A fire in your home can happen at any time of the year, but with colder months upon us it’s easy to see how the danger increases with the setting of wood-burning heaters and the use of candles to create a cozy atmosphere. Most fires start in the kitchen and are caused by neglect. You set something on the stove and then get distracted by the phone, children, or daily life – it happens that easily. Heaters are the second most common cause of a house blaze and, of course, the risk of this increases in the winter months when we find ourselves trying to warm up just a bit.
You should also watch for faulty wiring, especially if you live in an older house. Signs that your wiring needs an upgrade include lights dimming when you use an appliance and regularly blown fuses or trips of your circuit breaker. If that’s the case, call an electrician immediately.
As we head into winter, here is a list of potential issues and how to ensure you and your family stay safe.
- Install and test your smoke alarms. Make sure the battery is in good condition (change them every time you set your clocks back). When you’re sleeping, you won’t smell the smoke. Research suggests you might fall into a deeper sleep.
- Check your chimney to ensure there is sufficient airflow. If your chimney blocks up, smoke will pour back into the residence. The collection of dirt and soot represents a fire risk. It’s a good idea to clean your chimney annually. Even if you don’t use your fireplace very often, other problems can occur that could lead to a devastating fire, so have it checked out and cleaned.
- Another annual exercise is a check of electric blankets if you have them. Watch for loose wires and cords that have frayed. If in doubt, throw it away. They’re not expensive to replace.
- Portable heaters are a great cold weather solution but don’t put them near curtains or tablecloths. If you need to dry clothes, leave them at least 1m away from the heater. Think of it as social distancing for clothes!
- Electrical overload is always a risk if you load up one power point. Avoid doing so and always unplug and disconnect appliances that are not being used.
- Another appliance danger lurks in the laundry. Check your dryer for lint build up. Clean away anything that shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t take much for lint to light up. If you suspect there is lint trapped beyond your reach, hire a professional to clean your dryer vents.
- Candles in the living room, or even when you’re soaking in a bath, are romantic and relaxing. But you must extinguish them when leaving the room for an extended period or going to bed.
- Kids and matches are not a good combination. Always stow matches, lighters and fireplace lighters out of their reach. A common mistake is to keep a gas stove top lighter in a handy drawer.
- Never leave cooking unattended, especially if you’re deep frying. Fat fires can destroy a kitchen in minutes and are one of the most common causes of fires.