Residential Winter Fire Safety Tips for House and Condo Dwellers

by | Jan 3, 2024 | Featured Post, Safety Tips

CPI House in Winter

As Jack Frost nips at our noses and winter sends us scurrying indoors, it’s time to crank up the heat, light up the hearth, and bask in the cozy comfort of our homes. However, this cozy season brings more than hot cocoa and warm slippers. It also brings an increased risk of residential fires. With the increased use of heating appliances, a forest of festive decorations, and a flurry of indoor activities, our homes can become a hotbed for potential fire mishaps. In this blog post, we’ll delve into crucial practices that can prevent potential fire hazards in your house or condo to ensure you and your family can enjoy a safe, warm, and incident-free winter. 

Understanding the Increased Risk of Fires in Winter 

 

While the weather outside may be cold and gray, it doesn’t keep tragic fires away. An average of 905 people die from winter fires every year. The reality is that home fires occur more frequently in winter than in any other season. This is predominantly due to the increased use of heating systems, holiday decorations, and certain indoor activities. 

Heating Systems and Winter Fires 

Heating systems are one of the leading causes of winter fires. As temperatures drop, the usage of these systems rises, inevitably increasing the risk of associated fires. Maintaining your heating systems, ensuring they’re in good working condition, and observing safety measures like keeping them away from flammable materials – especially your Christmas Tree. 

 

Holiday Decorations and Their Risks 

Yearly, an estimated average of 790 home structure fires are started by holiday decorations. These fires cause a combined $14 million in direct property damage (as well as injury and death). Overloaded electrical outlets, faulty lighting equipment, and unattended candles contributed to these fires. 

 

Indoor Activities and Fire Hazards 

Winter also sees a rise in indoor cooking and activities that can inadvertently lead to fires. In fact, cooking is the number one cause of winter home fires, with most fires occurring between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.  

 

General Fire Safety Tips for Winter 

While condos and single-family homes have unique fire safety considerations, several universal best practices can keep your family and property safe during these cold months. Here are some general fire safety tips to help you navigate through the winter months safely. 

 

Regular Inspection and Maintenance of Heating Systems 

Regular inspection and maintenance of your heating systems are crucial. It’s advisable to have your heating systems checked by a professional before the winter season starts. This ensures they’re in good working condition and reduces the risk of fires caused by system malfunctions or failures. 

 

Safe Use of Fireplaces and Space Heaters 

When it comes to fireplaces and space heaters, caution is rule number one. Keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from your fireplace or space heater. Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. If you’re using a fireplace, always use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks or rolling logs. 

Sparks aren’t the only hazard from a roaring flame. Ashes from fireplaces can stay hot enough to start a fire for several days. Therefore, it’s essential to dispose of them correctly. Wait for the ashes to cool down before handling them. Once cool, place them in a metal container with a lid and store it outside your home, away from any structures or flammable materials. 

Caution with Candles and Holiday Decorations 

Candles can add a festive touch, but they also bring potential fire hazards. Nearly 8% of home fires were started by candles. Never leave candles unattended and always keep them out of reach of children and pets.  

When it comes to holiday decorations, opt for flame-resistant or non-combustible decorations. Also, avoid overloading electrical outlets and always switch off lights before heading to bed or leaving the house. 

 

Specific Fire Safety Tips for Houses in Winter 

While general fire safety tips apply to all homes, there are specific measures that homeowners can take to secure their houses during winter. Let’s explore some of these additional safety practices. 

 

Clear Roofs and Gutters of Debris 

One often overlooked fire hazard is the dry leaves, twigs, and other debris that accumulate on roofs and gutters. These materials can easily catch fire from a stray ember or overloaded christmas bulb. Regularly clearing your roof and gutters can help prevent such incidents. It’s especially important to do this before you start using your fireplace or hang your outdoor decorations. 

 

Ensure Chimneys and Vents are Clean and Functioning Properly 

Chimneys and vents can become blocked with soot, bird nests, or other debris over time. A blocked chimney or vent increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and can cause a house fire. Hire a professional to inspect and clean your chimneys and vents annually to ensure they function correctly. 

 

Store your Firewood Safely and Practice Safe Fire Starting  

Firewood should be stored at least 30 feet away from your home. This distance reduces the chance of a fire spreading from the woodpile to your house. Also, never use flammable liquids to start a fire in your fireplace or wood stove. Use newspaper or kindling instead. When you’re done with the fire, make sure it’s entirely out before you go to bed or leave the house. 

 

Fire Safety Equipment Essentials 

Having the right fire safety equipment can make the difference between a minor incident and a major disaster. Let’s delve into some of these essentials. 

 

Smoke Detectors  

Smoke detectors are your first line of defense against fires. They can alert you to a fire in its early stages, giving you precious time to escape. Regular checks of your smoke detectors are essential to ensure they’re working correctly. Test them once a month by pressing the test button, and replace the batteries twice a year. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries whenever you change the clocks forward or backward.  

 

Fire Extinguishers 

Having a fire extinguisher handy can help you put out small fires before they become unmanageable. However, just having a fire extinguisher isn’t enough; you also need to know how to use it. Familiarize yourself with the PASS technique –  

  • Pull (the pin) 
  • Aim (at the base of the fire)  
  • Squeeze (the lever)  
  • Sweep (from side to side) 

 

Remember, fire extinguishers are for small, contained fires only. If a fire becomes too large or out of control, evacuate immediately and call the fire department. 

 

Fire Escape Ladders 

For residents of multi-story homes and condos, fire escape ladders can be a lifesaver. These ladders can be attached to window sills and provide a safe route to the ground if the main exit is blocked by fire. Make sure every member of your household knows where the ladder is stored and how to use it. 

By equipping your home with these fire safety essentials and knowing how to use them, you significantly increase your chances of safely escaping a fire.  

 

As we’ve discussed, fire safety is a year-round focus, especially during the winter months when the risk of residential fires increases. Whether you live in a house or a condo, being aware of potential fire hazards and taking steps to mitigate them can help protect you, your family, and your property. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and let’s make this winter a fire-free one. 

 

Finally, consider investing in a CPI Smart Smoke Detector and professional monitoring. CPI’s smart smoke detector not only alerts you when it detects smoke but can also send alerts to your phone, providing an extra layer of protection for your home. Combined with our professional monitoring service, your detector will alert a CPI professional who can dispatch emergency services during a fire. Remember, being prepared is half the battle won when it comes to fire safety. Talk to CPI now to learn more about our fire safety products. 

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