3 Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe From a Home Fire This Winter

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Parts of the Hill Country are soon expected to experience their first real bout of cooler weather. While a cool front will eventually move on, the promise of colder temperatures might have you prepping your home for the winter months. However, an important aspect of winterizing your home that is often overlooked is being aware of the hazards that might lead to structure fires during this time of year.

The United States Fire Administration estimates 905 people are killed each year by winter home fires. Additionally, property losses of over $2 million have been recorded due to homes burning during the colder months. Below are three tips from the administration that can help you keep your family safe this winter and for many winters to come.

1. Be Aware of Proper Placement of Heaters and Fire Screens

Space Heater safety during winter months photo courtesy of u.s. fire administration

Photo: U.S. Fire Administration

One of the most basic ways to prevent house fires is to be aware of the objects nearest to your heating source. A few specific tips regarding space heaters and fireplaces are:

  • Keep all flammable items at least three feet away from your source of heat.
  • It is hazardous to use extension cords to plug-in space heaters, always plug electric heaters directly into the wall.
  • For added safety, only utilize heaters with automatic shut-offs, just in case yours accidentally tips over.
  • When using a fireplace, always make sure there is a screen covering the opening. This ensures embers cannot land on flooring or furniture, thus leading to a structural blaze.

Sources of heat in the home are the second leading cause of family dwelling fires. In fact, 45,900 house fires were caused by a heat-related source between 2013 and 2015. Following the above steps will ensure your family stays warm, and safe, this winter.

2.Use Caution When Decorating for the Holidays

Use caution when decorating for the holidays. Here, jack o lanterns glow with candlelight. Photo from Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

Whether it be a spooky jack-o’-lantern glowing in the dark or a beautiful pine tree with lights entwined around its branches, holiday decorations can be a great way to celebrate this time of year, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you gather your decor.

  • Battery operated light sources are always preferable to candles if you want to illuminate a spooky pumpkin face.
  • Extension cords should be replaced if they are showing any wear and tear such as cracks or exposed wires.
  • If you do choose to use candles, keep them at least a foot away from flammable objects.
  • When using a live Christmas tree, be sure to water it daily. To see how quickly a dehydrated tree can go up in flames, watch this video.

3. Check Your Smoke Alarms

Prepare for winter by checking your smoke alarms

Photo: Facebook/U.S. Fire Administration

A final step in protecting your family and home this winter involves something very simple; checking your smoke alarms to ensure they are in proper working condition. This elementary process can literally be the difference between life or death in the event of a house fire. The following information provides specific guidelines for smoke alarm use:

  • Every floor of your home, from the basement to the attic, should have a smoke alarm.
  • Alarms should be tested once a month to ensure they are functioning properly.
  • If the alarms in your home are over 10 years old, they should be replaced with newer models.
  • For the utmost safety, place alarms inside each sleeping area as well as the outer areas such as the living room and kitchen.

The use of smoke alarms has been shown to reduce your chances of dying in a house fire by 50 percent. When winterizing your home, do not forget this simple, but critical step.

References: U.S. Fire Administration