Fire officials in the Northeast and other regions of the country that experience harsh winter weather are urging consumers to practice safe home heating habits this winter. It is important to be aware of fire hazards throughout the year, however winter is an especially dangerous time of year when it comes to house fires. When the outside temperature drops, people turn up the heat inside to ward off the cold. Here are a few tips that will keep your family safe and warm during the long months ahead.
1) Fireplaces and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned at least once per year.
2) Pay a professional to check, clean and service your furnace each year, preferably at the beginning of the winter season.
3) Use caution when using secondary sources of heat. There are several options available for those who want to use alternative heat sources. Wood and coal stoves, kerosene heaters, electric space heaters and other supplementary heat sources must be used as directed. Read and follow all directions to avoid accidental fires.
4) Portable heaters should be turned off when no one is in the room.
5) Check the batteries in your smoke detectors and make sure you have at least one working fire extinguisher in your home (that everyone knows how to use).
6) Map escape routes from various rooms of the house and have a fire drill to ensure everyone knows where to exit and what location to meet once outside.
7) Fireplaces and heaters should be placed a safe distance from any flammable objects.
8) Decorate with safety in mind. Look for the “fire retardant” label on artificial trees and keep real trees well watered to reduce fire risks. Do not overload outlets and follow safety instructions when using extension cords.
9) Do not leave major appliances running when you leave the house. Washers,dryers and stoves should be turned off to avoid fires.
10) Keep your home and children safe by keeping matches and lighters out of reach.
Residential fires increase during the winter months as families work to stay warm. Many fires occur at night when residents are sleeping increasing the chance of serious injury or even death. Armed with this information as well as the tips listed here, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of a fire damaging your property. With that in mind, house fires are extremely dangerous and should a fire begin in your home, get out of the building immediately and call 911. Leave the fire fighting for the trained professionals and resist the temptation to re-enter the home to retrieve property.