The holiday season is brightened with creative decorations using candles and electric lights, and colder weather offers the chance to finally start cozy fires in unused fireplaces. Unfortunately, winter is also a prime time for fire-related injuries, property damage and even deaths. Trusted Choice® agents can help families prepare for fire risks and hazards that may come during the colder months.
Lighting and Flames
According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2014 alone, more than 3,000 civilians died from fires and almost 16,000 were injured. Additionally, 97 firefighters died and almost 66,000 were injured in the same year.
To help families and businesses enjoy the holiday season and protect themselves against winter fire risks, West Town Insurance Agency, a Trusted Choice® agency, offers the following tips to ensure a fire-safe home this winter:
- COOKING FIRES: Cooking is the number one cause of home fires. Never leave anything cooking unattended and keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
- CANDLES: Avoid using lit candles. If you do use candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Also keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Never leave a home, or even a room, with unattended candles burning.
- SMOKE ALARMS: Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test the batteries each month and change them at least once a year.
- CHIMNEYS: Have the chimney, chimney vent and flue cleaned and inspected annually. Never burn trash or wood that is painted or pressure-treated inside the home. Never put Christmas tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- FUELS: Never use gasoline or other alternative fuels in a kerosene heater.
- CHRISTMAS TREES: A dry Christmas tree in the house can act as kindling for a fire. A tree should never be placed close to a heat source, including a fireplace, heater, candle or a heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree faster, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Keep fresh trees watered at all times. When a Christmas tree becomes dry, promptly discard it.
- HOLIDAY LIGHTS: Inspect all decorative lights for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Inspect them again when you take them down. Do not leave lit decorative lights unattended and only use UL approved lighting. Check to see if lights are indoor or outdoor lights before putting them up.
- OUTLETS: Do not overload outlets and use surge protectors. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord and/or surge protector before plugging the cord into the outlet.
- THE ELDERLY: Check on older adults and help them inspect their homes and holiday decor. Older people have a higher risk of injury from fires and are also more likely to die in fires or of fire-related injuries than those in younger age groups.
There are more ways to keep warm than just using the fireplace. Here are a few suggestions:
- Never leave fireplaces, woodstoves or space heaters unattended. Always use extreme caution with auxiliary heat sources.
- Speak with a trusted contractor about doing a winter inspection on your home. You may want to install plastic coating over your windows and doors, a sump pump in your basement, storm windows or consider purchasing special padding or foam to prevent drafts around cracks where air can escape or enter. If a complete storm window upgrade is not in the budget, consider replacing old storm windows on just the northern exposure of your home where it is vulnerable to the cold.
- Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air during colder months.
- Have the heating system regularly serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
West Town Insurance Agency is a local Trusted Choice® agency that represents multiple insurance companies. We can offer you a variety of personal and business coverage choices and can customize an insurance plan to meet your specialized needs. Our firm adheres to a pledge of performance, committing us to providing excellent customer service. You can visit us online at www.westtownins.com or call us at (252) 368-4017.