Winter is synonymous with many things, but few people would rank home fires atop their list of things that remind them of winter. However, we often hear about tragic home fires during the winter months. Perhaps the most troubling thing about those statistics is that winter home fires are often preventable. At Amazing Home Contractors, we want to help you keep your family safe and protected. Here are our six tips for preventing home fires.1
Practice a home fire escape plan
Map out the layout of your home. Create routes to exit the home in case a fire does occur. Consider that windows may be an alternate escape path. Inspect your windows to make sure they function properly. Consider having your home windows replaced if needed. Teach children about different escape routes and a rendezvous point after they exit. Practice your home fire escape plan at least twice each year.2
Have your furnace inspected
Ideally, furnaces should be inspected and any problems addressed before the arrival of winter. But many homeowners forget this routine maintenance until that first cold day when it’s time to turn the heat back on. If you have not yet had your furnace inspected, schedule an inspection with a local HVAC professional, who can make sure all controls and emergency shutoffs are fully functioning. If you discover an issue during a self-inspection, call a professional to make the repairs. Unless you have experience in HVAC repair, it’s best to let the pros handle any repairs because the stakes are so high. Home fires often result from faulty equipment, so only trained professionals should be inspecting and repairing your home furnace.3
Be careful using portable heaters
Portable heaters can warm up those areas of the house that always seem to be too cold in winter. Such devices also provide a backup plan in case of a broken heating system. But the USFA notes that, in 2011, heating equipment was involved in more than 53,000 home structure fires in the United States, accounting for 14 percent of all reported home fires. When using portable heating equipment, such as space heaters, radiators, and portable fireplaces, do not place such devices anywhere close to items that can burn. Upholstered furniture, bedding, mattresses, and clothing can ignite in seconds, so keep portable heating devices away to help with preventing home fires. And always turn portable heating devices off when leaving the room where they are in operation.4
Address frozen pipes correctly
Water pipes in a home can freeze depending on how cold the home gets. It might be tempting to thaw such pipes with an open flame, but such an approach is highly dangerous, as the pipe may begin to conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the space. When addressing pipes you suspect are frozen, thaw them with hot water or even a laboratory-tested handheld dryer rather than an open flame.5
Treat your fireplace with caution
Fireplaces make great gathering spots for families in the winter, but only when they are operated safely. Before lighting the first fire of the season, have the fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned to reduce the risk of fire. Once the time comes to spark your first fire, do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate the fire and make sure you have installed a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out of the fire and possibly igniting any nearby items or materials.6
Inspect smoke alarms
Properly functioning smoke alarms can save both your home and your life. When functioning properly, smoke alarms can alert you to a fire early on, giving you time to extinguish a small fire before it spreads or to escape a larger fire before it threatens your life. Inspect your smoke alarms periodically regardless of the season and make sure you have at least one functioning alarm on each level of your home. Baltimore City residents who don’t have smoke alarms can call 311, and the Baltimore City fire department will install them for free.
We at Amazing Home Contractors, are honored to live and work in Maryland! We love the our city and the people. Let’s all do our part to help with preventing home fires.