- Most importantly: Install CO alarms with battery backups in the home outside each sleeping area.
- Have a licensed electrician install generators that are permanently connected to your home’s electrical system and notify your electric company.
Home Escape Plan
Often, the key to survival in a serious home fire is having an effective escape plan that will get your family out of the house and danger quickly as possible. Every home fire escape plan should have two ways out of every room. Practice your escape family with your entire family at least twice annually. And never attempt to go back into a burning home. Possessions can be replaced. Your life can’t be.