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Winter Fire Safety Tips
The United States experiences more fires during the winter months than any other time. Taking simple precautions can prevent most fires. Follow the safety tips below to help ensure your family’s safety. Remember; fire safety starts with you.
- Give heaters space. Put at least 36 inches of empty space between the heater and everything else, like furniture, curtains, papers and people.
- Vacuum and clean the dust and lint from all heaters. A buildup of dust and lint can cause a fire.
- Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot, frayed or cracked have the heater serviced.
- Never use extension cords with portable electric heaters. It is a common cause of fires.
- Turn off portable heaters when family members leave the house or are sleeping.
- An adult should always be present when a space heater is used around children.
- Make sure your portable electric heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.
Woodstove and Fireplace Safety
- Have a certified chimney sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks and obstructions.
- Place fireplace or wood stove ashes outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet away from anything that burns.
- A flue fire can ruin your chimney or stovepipe. To prevent flue fires, burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Burn small, hot fires. Do not burn trash.
- Always use a fireplace screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping.
Alternative Heat Sources
- Kerosene heaters are not approved for use in homes in California. Kerosene heaters can emit poisonous fumes.
- Barbecues, charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. These items can produce carbon monoxide. Odorless and colorless, a build-up of carbon monoxide can be deadly.
- If you have a portable generator, make sure you place it in a well-ventilated area. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before using it.
- Be sure generator fuel is properly and safely stored according to fire regulations. Never store fuel or flammable liquids in a basement or near an open flame. Always refuel the generator outdoors and away from any ignition sources.
- If you choose to have a generator permanently connected to your home’s electrical system, make sure a licensed electrician installs it and be sure to notify your electric company. Improperly installed generators can cause multiple types of hazards not only for you but for power company workers as well.
- Use gasoline only as a motor fuel, never as a cleaner.
- Always use gasoline in a well-vented area, outside is best.
- Never use gasoline to start fires.
- Store gasoline in an approved well-labeled container. Make sure the container is tightly sealed. Store gasoline outside the house, in a shed or detached garage. Store only small amounts.
- Make sure all flammable liquids are stored away from ignition sources such as pilot lights, water heaters, electrical appliances and open flames.
Natural Gas – Propane Fuel
- Like many other efficient fuels, natural gas is highly flammable. That means it can be dangerous if not handled properly.
- If using a propane-fueled heater, make sure it is designed for indoor use. Read all of the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure it is properly vented.
- Do not use propane barbecues (or any other type of barbecue) indoors.
- If you have propane-fueled appliances, make sure they are properly vented and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.
- If you smell gas, do not operate any switches, appliances or thermostats. A spark from one of these could ignite the gas. Get everyone outside and away from the building. Shut off the gas supply. Call 9-1-1.
Smoke Alarms and Home Escape Plans
- Working smoke alarms alert you to a fire and more than double your chances of surviving a fire. In a fire, minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
- Install smoke alarms in every home, on every level, outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.
- Test and vacuum your smoke alarms each month to make sure they are working.
- Smoke alarms ten years old or older need to be replaced with new units.
- When the smoke alarm sounds, get out fast!
- Plan your escape. Know two ways out of every room.
- Once out stay out!
- Practice your escape plan with your whole family at least twice a year.
- Place candles in a sturdy fireproof candleholder where they cannot be knocked over.
- Make sure all candles are out before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Keep candles, matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Keep candles away from Christmas trees, evergreen clippings, decorations, presents and wrapping paper.
- Choose a fresh tree with a natural, deep-green color and flexible needles.
- Cut off about two inches of the tree trunk at an angle to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.
- Water the tree every day. An average tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. If the water level drops below the cut end of the tree, a seal will form on the cut and the tree will not be able to absorb any more water.
- Keep the tree away from all sources of heat to preserve its freshness. Miniature lights are a better decoration choice than standard sized lights. The cooler miniature lights do not dry the tree needles as quickly.
- When the needles get brittle or dull and begin to fall from the tree, it is time for the tree to go back outside.
- Use only lights that are UL approved. Check every set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections before using. Throw away anything that is not in perfect condition.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and cause electrocution. Use colored spotlights as an alternative.
- Use no more than three sets of lights per single extension. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strings in one circuit.
- Always turn off all tree lights and decorations before you go to bed or leave your home.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable; keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children; and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child could eat them!
- Put together an emergency kit. At a minimum, include a flashlight, extra batteries, portable radio, canned/packaged foods, tool kit, bottled water, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, extra blankets and clothes.
- Be familiar with winter storm warning terms.
- Flood watch – Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.
- Flood warning – Severe flooding conditions are eminent.
- Winter storm watch – Severe weather may affect your area.
- Winter storm warning – Severe weather conditions are imminent.