The weather is chilly and good times are made by bonfires with friends or snuggled up by the fireplace. Controlled fires are great. They add an ambiance in a way that nothing else can. In many ways, fires give us a reason to look forward to winter. They’re our blazing beacon of light and comfort into our darkest and coldest season. But only if they’re used safely and responsibly. We were all taught the stop-drop-and-roll as children. But we weren’t all taught how to check for electrical wiring risks. When it comes to safety, preventative measures are key. Protect yourself, your family, and your biggest asset with these 7 safeguards: 

  1. Get familiar with your heating sources. 

How is your home heated? Furnace? Kerosene? Radiant flooring?

No matter how your home’s heat is powered, make sure to get regular inspections. Most homeowners inspect these mechanisms only if refinancing or selling. But best practice for fire safety is to get an inspection every few years. It’s important.

Most homes in North America are powered by a central furnace system. This system blows heated air through ducts in your ceilings and walls, and out into rooms via air registers or grills. Poorly maintained furnaces are a major fire hazard. A furnace with cracks or rusted parts can trigger a fire that can spread throughout the ductwork of your home. For peace of mind, schedule inspections regularly.

Proceed with caution if your home came with an unvented kerosene heater. This was a trendy heating option for decades. They include:

  • Free-standing heaters
  • Wall-mounted heaters
  • Open-flame gas fireplaces with ceramic logs that aren’t connected to a chimney.

Fireplaces are gorgeous features of a living room. But they are expensive to build correctly. So for many years home builders and interior designers would create a fireplace facade. It looks like a normal fireplace, but the ventilation hardware is not there. 

Manufacturers claim that these products are safe for homes due to high-efficiency combustion. But this is only true if you keep a nearby window open. Otherwise, you risk oxygen depletion in your room. California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Montana, and Alaska have all banned the use of these products in their home. If your home has one, enjoy the look of your fireplace facade. But don’t turn on the heater!

  1. Regular Fireplace Cleaning 

Many homes have property vented (wood or gas-powered) fireplaces.  Be sure to hire a chimney sweep to professionally clean and inspect your fireplace before firing it up every year. Creosote buildup in chimneys is one of the primary causes of house fires in America. Too much creosote buildup can cause a slow-burning chimney fire. These low-burning flames can go undetected until they spread.

If you use your fireplace often, brush it or use a cleaning log every week.

After you use a cleaning log, sweep the bottom of your fireplace so that creosote doesn’t catch fire. Check regularly for black tar and soot in both your chimney and fireplace.

  1. Careful with candles 

The candles are wonderful. There’s nothing like a candlelit dinner on a snowy evening. Or some aromatherapy after a long, hard day. But candle safety is important for homeowners. Make sure you’re resting your candles on a flat, level surface. Never leave the house (or the room!) with candles left burning.

In the event of a power outage, use flashlights instead of candles. Even if you don’t plan on leaving the room. In a situation where you’re needing a light source to illuminate full rooms… it would take many candles to do this. Pets may brush up against the furniture and knock them over. Or if you’re anything like us, you tend to be a little clumsy. One wrong move with a room full of candles, and the curtains are on fire before you know it. It’s just not worth the risk.

Here’s a trick for flashlights:

To turn your flashlight into a lantern, set a clear water bottle or drinking glass on top of it. It’ll transform into a lantern that will fill the room with much more light than the direct beam of a flashlight.

  1. Outdoor Bonfire Safety

Outdoor fires are a great centerpiece to any party.  But before you start your party, follow these safety tips:

  • Clear 10 feet around your firepit. Placing your fire pit on a stone or tile patio surface is ideal. But if you’re having a larger fire… or have built a pit in the yard, make sure that the 10 feet around your fire are clear of any pine needles or leaves. Make sure there are no low-hanging branches above your fire. Sparks can rise up and become ladder fuels, especially on a dry or windy day.
  • If you’re having trouble getting your fire started, opt for a firestarter, kiln-dried wood, or a duraflame log. Never use lighter fluid or any other flammable liquid to start an outdoor fire.
  • Wear snug, tight-fitting clothing around your fire. Long, droopy sweaters are a favorite in the winter months. But you don’t want sleeves dipping into the fire.
  • When the party is over, make sure the fire is properly extinguished. Here’s what to do:
    • Pour water on it.
    • Swirl around the coals with a fire poker to disperse any trapped heat.
    • Continue the watering, coal dispersion process until the coals are cool enough to touch. Then, and only then, it’s safe to leave the fire unattended.
  1. Test your fire alarms

Test your fire alarms monthly and replace batteries once a year.  When you’ve just moved into a new home, put all new fire detectors in the home.  Replace your smoke detectors every 10 years, whether they’ve given you any trouble or not.

Place smoke detectors on each level of your home, and outside of each room where someone is sleeping (that includes where your pets are sleeping!).

If you have a nuisance alarm (ya know…one of those that beeps without any rhyme or reason) never disable it. Instead, give it a good dusting and make sure any cobwebs are clear. That will likely fix the problem. If it still gives you, buy a new one rather than turning it off.

  1. Know electrical wiring best practices

Fix or replace frayed extension cords and exposed wires. Never plug something into a loose outlet. Make sure that all electrical outlets have cover plates, and there is no exposed wiring. Even in the attic, basement, and garage. Don’t put any wires under rugs, attach them to the wall with nails, or put them in any high-traffic areas. Avoid overloading outlets and extension chords. Whenever possible, utilize a surge protector.  

  1. Have an emergency plan 

Emergencies happen. Even to the most prepared household. Take an hour and create a designated emergency response plan.

  • Make sure there are 2 routes of escape from every room where you’re sleeping.
  • If bedrooms are located on top levels, purchase a fire escape ladder to safely escape out high windows.
  • Make sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can identify your home.
  • Create a designated meeting point for you and your family. It could be at a neighbors house or even as simple as “by the streetlamp across the street”
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows how to escape a smoky room. Stay low and crawl to avoid smoke inhalation.

Stay Safe, Out there! 

We hope this article will help you and your loved ones stay safe. If you have any questions or would like to search for a safer home, please don’t hesitate to let us know