Keep fire prevention in mind throughout winter season
While warming your home, it’s important to prevent house fires, which spike during the winter months.
When creating a fire prevention plan, a great place to start is by making sure your home’s smoke alarms are in working order. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that alarms be tested monthly, and that batteries changed every six months.
Statistics show functioning smoke alarms can cut the risk of house fire fatalities in half.
“Those smoke alarms located around your home are going to be the first indicator of a house fire,” said Scott DeNoon, senior farm product and underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. “Fires don’t always start in conspicuous areas like the kitchen or living room, which is why you need to make sure every alarm in your home is tested regularly and is equipped with fresh batteries.”
As effective as smoke alarms are in alerting homeowners to house fires, they won’t stop them from occurring. This is what makes fire prevention key, DeNoon said.
The National Fire Protection Association reported cooking was the leading cause of house fires from 2014-2018, contributing to an average of 172,900 fires and $1 billion in property damage annually.
Unattended cooking increases fire risks, and DeNoon recommends individuals never leave the kitchen when cooking. He added that if a person must leave their kitchen, they should turn off their stove—no matter how long they intend to be gone.
Cooktops should remain unobstructed by flammable objects such as food wrapping, potholders or towels, and food should be checked regularly as it’s cooking.
Winter weather also leads to increased use of home heating systems, fireplaces and stoves, which also create fire risks. Regular maintenance and inspections of heating systems can mitigate these risks, and annual chimney inspections conducted by certified technicians will help ensure fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are safe.
Chimneys should be cleared of combustible buildup or debris before use, and fireplace hearths should be kept free of flammable materials such as holiday decorations. Heating vents in the home also should not be covered by flammable materials or furniture.
When using fireplaces or wood stoves, make sure there’s enough clearance between the flame and combustible materials, as well as ceilings, floors and walls, to prevent combustion.
And, in case of emergency, it’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand.
“Some folks wait all year to sit by a fire or enjoy the warmth of their home during the holidays,” DeNoon said. “We want everyone to be able to do that safely, so it’s important to make sure your home’s heating systems are in order and you’re taking every precaution to keep those flammable items in your home from catching.”