The holidays may be an exciting and celebratory time with loved ones, but over a quarter of home fires occur during December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Here are some tips from Hippo for homeowners to keep themselves and their guests safe from fires this holiday season.
Test Smoke Detectors and Check Fire Extinguishers
Perhaps a no-brainer, this important maintenance task is often forgotten or overlooked. Check smoke detectors regularly using the dedicated test button. Change the batteries at the start of the winter season to ensure they remain operational throughout. If your smoke detector is more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to replace it with a newer model for better smoke sensitivity and added protection.
Check fire extinguishers by looking at the pressure gauge next to the handle or lever. Confirm the pressure needle is in the green zone and replace the extinguisher if it’s in the red zone.
Clean Fireplaces and Chimneys
Starting fires is a good way to keep warm and add to the cozy holiday ambiance, but those fires should stay contained to fireplaces. Uncleaned fireplaces and chimneys can cause unwanted fires that can spread to the rest of the home quickly. Both should be cleaned of debris and creosote (a flammable byproduct of burnt wood that accumulates in chimneys), which a professional can do safely and thoroughly.
Installing a spark guard or screen can also prevent spark fires. They should be placed in front of the fireplace opening, covering the entire width and height of the opening.
Keep an Eye on Heaters
Space heaters and heat systems can overheat when left on and unattended or when their vents are blocked. Keep all items that can catch fire at least three feet away from radiators and space heaters to avoid overheating and fires.
When using space heaters, make sure to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the heater on a level surface and turn it off before leaving the room or going to sleep. For heat systems, schedule regular maintenance and have a professional inspect, clean and fix any problems.
Inspect Lights, Wiring and Outlets
Decorative lights are a staple holiday decoration, but damaged wiring, overloaded outlets and misuse of lights can be fire hazards. Before hanging holiday lights, inspect them for frayed wires and broken bulbs and replace damaged lights with new ones. Use extension cords for lights only as intended, and make sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines for their maximum load capacity. Distributing holiday decorations across multiple outlets will prevent overloading and electrical fires.
It’s important to use lights only as they’re intended. Avoid using outdoor lights inside and inside lights outside, as each is constructed to withstand different conditions. Using indoor lights outside can cause them to malfunction when exposed to certain weather elements. Additionally, keep outdoor lights off the ground to avoid animals chewing through the wires.
Water Christmas Trees
For those who opt out of artificial trees, it’s important to keep real trees watered regularly. Trees can dry out quickly, causing them to become highly flammable. If there are decorations near the tree that generate heat, such as faulty tree lights or candles, they can cause a dry tree to go up in flames quickly. Water natural trees regularly, use LED lights that emit less heat and turn off lights when leaving the room.
Practice Kitchen Safety
Food is a key part of many holiday celebrations, but cooking can pose several fire risks. Grease fires from deep frying and gas leaks from stoves can be especially hazardous. When frying, use an outdoor fryer on a stable, flat surface. For gas stoves, be mindful of leaks and turn off the gas supply immediately if there are any.
It’s also important to remember to keep the kitchen floor clean, dry and free of any tripping hazards. Accidental bumps and falls can cause injuries, but they can also set off chain reactions and cause fires. Make sure to keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward to prevent anyone from knocking them off the stove.
Clean cooking vents, exhaust fans, ducts and filters every three to six months for light cooking and every one to three months for heavier cooking. Clean cooking appliances as well to keep them functioning properly.