It may sound surprising, but winter time is prime time for house fires. While it may seem more likely that they would occur more often during the summer due to outdoor grills being in use and Fourth of July fireworks being played with during the warmer season, the cold temperatures lead to people spending more time at home, leading to more in-home accidents occurring. When temperatures are extra cold, many families also bring out space heaters that can be fire hazards when not used properly and kept an eye on. While no one yet knows how cold this winter will get, here are three tips to prevent a winter fire in your home and what you can do now to make sure your family is safe if one were to start in your home.
1. Be Careful When Cooking Holiday Meals & Daily Meals
The National Fire Protection Association reports that an astonishing 46 percent of all house fires in from 2010-2014 started in the kitchen. While they don't report how many were started during holiday cooking, it is easy to see that many people who don't cook much year-round and decide to prepare holiday dinners for the family may forget about kitchen fire-safety from year to year.
The number-one cause of cooking-related fires was meals in the oven or on the stove left unattended. Always keep an eye on everything you are cooking and, under no circumstances, keep your stove or oven turned on when no one is home.
The second most common cause of these fires was flammable items left too close to cooking equipment. When you turn on your oven or stove, always be sure that there is nothing flammable, such as a kitchen towel or napkin, too close to the appliance.
Additional contributors to these fires include mis-using kitchen equipment, such as accidentally leaving a flammable, plastic baking dish in the oven; accidentally leaving an oven or stove turned on long after baking is finished; and using a dirty stove or oven caked with flammable grease.
2. Never Leave a Space Heater or Fireplace Unattended
The second most common cause of winter fires is heating devices; however, not all fires are linked to space heaters. While space heaters are the number-one cause of winter fires caused by heating devices, it may be a surprise that, during some years, almost one-third of all winter fires caused by home heating devices are caused by fireplaces.
If you have a fireplace, then you may not even turn it on just for the heat, but also the cozy feeling in your home when it is on. However, don't get so cozy that you allow your entire family to fall asleep while it is lit; to stay safe, the fire in your fireplace should be completely extinguished before everyone goes to bed. To keep your fireplace safe, your chimney should also be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis, since some fireplace fires actually start in the chimney.
Even central heating systems and water heaters can cause winter fires, so keep your equipment clean and up-to-date to take advantage of important safety features offered in newer systems and water heaters.
3. Don't Fall Asleep By Candlelight
Candles are known fire hazards, but you may not know just how and when those candles start fires. Since they are such a known fire hazard today, most people do take care to keep them away from flammable items and keep an eye on them. However, even people who know about candle fire safety can get sleepy; 36 percent of house fires caused by candles start in a bedroom in the home. Most commonly, they are left too close to flammable materials in the bedroom, such as curtains or those holiday decorations, and start a blaze.
To stay on the safe side, never light candles in your bedroom if you are sleepy and make a "no-candles in bedrooms" rule for your children and teenagers.
Steps You Can Take Now To Keep Your Family Safe in a Fire
The two most important steps you can take right now to help your family stay safe if a fire were to start in your home are to have an exit strategy for your family in the case of a fire and have fire alarm monitoring installed in your home. While the topic may seem tough to discuss, having a fire plan is very important; the NFPA recommends that all families discuss their fire plans on a regular basis to keep the information fresh in everyone's minds in case of a fire, and practice home fire drills twice a year.
Fire alarm monitoring is another important step to keeping your family safe during a fire; call a fire alarm monitoring company to discuss having it set up. It typically costs just a small monthly fee and, when in place, your fire alarms don't just buzz or beep when smoke and heat from a fire is detected -- the alarm that senses a fire automatically sends a signal to the alarm monitoring station and, there, an employee immediately contacts your local fire department to alert them of the fire.
Without fire alarm monitoring, a fire that begins at night may engulf half of your home before your family even wakes up. When your fire alarm sends a signal to the fire alarm monitoring company, your family may instead be awoken by a firefighter who informs you all that there was a small blaze that was immediately put out by them before it became out of control.
The winter season is also fire season, so it is important to not just take all steps you can to prevent fires, but also take steps to make sure a fire that starts in your home does not lead to disaster or deaths. Follow these three tips to avoid common winter fire triggers, make a fire escape plan that you practice with your family regularly, and obtain fire alarm monitoring.