With the arrival of the holidays, the risk of a house fire grows. People are more likely to use portable heating devices and light fires in fireplaces because of cold weather. Kitchen fires are more common as people cook for family get-togethers. An average of 1,300 kitchen fires occurred on each Thanksgiving Day from 2009 through 2011, more than three times the average daily rate of 400 fires.
The first line of defense against home fires and burn injuries lies in prevention.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends you inspect space heaters every year and check the commission’s website to make sure a heater hasn’t been recalled. Look at the cord and the plug to be sure they are free from damage. When you plug the heater in, see that the plug fits tightly in the socket and the cord doesn’t get hot while it’s in operation.
Never leave a heater unattended, and keep combustible materials like furniture, curtains, blankets, and papers at least three feet from all sides of the heater. Finally, place the heater somewhere that it won’t get knocked over.
Fireplaces are another frequent source of house fires. Make sure your chimney and fireplace are cleaned annually by a chimney sweep to clear out buildup and debris that can ignite. Remove all flammable materials and decorations from around the hearth before using. Close the metal mesh screen once the fire is lit; this keeps embers from coming into the room.
Kitchen fires, which are so common this time of year, can easily be prevented. Never leave your stove unattended. Always turn handles toward the back of the stove so someone passing doesn’t knock over a hot pan. Keep flammable materials like towels and papers away from the stove while cooking.
Cooking fires caused the most home-fire related injuries between 2009 and 2011, so prevention is key.
Almost two-thirds of fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that don’t work. We cannot stress the importance of these warning systems enough.
- Install them on every floor, outside of sleeping areas, and in the kitchen.
- Replace the batteries every year.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly.
- If your smoke alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them.
In addition to having working smoke alarms, it’s important to know in advance what you would do if a fire broke out. Talk with the whole family about escape routes and where you should go if a fire is blocking the main route out of the home. Have a plan and practice it.
Oftentimes fires are started by faulty wiring or continue to burn because of non-working warning systems. Although fires aren’t always the fault of the homeowner, homeowners should take the steps that they can to prevent fires in their home and workplace.