Fall and Winter Fire Safety Tips You Won’t Want to Ignore

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By Erin Pittman and Katherine Gotthardt

Holidays make their mark in fall and winter, but unfortunately, so do home fires. According to the American
Red Cross, home fires typically increase during these seasons, and they usually happen when residents are there. Protect your home and loved ones this autumn and winter by following these tips.

Check smoke detectors regularly.

These little devices are lifesaving, and you should check them each season. Smoke detectors should be located outside of all bedrooms and on each level. They will chirp or beep when they have a low battery or are faulty. Replace batteries when you check the smoke detectors, and install new smoke detectors  immediately if they are reaching the end of their life.

Examine fire extinguishers.

Fire extinguishers can last anywhere from 3 to 20 years, and many do not come with an expiration date, so you will need to check them. Most fire extinguishers have a pressure gauge with a red section and a green section. If the needle is in the green, the fire extinguisher should still be in working order. If there is no pressure gauge and you want to test the fire extinguisher, press in the pin. If it pops back up, the  extinguisher is pressurized. Home fire extinguishers are generally inexpensive, so if you are unsure,
better to be safe than sorry — invest in a new one.

Be mindful when cooking.

Did you know cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires and home fire injuries? Most of these are preventable simply by being more aware and focused when cooking. Use appropriate kitchen tools.
Don’t leave items on the stove or in the oven unattended. Keep your counters clear and keep young children away from hot surfaces.

Clear areas around candles.

Always popular, but more so in the fall and winter, candles are pretty but can be dangerous. Any time you have an open flame, it’s essential you stay alert and aware. Never keep objects near a candle — make sure
there is free space of at least one foot in all directions around a lit candle. Don’t leave candles unattended, and never leave children alone near an open flame. For a safer alternative, consider opting for battery-operated candles.

Take care with extension cords.

It’s easy to misuse an extension cord for the sake of decorating and convenience but doing so creates a fire hazard. Don’t double up on extension cords by plugging multiple adapters into an extension cord socket. Never overload outlets and cords with too many items plugged in. Don’t use an indoor cord outdoors. And remember, strings and strings of extension cords increase your risk of a fire.

Follow rules for fireplace safety.

There are few things that beat a crackling fire in the fireplace. Keep it cozy and safe. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year to avoid chimney fires. Repair cracks. Have lines and connections for
natural gas fireplaces inspected annually. Use screens around wood fireplaces to contain sparks and debris. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start indoor fires. Don’t leave fires unattended and keep combustibles at a far distance from fireplaces.

Pay attention to other heating sources.

Many people rely on extra heating during the coldest months. Besides fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters should also be used with care. Always plan to be in the room when using these heating sources. For wood stoves, keep doors closed and children away from the stove and tools. Space heaters can present
hazards of their own. Purchase ones with automatic shut-off in the event they are tipped over or you fall asleep. And be sure to keep them away from any flammable objects.

Heed guidelines for outdoor burning.

The warmth from outdoor firepits on a cold night can be heavenly. Enjoy your time and keep fire pits burning safely. Only burn in a contained area. Ensure adults supervise children at all times around all fires and make those s’mores from a distance. Burning leaves or brush? Find and follow local regulations.

If you do have an emergency…

We hope it doesn’t happen, but if you have a fire, call 911 as soon as you are out of the home safely. While on the phone, take account of everyone who has made it out. If someone is missing, tell this to the 911 dispatcher along with information of where they could be in your home. If you don’t see a way out, call 911 from where you are, and give the dispatcher your exact location. Be sure to seal the bottom of your doorway with a towel or other cloth to keep smoke from billowing in.

You can revel in the cooler months and the holidays that come along with them. Be safe while doing so and enjoy the warmth the season.

Erin Pittman (epittman@princewilliamliving.com), Editor in Chief of Prince William Living, and Katherine Gotthardt (kgotthardt@princewilliamliving.com), Social Media Manager for Prince William Living, have collaborated on articles and books for the past 6 years. Together they have over 40 years of professional writing and editing experience.

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