Although spring is certainly on its way, there are still many homeowners all across the country who will continue to contend with cold weather for at least a month yet. To ensure your home stays at a comfortable temperature no matter the weather outside, you’ll probably still rely on your home’s heating system. But don’t forget that winter heating methods, as well as cooking techniques and typical household habits, can bring their share of dangers. If you want to reduce fire risk in your home or even at your place of business, you’ll want to keep these safety tips in mind for the rest of this season and beyond.

Check Your Detectors

According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of every five home fire fatalities can be attributed to a lack of working smoke detectors. Since it happens twice a year, Daylight Savings Time is typically a good reminder that you should check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You should test the battery on a monthly basis and find out how old these detectors are. If your detectors are over a decade old, they should be replaced (regardless of whether the battery works). Most experts recommend that you have smoke detectors installed on every level of your home, with extra ones placed inside or right outside every bedroom. Because temperatures have been so low this season, this may have caused furnaces to work overtime. That, in turn, can increase the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. And because carbon monoxide is essentially impossible for us to detect ourselves, we need to rely on devices that can keep us safe. Don’t neglect your maintenance of these detectors; putting in just a few minutes of extra work could potentially save your life.

Steer Clear of Extension Cords

Many homeowners rely on extension cords, especially during the holidays, to power all of our electricity and devices. This can present a significant fire risk, however, as can power strips and surge protectors that are being used incorrectly. These cords may be convenient due to their length, but they can overheat very easily, particularly when they’re used to power products that really need to be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Extension cords should actually be used only on a temporary basis, notes Electrical Safety Foundation International, and need to be properly rated, inspected, and monitored before and during use. ESFI’s data reveals that nearly 4,000 emergency room injuries can be attributed to electric extension cord use each year, with approximately 3,300 home fires originating from their use on an annual basis. Make sure that if you have to use extension cords, that they pose no safety risk and that their use should be discontinued immediately if you observe flickering lights or a burnt odor. As a rule, you should unplug items from extension cords when you leave the vicinity.

Know Your Space Heater Safety

Many residents rely on space heaters to keep their houses warm during the winter, but these handy devices can be incredibly dangerous. The National Fire Protection Association reports that space heaters are involved in at least 40% of home heating fires. And due to the increased use of synthetic materials being used in homes, fires that break out from any source will spread more quickly and produce more smoke than in years past. Using a space heater may be necessary for some folks, but they should be plugged directly into wall outlets, must be UL safety certified, and should not run on a constant basis. Be sure to keep any flammable materials at least three feet away from space heaters at all times. They should be placed on level, non-flammable surfaces, as well. You should keep children and pets away from space heaters and make sure to turn off and unplug space heaters when leaving home. Buying a heater with an automatic shut-off function can help to ensure safe usage, recommends the Red Cross.

Use Caution When Cooking

There’s nothing like a home cooked meal on a chilly winter day. But don’t forget that cooking is one of the top causes of fires in both homes and businesses. In fact, confined cooking fires represent 55% of all medical facility fires. Never store items on top of your stove, even if you don’t cook much. All it takes is one little bump for a stove to be turned on and for items to go up in flames. Oven mitts and wooden cooking utensils should be kept far away from burners, as well. The NFPA adds that if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol that you should stay away from the stovetop. Check on food that’s being heated, baked, or cooked on a frequent basis, use a timer, and remain in the kitchen or the general area. Keep a pot lid near by in case a grease fire should break out; if there’s a fire in the oven, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. In all cases of kitchen fires, you should get out immediately, call 9-1-1, and leave the front door closed to contain the fire.

Use Tools Correctly

Although the fact that natural gas serves nearly 66.7 million homes in the U.S., there are times when this accessibility can be a drawback. Natural gas can help us heat our homes and to cook our food, but when it isn’t use correctly, it can have dastardly consequences. Sometimes, fires can break out when homeowners intentionally use products for purposes other than what they were intended to do. For example, using an oven to heat a home is always a horrific idea that poses a huge fire risk. Other cases have involved residents utilizing a blowtorch or other flammable tool to thaw frozen pipes. The bottom line is that while these appliances can be incredibly helpful when they’re used as intended, they can also be extremely dangerous when we’re reckless with them. Just because an item has the capability to provide heat or fire under certain circumstances does not mean that it can or should be used in all circumstances. When in doubt, consult a user’s manual and ask yourself whether this is how a given device is meant to be used. If not, find a better and safer way to accomplish what you have in mind.

With any luck, the weather will start to warm up nationwide within the next month or so. Of course, those seasonal changes will present all new challenges for fire safety officials. In the meantime, keep these safety tips in mind and reference them again once winter rolls around next year.

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