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Home Fire Safety Tips for Colder Weather

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November 11, 2013
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Home Fire Safety Tips for Colder Weather

Even in Washington, DC it’s gotten downright chilly. Now that we are well into fall, the risk of residential fires starts to climb. Two helpful and informative articles on home heating safety recently caught my eye, so I’m sharing bits and pieces here. The first article provides some great advice on heating appliances, and best ways to keep your family safe.

With the cooler weather, families are turning on space heaters and starting their furnaces for the first time trying to take the chill away. Heating system fires are the second leading cause of home fires.  The American Red Cross is making sure people are prepared as part of home fire prevention week.  Unfortunately, 365,000 homes burn each year.  The Paducah [KY] Deputy Fire Marshal Joe Fowler said each year they respond to about a dozen of fires caused by space heaters, furnaces and propane tanks. Warren Heating and Air Technician Kerry Jeffords said you can pay a small price in order to make sure your family is safe as winter is coming.

Causes of Residential Fires

Jeffords said that one year of rust build-up that could result in a fire. "You've got a live fire in here whenever it starts up, especially with gas heat. This is what we are concerned about. We want to make sure everything is clear and free, so it can fire and run and you're not going to have an explosion," said Jeffords.

Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Calloway County Matthew Hamblen said, “Do not underestimate the speed and power of fire.  A small house fire can turn deadly in a matter of minutes. Every year there are 74,000 disasters across the U.S., 93 percent of those are fires which is really a staggering number when you think about it," said Hamblen.

These are frightening figures – especially considering that so many of these fires (and deaths) were preventable. Now for some home fire safety tips from the Fredericksburg (VA) Fire Department.

The Fredericksburg Fire Department wants you to be aware of increased fire risks when using alternate heating sources.  The following safety tips will help you keep at safe home:

  • Keep areas clear around heat-producing objects (i.e. space heaters, fireplaces, woodstoves, and furnaces, etc.).  A good “rule of thumb” is to maintain at least three feet of clearance between your heat source and any combustibles.
  • Never leave a heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep, and never leave children or pets unattended near heating sources.
  • Do not plug electrical heaters in to power strips or extension cords. This may cause an overloaded electrical circuit.
  • Do not use a range or oven as an alternate heating source. This is a safety hazard and may be a source of toxic fumes.
  • Have your chimney inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary.
  • Use only dry wood when burning in fireplaces or woodstoves.
  • Allow your ashes to cool before disposing of them in a metal container with a tight fitting lid.  Place the container away from the house. Sometimes it takes four days for ashes to cool.
  • Never place or store ashes on a combustible source (i.e. wood decks, porches, next to the house, etc.) before disposal.
  • Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries. A good time to change batteries is when you change your clocks.  The time change is 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, 3013. [It’s not too late!]
  • Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room ventilation.
  • Never fill a kerosene heater while it is in operation or hot. Avoid overfilling.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately when a fire occurs; time delays before fire department arrival can result in a much larger fire.

One important thing missing in both of articles above, especially in the suggestions portion, is any mention of monitored fire alarms as a way to lower the incidence of death and injury from home fires. We already know that fire alarm monitoring can make a huge difference in home fire safety.

The Facts of the Matter

Most of the homes involved in residential fires do not have a monitored security system, let alone fire monitoring, but fire monitoring is one of the most important reasons to have a home alarm system in the first place. And for those with intrusion alarms, adding fire monitoring to a wireless home alarm system is a completely logical step to take in protecting your home and family.

That being said, there are lots of alarm companies who expect you to pay much more for smoke/heat sensors, and who add an unnecessary surcharge to the monthly fee for a service that does not cost them any extra. Remember: the best alarm companies include fire monitoring at no additional cost to you.

How Good Alarm Companies Protect You

In fact, most reputable alarm companies (including FrontPoint) recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every system they sell. The main reason is that your standard non-monitored smoke detector is really just a noisemaker. Yes, it’s much better than nothing, and we know it has saved lives – but don’t you want to know the fire department is being summoned as soon as possible? You may be away, or - much worse - overcome by smoke in your own home. That’s when you definitely want a system that quickly and proactively reaches out the people who can help. For more information, here’s a link to my previous post on monitored fire protection.

FrontPointcontinues to provide the latest in interactive, wireless home security, including 24-hour fire monitoring for no additional monthly fee. We are proud members of the NFPA, and fully support their goal of protecting us in our homes and workplaces - just one more reason why FrontPoint is known as the #1 ranked alarm company in the US.

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