As we head into the holidays, we want to offer locals five quick safety tips to help prevent a home fire during what should be a festive time of the year.
1. Have Working Smoke Detectors
This may seem like a no-brainer, but some people forget to change batteries and regularly test the smoke detectors in their homes. Set a day every year – like January 1st – to install new batteries, or immediately when the alarm begins to chirp. Smoke alarms are designed to alert you before the battery dies, allowing you time to replace it. Smoke detectors should be placed on every level of your home, tested monthly, new batteries installed annually, and the units replaced after 10 years. Some alarms can also be Interconnected, so that when one goes off in one area of a house, they all sound.
2. Create an Escape Plan
Once you have working smoke alarms installed throughout your home, you should have a fire-exit plan that all family members are aware of with the quickest escape routes from every room in your home. Run through safety drills occasionally, so that everyone remains on the same page and the escape plan becomes second nature. Fires are scary and will likely bring chaos and panic, and a well-rehearsed family exit plan is beneficial for both adults and children. In addition, ensure children are aware of fire hazards and rules – for example, feeling a door for heat before opening it, and “stop, drop, and roll.” Once you’re out of the home, never go back inside.
3. Use Caution When Cooking
Many house fires start in the kitchen; in fact, stovetops account for about 50% of house fires. Prevent kitchen fires by being alert when you cook or bake. Whether frying, grilling, or broiling, stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on your cooking. And if you step away – even for a minute – turn off the stove. When cooking with hot oil, always be on alert and never leave the kitchen when oil is on a lit burner. When using the burners, be sure to keep all combustible items like towels and oven mitts away from flames and potential grease splatters.
Purchase a fire extinguisher for your home and learn how to use it correctly. Before you buy, make sure you’re getting the right kind, as fire extinguishers are available in various sizes and classifications (A, B, C, A+B+C, etc.), which are effective on specific types of fires (electrical, oil, etc.). They’re also available in disposable or rechargeable. Once you’ve found the best option, you’ll want to make sure everyone in the house – including your kids – know how to use the extinguisher in an emergency. When you do have a fire extinguisher in the house, be sure it’s in a strategic place that can be quickly and easily accessed.
5. Candles & Other Hazards
The holiday season is here, and that means more candles being lit in homes to add comfort and festive scent. Candles can light other items on fire if you’re not careful, so keep surrounding items away. Make sure any candles in your home are in proper holders with protective covers, and extinguish any candles when you leave a room or go to bed. Follow similar rules as the weather cools down, and space heaters come out. Keep space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn and turn them off before you go to sleep.
Candles call for flame, which means matches or lighters. Hide or lock away these items from children, who are naturally curious and often interested in flames. In a similar vein, do not leave matchboxes or lighters next to a fireplace where children can reach them.
Finally, be vigilant. Check electrical cords for fraying or tears. Unplug electronic devices and appliances when you’re done. Plugged-in devices can cause electrical fires.