This time of year, the chance for fires in your homes and businesses is much higher than the rest of the year. With heaters, open flames, and piled-on Holiday decorations prevalent, it is no wonder that half of all home fires occur during December, January, and February, with Christmas being the busiest time for firefighters. It is crucial to practice good fire safety during the winter months.
Heater and Electrical Safety
Heating is the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S. Typically incidents involve space heaters, causing about 40% of fires this time of year. Heating and electrical fires can be devastating, follow these tips to avoid loss of life or property this winter:
- Check your space heater before using it. If it’s not operating correctly or the cord is damaged in any way, don’t use it.
- Test every smoke detector in the house and make sure all of them have charged batteries.
- Install and test carbon monoxide alarms, as well, particularly if you are using a portable generator.
- Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away from your home or business as possible.
- Don’t overload your outlets and extension cords. Plug only one heater into an electrical outlet at a time.
- Keep anything flammable at least three feet from your space heater.
- Make sure your space heater has an automatic shut off. In the event it tips over, it should turn off.
- Don’t use electric blankets while sleeping and throw them away if they are damaged.
- Use only the recommended wattage in any light fixtures.
- Don’t attempt electrical repairs or installations on your own; rely on a certified professional.
Open Flame Safety
Fires in your fireplace and candles are a cozy way to bring warmth to your home and office, but the truth of the matter is that candle fires are four times more likely to occur during the holidays. Here are a few things to keep in mind when burning an open flame in your home or business this winter:
- Never leave a room when a candle is burning.
- Never burn wrapping paper, garbage, or other debris in your fireplace.
- Always supervise children and pets around fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and any open flames, including candles.
- Use a screen with your fireplace to prevent sparks from flying into the room.
- Keep the doors to your wood-burning stove closed unless adding wood or stoking the fire.
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the fireplace or other open flames.
- Have your chimney and vents inspected and cleaned by a professional each year.
- Cool ashes completely before removing and store them in a covered metal container, at least 10 feet from your home and other buildings.
Christmas Tree and Decoration Safety
Many of the above electrical safety tips also apply to holiday decorations. Holiday cheer is great, but you never want to sacrifice safety for a few extra strands of lights. Don’t turn the most wonderful time of the year into a disaster; follow these Christmas tree and decoration safety tips:
- Live trees need to be fresh and stay fresh until removed from your home. A tree that sheds needles too easily is not fresh. Keep a live tree watered so it doesn’t dry out.
- Never place your Christmas tree near a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or other open flames.
- Keep lit candles at least three feet away from your tree. Never place real, burning candles on your Christmas tree as decorations.
- Keep doorways and exit routes clear in case of a fire.
- Your artificial tree should be fire-resistant.
- Throw out Christmas lights, extension cords, and other electric decorations with frayed wiring or other damage.
- Don’t overload an electrical outlet, and never use more than three sets of light strands per one extension cord.
- Turn off and unplug Christmas tree lights and other decorations when you’re away from home. Consider setting them on a timer to turn off during the night, as well.
- Only decorate a tree with non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations. Keep paper and easily-melted plastic decorations away from lights and other sources of heat.
- For decorations outside, only use extension cords and lights labeled for outdoor use.
- Fasten outdoor decorations to your home, sturdy trees, or other supports so that they stay secure, even in windy weather.
- Plug outdoor lights and electric decorations into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlets or use a surge protector.
- Do not nail through lights when hanging them, use clips or hooks instead.
We know it’s a lot to remember, but having a thorough checklist for your home or business each winter can keep you, your family and friends, and your property safe from a fire.
No matter how careful you are, however, we understand that accidents can happen. If you do experience a fire this year, ServiceMaster can help get your home or business back to normal with our fire and smoke restoration services.
The best way for businesses to plan ahead is with an emergency response plan. With a plan in place, the ServiceMaster team is more prepared to get you back up and running as quickly as possible. Set up a plan here and call our team at ServiceMaster if you experience a fire this winter.