Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Potential Fire Hazards in the Winter Season - Guest Post by Lee Flynn

Accidental fires in the home can occur for various reasons all throughout the year. However, the most prominent season for home fires is the winter. During the coldest season of the year people spend more time indoors, gas and electric bills rise to keep everyone warm, increasing the chances of human and mechanical error. As people prepare for the holidays- cooking, decorating, and using multiple heat sources- homes hold a greater fire risk.

According to the Unites States Fire Administration, 905 people die every winter home fires each year. over two million dollars a year are lost in property value to home fires; 67% of these fires occur in one and two-family homes.There are several causes for home fires and a list of potential hazards to be aware of in order to prevent them from occurring.

The number one cause of all home fires is cooking. When stove tops with open flame, ovens, microwaves, toasters, and other heating devices are being used to cook food, there is a higher risk for fires. Fires can occur when people become distracted, walk away, or forget about appliances being used. Also, if appliances malfunction, overheat, or are not maintained properly, cooking with these appliances can also be hazardous and cause home fires.
In order to prevent hazardous cooking situations, people need to be both attentive and responsible in the maintenance of appliances. Paying attention while cooking, watching the levels of open flames and heat, setting timers and having a fire extinguisher handy are all ways to keep hazardous situations to a minimum. Regularly cleaning out the toaster, checking labels for microwavable utensils, and maintaining the oven and stove top are also ways to avoid risk of fires.

Another prevalent cause of house fires is heating equipment. Electric and gas heating vents, fireplaces and chimneys, and portable heating devices are all potentially hazardous. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that heating equipment is involved in one out of six reported home fires and one in five home deaths each year. Part of the reason lies behind the leaking and emission of carbon monoxide into the home. If pipes freeze or malfunctions occur within the heating system, carbon monoxide emissions are deadly. Installing and checking carbon monoxide alarms regularly can greatly decrease the risk of emission imbalances. Cleaning out chimneys and vents, keeping objects away from portable heaters, space heaters, radiators, and fireplaces, and storing combustibles, coals, and ashes at a distance from the home are all smart ways to prevent home fires.

Yet another common occurrence, especially in older homes, is the overuse of electricity, overloading the capacity of electrical wiring, resulting in blowing a fuse. Calling for more electricity than a wire can handle, especially using multiple heating devices at once, can cause an electrical shock, a spark, and a potential house fire. Homeowners must be cautious of overloading the system by limiting the amount of heating devices used at once. Space heaters, hair dryers, radiators, and even dishwashers and washing and dryer machines can cause electrical fires. It's also a good idea, if the electricity goes out, to stock up on food storage, especially non perishable items.

Being aware of the potential hazards through safety consultants for home fires can help individuals know how to prevent dangerous and life threatening situations. However, people could become overwhelmed or intimidated by the amount of potential hazards and the precautions needed. To prevent both fear or passivity about home fires, three simple items in each home unit can allow people to feel safe and secure: a fire extinguisher, an alarm measuring carbon emissions, and a working, practiced escape plan. A fire extinguisher should be kept in close proximity to the kitchen and each family member should know how to use it. Emission alarms should be tested monthly. Escape routes should be memorized and run through. Together, these tips will help preserve safe homes and prevent life-threatening fires.

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