Fall Fire Safety Checklist – Now’s the Time

The winter months bring greater fire risks for homeowners.  According to the Red Cross, house fires generally increase during the fall and winter months, with December and January registering the highest numbers.  There are tasks that every homeowner should do each fall as a preventative measure to reduce the dangers of a house fire.

Schedule with your service provider for a home heating system inspection and maintenance.

Changing out your filters and cleaning out any buildup from the prior year can help make your system run more efficiently.  In addition, if you use fuel oil or propane, your annual maintenance can identify if there are any leaks that can cause fires or other contamination.  If you use stationary or portable space heaters, make sure they are placed in a location far from things that can burn like furniture, clothing, and bedding.  (National Fire Protection Association data puts 81% of home heating fire casualties as a result of space heaters.) Similarly, items that are too close to your hot water heater can also be hazardous and potentially could catch on fire.

Check your fireplace and chimney and schedule for a cleaning.

Soot and creosote (which results from burning wood and fossil fuels) can build up inside of your chimney and catch fire if not cleaned regularly.  It can also be a hazard for smoke exposure.  Most chimney fires are quiet and slow burning, and can cause severe damage to your chimney system (flue lining, brick mortar) and to your home (roofing, celings, walls, structural beams).   Having your chimney inspected and cleaned each fall helps to reduce or prevent your risk of a chimney fire.

Stoves can also be a source for home fires.

The best prevention here is to never leave your stove unattended and make sure that there are no combustible materials (curtains, dishcloths, etc.) nearby.  Clean your stove regularly to remove any grease or flammable grime from your cooking surfaces and turn off your stovetop immediately if you see smoke coming from the bottom of your pot or pan when in use.

Make sure you have working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.

Preventative measures can make a big difference.  The ability to recognize when there is a fire and to put the fire out quickly can be a life saver.  For a home fire extinguisher, the general guidance is to test or recharge them every 5-6 years and to replace them every 10-12 years.  Some fire extinguishers will have a tag that will show the maintenance schedule or expiration date.  If you need to use your fire extinguisher, make sure to have it recharged or refilled so that it is available is you should need it again in the future.  Changing your battery in your smoke detector once a year is about the simplest thing you can do to make sure you are alerted if a fire should start in your home.  That warning is an important part of protecting your home and your family from the dangers of a home fire and can help save lives.

Check on your extension cords and don’t overload them.

With all of our tech devises and gadgets nowadays, it’s easy to have the need for a lot of plugs without the availability of a lot of outlets in our older homes.  Choose the right extension cord for the job and use it as directed – know the wattage capacity of the cord and the wattage use of the devices you plug into it.  Check for overheating or signs of damage regularly.  Overheating at the plug area, the wall socket or the cord itself are all signs that something is not functioning correctly and the cord should be immediately unplugged.  Extension cords should also have fuse protection (a blown fuse will cut off electicity to stop overheating that can cause a fire) and should be listed by a national testing laboratory ( look for UL, ETL or CSA).

In the case of fire, as in so many other things in life, we can look to the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Take some time to check for hazards and rest more easily knowing that you are being as safe as you can be.  To make sure you are protected with the right insurance coverage, contact our team in Cooperstown, NY at https://bieritzinsurance.com/contact-us/.  We will be happy to assist you in finding the right product to affordably meet your needs.