No matter the time of year, house fires are dangerous, but as the temperature drops, they undoubtedly happen more frequently.
The American Red Cross reports that the number of house fires rises between the fall and winter seasons, peaking in December and January.
The U.S. Fire Administration calculates that 890 persons per year die in winter house fires. These statistics are alarming, but there are many things you can take to protect yourself.
According to experts, the main causes of winter fires are candles, cooking, Christmas trees, other holiday decorations, and heating devices like space heaters.
House fires may also be more deadly today than they were, say, 20 years ago, experts say.
This is because many furnishings in contemporary homes are constructed of synthetic materials. These synthetic materials often burn fast leaving people little time to flee a house fire.
In fact, experts say that residents used to have approximately 7 to 10 minutes to escape a burning home but only have around two minutes today.
All of this means that understanding how to stop house fires from starting in the first place is crucial. Here are some safety recommendations.
Tips for Preventing House Fires
Turn off your space heater before you go to bed and keep nothing within three feet of it.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to stay warm during the chilly winter months, but experts advise utilizing space heaters with caution. Many people believe you can purchase one, turn it on, and do nothing esle, but it’s actually not that easy.
According to firefighting professionals, heating is the second-leading cause of house fires, injuries, and fatalities in the US. When a heater is too close to flammable objects or experiences mechanical or electrical problems, it may result in a house fire, often with fatal results.
From 2012 to 2016, there were an average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment that required the assistance of U.S. fire departments. In those fires, 86 percent of the fatalities were related to space heaters.
Experts advise that you keep a three-foot clearance around the space heater at all times and turn it off before you go to bed in order to stay safe.
When you’re awake, you should turn on the heater to warm the room you wish to sleep in. Once you’re asleep, though, you should switch it off. You shouldn’t leave it running all night.
Verify that your smoke alarms are functional.
The smoke alarm is unquestionably one of the keys to preventing house fires that cause serious damage and death. They are often the first indication that there is a fire.
The great majority of home fires occur in residences without working smoke alarms or residences without any smoke alarms at all.
According to statistics, nearly three out of every five home fire fatalities occurred between 2012 and 2016 in residences without smoke alarms or residences with smoke alarms that were inoperable.
Experts advise replacing any smoke alarm that is more than ten years old and checking your smoke alarms at least once a month.
It is also advised that you replace batteries in your smoke alarms once a year (or whenever the alarm chirps to alert you that the battery is low).
You should also be sure that smoke alarms are installed on every level of your property if it has more than one story.
One more thing, you should also have carbon monoxide detectors. The CDC advises installing carbon monoxide detectors close to every part of your home where people sleep.
Avoid connecting anything that produces heat or cold air with an extension cord.
Any appliance that heats or cools a space, such as an air conditioner or space heater, should be plugged directly into the wall. The same holds true for appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, and toasters.
Plus, it is also advised that only one these items should be connected into an outlet at a time.
That’s because these types of items consume too much electricity and an extension cord is often unable to manage that amount.
Extension cords may appear convenient, but you should actually take caution when using them. In fact, according to experts, you should only use extension cords as temporary workarounds for your electrical demands.
Asking an electrician to add additional outlets to your home is something that firefighting pros advise instead of relying on an extension cord for an extended period.
Clear the lint trap in your dryer.
Experts say that between 2010 and 2014, there were 15,970 home fires involving washing and drying machines for which U.S. fire departments were called.
A staggering 92 percent of the incidents were the fault of dryers, and a third of those fires were caused by a failure to clean the appliance.
Mechanical and electrical issues were primarily to blame for the other dryer and washer fires.
Lint filters should always be used in dryers, and they should be cleaned both before and after each load of laundry. You should also maintain the space around your dryer to keep it free of anything that could catch fire, such as boxes, cleaning supplies, and clothing.
If you have a fireplace, be sure to properly dispose of the ashes.
There are safety precautions to bear in mind even though a fireplace is probably the only place in your house where you’d want to have a fire going.
The NFPA recommends that you have a competent professional evaluate your chimney and vents once a year in order to prevent chimney fires.
Additionally, you must keep fireplace ashes that have cooled in a firmly sealed metal container outside, at least 10 feet from your home and any other structures.
Also, make sure that everything that could catch fire is removed from the area around the fireplace, and never leave a lighted fireplace unattended.
Yes, sleeping while in front of the warm fire counts as being “unattended,” despite how appealing it can be.
Never leave the stove unattended while cooking.
Cooking is one of the main causes of house fires at anytime of the year.
That’s why when you are cooking you should stay in the kitchen and watch what you’re preparing. Food packaging, pot holders, or dish towels should not be kept close to the stove.
Also, never use your oven as a heat source. Experts say it could quickly lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home.
Avoid leaving candles unattended or next to anything flammable.
Candles are attractive but also quite dangerous. According to professionals, they were responsible for 36% of home fires that were caused by decorations between 2011 and 2015.
Using flameless candles is recommended by experts whenever possible. But sometimes you just want the cozy vibes that come with using a real candle, even if it’s not for religious reasons. That’s okay as long as you follow some basic safety advice.
For one thing, once a candle is burning less than two inches from the holder, put it out. The holder may become heated and catch fire if it burns completely down.
Experts also advise keeping candles at least one foot away from anything that can catch fire.
Additionally, be sure to extinguish any flames before bed and before leaving a room.
What to do if You Suffer a House Fire in Winter or Any Other Time of Year
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