Our recent snow and windstorms brought with them a rash of power outages throughout Snohomish County. One of my friends was without power for five days. She “survived” with the aid of a wood stove, candles, and a camp stove (said camp stove was used outdoors).
During these chilly winter days, people get creative in all the wrong ways in an attempt to keep warm or decrease their power bill. They…
- Use the oven as a space heater
- Light candles and leave them unattended
- Plug too many electronics into an extension cord
- Overload the circuits with space heaters
- Cook in the fireplace
These activities are the most common culprits of house fires. According the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are an average of 373,900 house fires in the U.S. every year, resulting in $7.1 billion in annual damages.
The last thing any of us want is for our home to burn down – and even worse – for anyone to be trapped inside a home that’s burning down.
Valentine’s month is a perfect time to review fire safety tips and escape routes with your loved ones and housemates.
Here’s a checklist of things to review:
Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors
Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present or in which smoke alarms fail to operate.
Check the expiration date on fire extinguishers, and place extinguishers within easy reach on each level of your home – particularly in the kitchen, bedrooms, and garage. Keep in mind that there are different classes of fire extinguishers – some put out wood fires; others put out grease fires or electrical fires. Invest in the appropriate type or buy multi-purpose extinguishers that can be used on different types of fires.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of any flame-fueled (non-electric) device, such as a range, oven, clothes dryer, furnace, fireplace, grill, space heater, vehicle, or water heater.
Place carbon monoxide detectors on a wall about 5 feet above the floor, or on the ceiling. If you have a multi-story home, each floor needs its own detector. Of course, you’ll want to avoid placing the detector near the fireplace or flame-producing appliance.
From 2005-2009, an estimated 12,860 home structure fires were started by candles.
While candles provide romantic ambiance, they can be oh-so-dangerous when left unattended, or when children or pets are present.
The best solution is to invest in flameless LED candles. These battery-operated beauties are inexpensive, are made of scented wax, and they flicker and glow just like real candles.
Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen – more than any other place in the home.
The best way to prevent kitchen fires is to stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking on the stovetop. Store matches, dish towels, and flammable liquids as far as possible from the oven. Be sure to keep a Class B or multi-purpose fire extinguisher within reach to use on grease fires.
Dryer lint, begone! I know it’s a pain, but it’s important to clean the lint screen after every load. Other ways to reduce the possibility of a dryer fire is to regularly clean the area under the lint filter as well as the dryer ducts and the dryer exhaust exits.
As an extra safety precaution, never leave your dryer unattended. In other words, when you leave the house, turn your dryer off.
No matter how many electrical outlets a home has, it seems as if there are never enough of them. As a result, many of us string extension cords everywhere, and we plug in way more gaming consoles, TVs, cable boxes, stereos, computers, and cell phone chargers than is safe.
Different types of electronics suck different amounts of electricity. You need to know which electronics will load up your circuits, and you must make sure the extension cord you’re using exceeds the amperage requirements of the device you’re plugging in to it.
Do not attempt to plug a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong extension cord!
I also recommend investing in heavy-duty power strips with built-in surge protectors. When lightning strikes and power spikes, a surge protector will help protect expensive TV/stereo components as well as your computer and printer.
I love space heaters, and these days, they come in all shapes and sizes (there’s even one called the Mini Cube, that looks just like a real fireplace)
But space heaters are fire hazards; The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with space heaters.
The leading cause of space heater fires is placing combustibles too close to the heater. Make sure there is three feet of open space around your heater, and ground the heater by plugging it directly into a 3-prong outlet – never plug a space heater in to an extension cord or power strip.
Finally, don’t leave space heaters on when you aren’t in the room.
Make sure everyone in your household knows where the list of emergency fire, police, and medical phone numbers is posted.
And create an escape plan from every room in your home, both upstairs and downstairs.
At night, turn off all the lights and do a practice fire drill.
I’m Joni Kerley. I care about the safety of your home and especially, for those who live in your home.
I specialize in helping people buy and sell homes in greater Snohomish County. Give me a call at 425-343-4545.
- About.com – Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Dryer Lint Cleaning Wizard
- National Fire Sprinkler Association
- Home Alarm Monitoring