Winter Fire Prevention Tips: Stop Home Fires Cold!
According to the National Fire Protection Association, home structural fires peak during the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 pm and during the winter months of December, January, and February. Nearly half of all home fires occur during these three months.
Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. Smoking was the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths. Heating equipment was the second most common cause of home fire fatalities.
Common Causes of Home Fires
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Unwatched cooking equipment and high temperatures make the kitchen an ideal area for a home fire.
- Keep watch over what you are cooking and stay alert for any hazards.
- If you are sleepy or drunk, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
- Keep your kitchen area clean and flammable objects away from cooking equipment.
- Get into the habit of using timers when you are cooking.
- Never leave the kitchen if you are frying, grilling, broiling, or boiling. If you have to leave the kitchen, turn the stove off.
- Keep lips to your pots and pans nearby so you can smother small fires.
- Make sure you are not wearing loose clothing when cooking.
- Keep your eyes on your children and prevent them from playing around you while you are dealing with the heat in the kitchen.
- If you cannot put the fire out, turn off the heat source if you can, leave the kitchen, close the door, and call 911.
- For oven fires, close the door and turn off the heat.
- Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher nearby and that you know how to use it.
Candles and Cigarettes
Unattended candles and cigarettes are often the cause of home fires. According to the NFPA, “On average, 29 home candle fires were reported per day.”
- Never leave candles or lit cigarettes unattended. Have one person be the designated candle checker every time you leave the house or go to bed. This person should also make sure to turn off all space heaters, Christmas lights, and other heat sources as well!
- Place candles on sturdy surfaces away from anything that might burn.
- If you have pets or children, it’s probably best if you stick with electric candles and lights.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- If you must smoke, do so outside! Use solid and sturdy ashtrays.
According to The American Red Cross, “on average, one of every 22 home fires started by Christmas trees result in death.”
Candles, space heaters, radiators, heat vents, and fireplaces are used more in the months of December and January than any other months. Make sure that your Christmas tree is at least three feet away from any heat source.
Also, ensure that your Christmas tree is properly watered. Dry Christmas trees can engulf a whole house in flames in a matter of minutes. Keep your tree as fresh and moist and possible!
What is even more common than Christmas tree fires are Christmas tree falls. Stabilize your Christmas tree properly and protect it from pets and small children. Consider putting up a pet-proof gate around your tree when you are not at home.
Here are some additional holiday safety tips:
- Turn Christmas lights off before you leave your home or go to bed.
- Don’t use a gas fireplace if the glass panel has been removed.
- Don’t store anything flammable near any heat source, such as space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Replace burned out bulbs.
- Take down holiday lights within 90 days to avoid damage and a potential fire hazard.
- Store lightly carefully to avoid damaged cords and sockets.
As the temperatures drop, we want to make sure all our customers are safe. Since the 1980s, heating equipment has generally ranked second in the leading cause of home fires. Fires involving heating equipment peak in December, January and February — when the temperatures are the coldest.
We want to encourage everyone to learn important heating safety tips to prevent a dangerous and destructive fire.
- Keep heaters at least 3 feetaway from other items.
- Be sure heating equipment is in good shape and clean.
- Be sure heating equipment is properly installed and insulated.
- Use only approved heaters and fuels.
- Place your space heater on a nonflammable surface (like tile) and keep it at least three feet away from bedding, curtains, furniture and feet.
- Don’t use your fireplace if you don’t have a glass or metal protective panel. Also, make sure you have your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year. Creosote can build up causing a fire hazard.
- Never use your over or stovetop to heat your home.
- Have a 3-foot no-play zone near any heat source, including furnaces, radiators, stove tops, fireplaces, and candles.
The best way to prevent heating equipment malfunctions and lower your energy bills is to schedule a professional heating tune-up. This is not only a safety precaution — it will also save you money and energy. Most manufacturer warranties even require it!
Leave the electrical work to the professionals. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure your electrician is properly licensed and insured.
Here are some more important electrical safety tips that could potentially save a life:
- Plug major appliances directly into the receptacle. Learn about the importance of grounding and bonding.
- Don’t overload receptacles.
- Never use extension cords as a permanent solution. Consider installing additional outlets if you need them.
- If outlets or light switches feel warm or hot to the touch, turn off power at the breaker box and contact a certified electrician. The same goes for sparks, sizzling, buzzing, and unusual odors.
- Make sure light bulbs are the correct type and wattage for the fixture. Switch to LED bulbs for less heat output and lower energy bills.
- Test your GFCI and AFCI protection regularly.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month.
- Contact a certified electrician if your electrical panel keeps blowing a fuse or tripping a breaker.
- Schedule a yearly electrical safety inspection from a qualified electrician.
Learn more about common electrical hazards in the home. For a thorough and professional electrical safety inspection, call Brubaker Inc. today for your home safety inspection.
Fire Safety Devices
You don’t want to wait until your house is on fire to Google “how to stop a fire.” It will already be too late. Instead, make sure your home is equipped with these fire safety devices and your family knows what to do if a fire does occur.
On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires every day, many of which could be prevented with operating smoke alarms. In fact, having working smoke alarms in your home cuts the risk of dying in a fire by half (NFPA).
Smoke alarms are an essential part of home safety. Follow these smoke alarm safety tips to keep your home and family safe:
- Install smoke alarms on every floor of the home, inside every bedroom, and outside each sleeping area. Don’t forget about the attic and basement. For added protection, use interconnected alarms so they all sound if one sounds.
- Test every smoke alarm once a month by holding down the test button.
- Make sure smoke alarms are high on the wall or on the ceiling.
- Avoid placing a smoke alarm in the kitchen to reduce false alarms.
- Consider using smoke alarms with strobes and/or bed shakers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years or sooner. Refer to the manufacturer instructions.
Let the professionals at Brubaker Inc. help you with all your smoke detector needs. We can help you properly install and maintain both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
AFCIs and GFCIs
Arc-Fault Breakers are one of the most important new advancements in electrical fire protection. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that arc fault circuit interrupters could prevent more than 50 percent of electrical home fires that occur every year.
Watch this video from the Electrical Safety Foundation International to learn how AFCIs work and why they are so important for preventing electrical fires:
Ask a professional electrician about installing Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters to prevent fires started by electrical arcs (when electricity jumps a gap in the circuit).
Also consider installing GFCIs (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters) and RCDs (Residual-Current Device) in order to prevent a person from being shocked. All outdoor outlets should be protected by GFCIs and some outlets are even required to be GFCI-protected.
Fire Escape Plan
Last, but certainly not least, create and practice a fire escape plan. Use this fire escape planning checklist from the NFPA.
Schedule an Electrical Safety Inspection from Brubaker Inc.
Check Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Tighten All Connections, Complete a 33 Point Visual inspection, Check Landscape Lighting, Replace Light Bulbs, And as a courtesy, we’ll dust your ceiling fans (We’ve got the ladder anyway!)
For information about arc-fault breakers, electrical service and repair, or electrical home safety, Brubaker Inc. is here to help.
Brubaker Inc. is the trusted source for all your home service needs in Central Pennsylvania. Our friendly staff is on call 24/7 for any questions, concerns, or service requests.