Winter brings an uptick in the number of structural fires reported to the U.S. Fire Administration. It's no surprise that a season that inspires people to crank up their heaters and fireplaces will lead to more fires, but there are also less obvious causes for these blazes. To avoid a tragedy before it occurs, homeowners should regularly check their homes for fire risks and eliminate potential issues. Here are some specific elements you should be sure to look at:
While summer usually prompts a rise in electrical usage as people crank up air conditioners and fans to stay cool, winter puts its own pressure on a home's electrical wiring. Holiday decorations and space heaters can tax aging wiring and lead to dangerous fires. You should have a home inspection to check your house's wiring about every 10 years and take care when plugging in temporary appliances or decorations.
Many fires begin when people chain together extension cords as a permanent solution to wiring issues, so take care when running cords around your home to power holiday lights or other items. Never leave items on top of extension cords and check connection points frequently to make sure plugs are still firmly connected.
The majority of home fires in the U.S. are caused by cooking accidents, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Given how much food is prepared during the holidays, it's crucial for homeowners to properly prepare their kitchens and evaluate any potential risks.
Clutter poses one of the biggest dangers for chefs, and it's easy to let flammable items like towels and cookbooks pile up near hot areas. While it might be convenient to keep some items close at hand, maintaining a 3-foot space around the stove or oven is a prudent way to keep your possessions from getting scorched.
In many cases, a kitchen fire quickly grows out of hand because people deal with it improperly. Grease fires are a particular danger because they spread when in contact with water. A fire extinguisher is the best way to combat grease flames, so make sure your home's extinguisher is up to date before you start cooking this holiday.
Your home's central heating system can pose a serious fire threat if it's not properly cleaned and maintained. Optimally, have a professional inspect your heating system annually. Fires are likely to occur when vents are clogged and dust or other debris inside the ducts becomes too hot. Heating system fires can spread fast because they can move the vents of your home, so make sure that the ducts and filter are clean before you flip the system on for the first time each winter.
Space heaters are far more dangerous than central heaters and must be treated with respect if you are to avoid dangerous situations. Never leave a space heater unattended and keep it places where it will always remain upright. If possible, put the space heater on a hard floor instead of carpet or a rug and never place it close to drapes or other hanging fabric. When you go to sleep, grab another blanket instead of leaving a space heater running.
Alarms and plans
While you're thinking about fire safety, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and make sure that they're functional. You should also ensure that you have enough fire detectors for the size of your home. As you check the alarm system, create a plan with family members for escape routes if a fire does occur. While the above tips should limit your risk of a blaze, it never hurts to be prepared.