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Winter Brings Increased Fire Dangers -- Does Your Home Pass the Fire Safety Test?

December 8, 2018


Fire House Fire

During the upcoming winter months accidental house fires remain a serious safety threat to homeowners and their families, but the main causes of home fires are clear and so are the ways to prevent them. The best way to avoid them is to first acknowledge their roots.

Cooking and Hot Oil

According to the National Fire Protection Association, unattended cooking causes 40 percent of house fires and 36 percent of fire-related injuries.

When a pot or pan overheats or splatters greases, it can take only seconds to cause a fire. It is a good idea to mount a fire extinguisher where everyone can find it in the event of a cooking fire. Never try to extinguish oil fires with water, as this will only spread the fire over walls and counter tops.

Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Even if you leave the kitchen for a short period of time, turn the stove off. Keep combustibles like oven mitts, dishtowels and paper towels away from heat sources.

Electrical and Appliances

Lighting related electrical fires can be prevented by not exceeding the maximum light bulb wattage for your lamps. Exceeding the maximum wattage may cause the light to generate too much heat, igniting the lampshade. Never place anything over a lamp, such as cloth or paper, because these can heat up and start a fire.

Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords and do not run cords under rugs or furniture. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only. If you find that you are permanently using an extension cord, have an electrician install another outlet.

If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.

Fireplaces and Wood stoves

Inspect and clean wood stove pipes and chimneys often to check for damage or obstructions. Never burn trash, paper or green wood. Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

Portable Space Heaters

These types of heaters are very dangerous because of their small size and the fact that they can be easily knocked over, or moved too close to walls, furniture or fabrics.

Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices. Check to make sure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don’t use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes.

Most homeowners take the basic steps to protect against fires, but there are flammable sources in homes that are commonly overlooked. By identifying and removing these fire hazards you can effectively take steps to protect your family and property.

Smoke Alarms

Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.

Install smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintenance.

Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 year old or sooner if they do not respond properly.

Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.

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