Winter weather has arrived in Kentucky, just in time for the holiday season. Both winter heating and holiday decorating increase the risk of home fires. You can reduce your risk of being a fire victim by taking some simple precautions.
Heating is a common cause of residential fires. The National Fire Protection Association has found that failing to clean and maintain heating systems is the most common cause of heating fires. Have a qualified service technician check and clean your heating system each year.
Chimney sweeps may sound old-fashioned, but they play an important role in fire safety. If you heat with wood or coal, regular maintenance for both your stove or furnace and chimney are essential. It is extremely important to have your chimney cleaned and inspected each year. The cost of maintaining your heating system might seem high, especially in today's economy, but it's much cheaper than the cost of a fire — and it can save your life.
Space heaters account for a large percentage of heating fires. About 80 percent of the deaths caused by heating fires are due to fires caused by space heaters. Place heaters where they will not be knocked over. Try to avoid using space heaters while you are asleep. Remember that space heaters are intended to provide heat in a limited area for short periods of time. They are not designed to operate for long periods or to replace a home heating system.
Keep all heating equipment at least three feet from flammable materials. This includes furniture, curtains, bedding and other items made of wood, cloth, paper or plastic.
Christmas trees are responsible for about 250 home fires annually. These fires cause more than $13 million in property damage and a dozen or more deaths each year. Live trees should be fresh and green. If needles fall off when you bounce a tree on the ground, pick a fresher tree. Keep your tree away from heat sources and keep the tree stand filled with water. Live trees should not stay up for more than two weeks.
Holiday lights can also cause fires. Inspect your lights each year and discard those that have bare or frayed wires, loose connections, cracked insulation or other signs of excessive wear. Never overload extension cords or electrical outlets, and don't leave holiday lights unattended.
All holiday decorations should be made from non-flammable material. Avoid using lit candles.
Finally, you should always have working smoke alarms in your home. Test them regularly and replace the batteries according to the manufacturer's guidelines. If a smoke alarm doesn't work, replace it immediately.