Five Winter Safety Tips

With the first day of winter comes the promise of even cooler temperatures. As cold weather creeps in, house-warming devices come out and bring fire hazards with them. Here are a few quick things to keep in mind when preparing your house for the cold.

Check Your Smoke Alarms First

With additional heat sources or decorative items in every room, the need for working smoke alarms increases. If you fall asleep with the electric blanket on or forget to blow out a candle before heading to bed, too much damage could be done before the fire wakes you. A study conducted by the NFPA found that working smoke alarms more than double your chances of surviving a house fire. Check the batteries of your existing ones or install new ones now so you don’t have to think about it later.

Give Space Heaters Enough SPACE!

Let the name of these heat-producing devices remind you to keep them clear of any surroundings! Space heaters need to be at least three feet away from anything, including furniture, window dressings, and blankets. Be sure to plug them into their own outlet, rather than a surge protector or other extension cord already being used by other things. If you cannot find one with a timer, set a reminder on your phone or stove to turn it off after a certain amount of time. Also, put a sticky note on your door so you never leave the house with it running!

Clean It Before Lighting It

Whether it’s the fire pit, grill, or chimney, be sure to clean it out before lighting it for the first time in the season. If you have already broken it in this year but did not clean it beforehand, clean it before using it again. Old ash and built up grease, even things that may have fallen into these things over the course of a few neglected months, can turn a small flame into a dangerous fire without warning. When using one of these things outside, always be sure to clear the area of flammables first!

Stop the “Silent Killer” Early

Carbon monoxide, also known as the “silent killer”, is a danger when generators, fireplaces, or furnaces are in use. An unknown leak can send this chemical through the house. Since it does not have a smell or color, toxic amounts can fill the room without being noticed. This can kill any who inhale it. Be sure to install or put new batteries in a carbon monoxide detector before using these heat sources for peace of mind. Many hardware stores carry combo smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, which is the perfect way to remember to keep both up to date.

Watch Out for All the Wires!

Another strand of lights on the tree, an extra guest’s charging cellphone, the television rolling holiday movies, a space heater warming the room, a laptop on the corner desk. All these cords add up quickly. Whether its multiple appliances in the kitchen or the best lighting display on your block, don’t overload your electrical sockets! Almost 40% of home electrical fires happen in colder months for a reason. Overloading the sockets can cause many issues: from overheating the charging base or the items plugged into it or causing electrical issues in the walls. The danger is not worth the risk. When you have more things plugged in than usual, take a little time to plan ahead better to avoid needing to plug everything in at once. Charge devices at night when the lights are unplugged. Only run your space heater for short, scheduled intervals to break the chill. Cook some things ahead of time. These little steps remove this underestimated hazard. Follow these tips and you and your family can have safe and happy holidays!