With the need to keep warm, it make sense that the winter time may be the most common time to encounter a house fire. According to the US Fire Administration, $2,091,000,000 in property loss occurs from winter home fires, and the most common cause comes from unsafe or unattended cooking.
To help prevent a fire in your home, as well as respond quickly and safely to one, be sure to follow these safety tips:
Encourage safe holiday decoration displays.
Candles are a seasonal favorite, but it is terribly unsafe to leave them on or near a Christmas tree, regardless of what tradition may tell you. A lit candle should not be allowed to burn unattended, or be left in a place where it could easily be knocked over or make contact with flammable clothes or materials.
Suggest ways to safely cook indoors.
Turkeys and other seasonal dishes require a lot of time to prepare and cook, and we are often tempted to leave them alone in the oven for a number of hours while we leave to take care of other holiday errands. Never, ever leave an active stove or oven unattended, and don't plan to cook when you may otherwise be busy or stressed out, as kitchens can be dangerous places and require your concentration.
Take care of your fireplace.
Many of us use wood stoves and fireplaces in rural America, and there's nothing wrong with doing so, except our chimneys and fireplaces need to be cleaned and inspected regularly. It may be an inconvenience and expense to do so, but buildup in the flue can easily catch fire, and local fire districts will gladly tell you about the increase in chimney fires they respond to this time of year.
Plan and practice a fire escape plan.
You family needs to know what to do if a fire does break out, and the smoke and excitement of a house fire can make it difficult to think clearly. If you have practiced a pre-determined escape route and meeting place, escaping a fire will be a matter of doing what you know rather than trying to figure it out right then and there.
Maintain your fire prevention equipment.
Be sure you change the batteries in your smoke detectors every year, and also make sure you have smoke detectors in your home to begin with. They could mean the difference between life and death for those living in your house if a fire should break out, and cost as little as $15 or $20 each. Also make sure a fire extinguisher is on hand and not stored in a place you will have difficulty accessing in the event of a fire.
Use a carbon monoxide detector, as well.
A little more expensive than a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detectors pick up dangerous levels of CO, an invisible, odorless gas that inhibits your body's ability to process oxygen. They can be found in hardware stores about as easily as smoke detectors.