House fires become more common as the weather gets colder. Each year, over 3,000 people are killed in home fires or die as a result of burn injuries, and eight out of ten fire-related deaths occur at home.
In an informative U.S. News article, a list of simple steps are outlined that homeowners can take to prevent accidental fires.
Attention: In addition to the steps listed below, all households should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor and preferably in every bedroom. New smoke alarms should be installed every 10 years - and if you don't know how old your smoke alarm is, you should get a new one. Families should also plan and practice a home fire drill at least twice a year so that everyone in the house knows how to get outside quickly in the case of a fire.
Fire Threat 1: Cooking
Fire safety starts in the kitchen. Cooking - particularly stove-top cooking - represents the leading cause of home fires. Many such fires occur after residents put something on the stove and then become distracted.
Solution: Stand by your pan! Because cooking causes so many home fires, it's essential to give anything that's on top of your stove your undivided attention. If you have to leave the kitchen, turn off the burner.
Fire Threat 2: Heating
The second-most common cause of home fires is heating - although in the winter months, it becomes the leading concern. Portable, electric space heaters start a great deal of trouble, as sheets or window curtains accidentally come in contact with the unit and ignite (and during the holiday season, Christmas trees are a common hazard).
Solution: Give heaters space! People using space heaters should ensure that they are far enough away from other objects to avoid danger. A space heater needs at least three feet of clear space all around it in all directions, keeping it away from draperies, furniture, bedspreads, people, and pets. In addition, homeowners should have their central heating equipment professionally inspected and serviced each heating season. And if you regularly have logs burning in your fireplace, get your chimney inspected and cleaned annually as well.
Fire Threat 3: Smoking
In addition to its health dangers, smoking is the third-most common cause of home fires - and the top cause of home fire deaths. Such fires can occur as smokers lose track of their still-smoldering butts, which then come in contact with flammable surfaces such as couch cushions.
Solution: Take it outside! If you have a smoker in the house, the best way to prevent cigarette-related home fires is to institute a policy of no smoking indoors. Also, cigarettes should be doused with water before they are thrown away to make sure they are completely extinguished.
Fire Threat 4: Electrical
Faulty or deteriorating electrical cords are another top cause of home fires. Cords that become frayed or cracked can issue sparks around flammable surfaces and start a fire.
Solution: Cord checkup. Check all of your electrical cords to ensure that they are in good shape - and replace any that are worn out. Make sure you are not overloading circuits. It should be one plug per receptacle.
Fire Threat 5: Candles
Since they have open flames and are fixtures in many households (especially during the holiday season), candles are also among the most common sources of home fires.
Solution: Think about batteries. Instead of using traditional, open-flame candles, consider switching to battery-operated candles that look and perform like real ones. If you do use traditional candles, make sure there is always an adult paying attention in the room when one is burning. (The flame should be extinguished when the adult leaves the room.) Finally, candles should not be lit in your bedroom.
Be proactive! Using common sense and taking the steps above will go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe and secure.