It’s every homeowner or renter’s worst nightmare: your home going up in flames. Even if you’re lucky enough to escape with your life and health, you can still lose invaluable objects and keepsakes, not to mention an entire residence. Although structural fires can happen accidentally, there are still a number of risk factors that can raise the chances of a fire breaking out inside a building. During the winter, homes are especially susceptible to fires.
Follow these winter fire safety tips to keep your home fire free during the cold season:
- Keep portable generators outside, away from windows and as far away as possible from your house.
- Keep grills, cookers and fryers at least 3 feet away from your house and shrubs or bushes. If you’re a building manager, prohibit barbecues on balconies – they can easily cause fires as well as smoke damage to other units.
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything flammable, as heat can quickly cause combustion. Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have your chimneys, fireplaces, wood stoves and central furnace serviced once a year. Make sure all flames have been put out before going to sleep. Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep it outside at least 10 feet from your home and nearby buildings.
- Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
- Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in all electrical outlets in kitchens, bathrooms and other wet areas. Don’t run extension cords across doorways or under carpets, make sure to use tamper-resistant receptacles if you have children, and don’t overload outlets or extension cords. Building managers should respond promptly to any reports of sparking or faulty wiring.
- If you have an artificial Christmas tree, be sure it’s labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant. Choose a fresh Christmas tree with fresh, green needles that don’t fall off when touched. Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, it isn’t blocking any exits and add water daily. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Never use lit candles to decorate your tree. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed. Dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the building.
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the structure. Test them monthly, and change batteries at least once per year for those with replaceable batteries. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.
- Create multiple escape plans and practice them with your family. Your plans should include escape routes from different areas of the house, tools for exiting the building (escape ladders and break out windows) and a designated meeting place. It’s very important to practice fire safety with kids, and be sure to familiarize your children with the sounds of the alarm(s).
- Store a fire extinguisher on every level of your home. Fire extinguishers should be placed by exits whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to have an extinguisher in your garage. Home fire extinguishers should have an ABC rating, making them usable for all types of fires. Though you should only consider using a fire extinguisher when a blaze is in the early stages—small and contained—they can be crucial in preventing significant destruction, and managing dangerous situations.
- In addition to having fire extinguishers in your residence, it’s important that you and your family know how to use one before an emergency arises. Hands-on training provided by National Fire Fighter is exciting and informative! The confidence you gain by using an extinguisher on a real fire is invaluable and knowing when to use an extinguisher is just as important as knowing when not to use one. Fire Extinguisher training instills the confidence to make that important decision when it matters most.
For more information on how to prevent winter fires, visit: