Winter is upon us and residential fires take their toll every day and every year, resulting in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property.
Many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented by homeowners. Taking the time to make some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fires in the home and can even saves lives should disaster strike.
Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arrestors inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, papers – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended or where a child or pet could knock them over.
Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard-wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Carbon monoxide detectors should be within 13 feet of a sleeping space. Here’s some general guidelines to help you decided on the best detectors for your home:
Ionization vs Photoelectric smoke detectors- Ionization detectors respond best to “fast-flame” fires. Photoelectric are better at detecting slow, smoldering fires. Dual detectors with both technologies are available but not always recommend because of the lack of industry standards. Make sure to speak with an expert at your nearest hardware store.
Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach. Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Local fire departments can provide detailed recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
Live Christmas trees should be kept in a water-filled stand and checked daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly-cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights on a dried-out tree. Candles add a festive feeling but make sure to place in stable holders and located away from curtains, drafts, pets, and children. Never leave candles unattended, even for a short time. Christmas or other holiday lights should be checked for fraying or broken wires and plugs.