New homeowners should know that accidental fires can strike anytime even during the cold months and it can cause serious structural damage to their homes. If you just moved into a new home with your family, it’s critical that you understand what may cause winter fires so that you can practice safety measures to keep your family and home safe.
Just recently, crews from the Dubuque Fire Department responded to a house fire. Although no one was reportedly hurt in the fire, the property at 545 Napier Street sustained extensive damage.
Residential fires can take place during winter as families regularly use heating devices to warm their homes. Heating devices, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), are the second leading causes of winter fires, next to cooking. The peak months for heating fires are December, January, and February. Fire authorities said heating fires typically happen between 5 to 9 in the evening, with the highest peak between 6 and 8 in the evening.
The following tips can help you prevent a house fire during winter:
Safety precautions when using space heaters
When using a portable heating device, it’s important that you understand the manufacturer’s instructions and its warning labels. It is advisable to place space heaters on the floor without a carpet and must be away from doorways. Make sure that nothing that can catch fire is near the device or keep anything at least 3 feet away from the device. Make sure to always shut down and unplug heaters whenever leaving the house or before going to bed.
Properly maintain the fireplace
A professional must annually inspect and clean your fireplace chimney. If you have a fireplace and prefer to use it, make sure to open the flue or damper before lighting it and clean off the ashes before using it again. You may need to do some additional improvements depending on the fireplace you have. For example, you may need to put a screen guard to prevent burn injuries and prevent embers from escaping the furnace and causing a fire. Moreover, make sure that nothing that can catch fire is near the furnace, like furniture or appliances. Never, ever, leave a fireplace unattended.
Make sure smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are working
Smoke detectors are your first line of defense during the wee hours and those are useless if they’re not working. Ideally, smoke detectors that are strategically installed inside the home must be checked monthly. Since batteries in detectors could wear off over time, some homeowners consider replacing batteries once a year.
Like smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher is also useless if it doesn’t work. According to a fire equipment company, a disposable fire extinguisher has a shelf life of 12 years. If you have one at home, make sure to check its manufacturing date and that you have understood the instructions. Immediately replace a fire extinguisher if it has any signs of damage. It’s also important that each member of the family knows how to Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep from side to side. Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep or PASS is a fire extinguisher technique to put off a fire within an effective range.
Prioritize family safety during a fire
In an unfortunate event like a house fire, it’s important that everyone in the family is safe before anything else. It’s ideal that each family member knows how to safely escape the house during a fire and knows what emergency hotlines to call. Keep in mind that it could take time for emergency responders to arrive and it’s an advantage if your family knows first aid in case one of the members sustain burn injuries or smoke suffocation.
If you have pets inside, let the fire crews rescue them instead.
Take action to recover from a fire
After ensuring that your family is safe, you must remain calm and take swift actions after a fire. Notify your insurance provider about the incident and get instructions on how to file a claim. If your home is severely damaged, you might need to work with contractors, cleaners, or restoration companies to recover your home. If you have an updated fire insurance policy and the cause of the fire is covered by the policy, you may get the financial assistance you need for recovery.
AEM wishes your family a warm and safe winter
Your AEM family wishes your family a warm and safe winter. The tips mentioned here could be your guide to ensure your family’s safety while staying in the comfort of your home.