Each year house fires occur more frequently during the winter months due to holiday decorations, malfunctioning furnaces, and increased use of cooking appliances and fireplaces, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Fire Prevention Month is in October and is a good time for homeowners to make fire escape plans, and take steps to prevent house fires. Every member of your family, from your youngest child to the oldest senior, can help to protect your home from fire and learn how to assist others in getting out and to safety in case a fire does occur.
Here are some actions you can take this fall to protect your house and family.
* Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Go through your entire house and make sure you put new manufacturer recommended batteries in every detector. You should have a smoke detector on every floor in the house, as well as just outside of every bedroom.
A good habit to develop is to replace your batteries in your smoke detector every fall and every spring to ensure the detectors will work in the event there is a fire in your home.
* Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected. Residue from previous fires can build up in the chimney, and if the conditions are right, catch on fire. Schedule a chimney cleaning every year if you plan to use your fireplace.
* Unplug holiday decorations when you're away from the house or have gone to bed.
* If using space heaters in your home or garage, keep them away from objects as manufacturer recommended (but at least three feet away from any objects), and don't leave them running and unattended.
* With all the holiday cooking you're bound to do, be sure to practice safe cooking methods. For instance, keep anything flammable away from the stove and oven, always roll up your sleeves when working around a hot range, and never leave the kitchen unattended when cooking.
* Store lighters and matches out of reach of children and pets, and never leave a burning candle unattended.
* Establish escape routes for second story and higher rooms. You may need to purchase escape ladders that can be stored under the bed in case a family member would need to leave the house through the window.
* Organize a family escape plan. Put the plan down on paper, and then run through it several times so everyone - including your youngest children - knows exactly how they're getting out of the house, and where they're supposed to meet outside. Review this plan yearly.
All members of your family can work together to prevent fires. With a fire safety plan in mind, you'll be able to enjoy the fall and winter months without worrying about your family's safety.