Staying safe at home is of the utmost importance when turning up the heat this winter. Home fires are most common between December and March. Every week during the winter season, home fires claim the lives of eight Canadians. Here are 8 tips for avoiding fires this winter.
- Be extremely careful with space heaters
Portable space heaters are the leading cause of home fires. When purchasing a new heater, ensure it has been tested and certified by the CSA group and has an automatic shut-off option when it reaches a higher-than-normal temperature or falls over.
Place heaters on a solid, flat, level surface and do not use electric heaters in the bathroom or other wet/damp areas.
Never use an extension cord or power bar with a space heater. Plug it directly into a wall outlet.
Always keep at least a one metre radius around the heater clear of other objects and make sure there’s nothing combustible nearby.
Never leave the heater on when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Get a professional to clean and inspect your furnace
It is important to have your furnace inspected every year. Apart from ensuring your furnace is heating your home properly, an annual inspection will keep deadly carbon monoxide (CO) from leaking into your home.
- Change the furnace filter regularly
In extreme cases, a dirty filter can be a fire hazard and can cause serious damage to your furnace.
- Inspect outside vents
It is important — especially if you have a high efficiency furnace — to check outside vents to ensure the intake and exhaust vents are free of leaves or pests such as rodents or bird nests.
- Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected
Gas fireplaces need as much cleaning and inspecting as a wood-burning stove and should be inspected by a professional every two years. Cracks and rust can lead to carbon monoxide leaks.
Wood fireplaces can be dangerous, especially if chimneys are not properly cleaned.
Beyond ensuring to have your chimney professionally cleaned annually, also be careful about what kind of wood you burn. Never use pressure- or creosote-treated wood and if you’re cutting your own firewood, use hardwoods such as ash or oak and make sure you let it dry out for at least a year before burning.
Make sure that your fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks flying into the room and never leave a fire unattended.
- Never use charcoal or gas barbecues, camping heating equipment, or home generators indoors
Equipment designed for outdoor use can give off deadly carbon monoxide and should never be used indoors.
Also, never heat your home with your oven.
- Practice fire safety
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of your home, tested once a month and had their batteries replaced twice a year — daylight savings time (March and November) is a good time to do that.
Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher and everyone in the home should know where it is kept and how to use it.
Never leave anything unattended on the stove top. If you have to leave the room, turn off the stove.
Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children and make sure you speak to children about fire safety techniques — i.e. Stop, drop and roll and what to do if the smoke alarms or CO detector goes off. Have an evacuation plan, discuss it often with your family and practice fire safety drills a few times a year.
Check all appliance cords. If they are frayed, split, or damaged in any way, be sure to replace the cord before you use the appliance again — or buy a new appliance.
- Electric blankets can be a good option
Using an electric blanket at night can save a lot of money if you also turn down the thermostat. Electric blankets use a fraction of the energy your furnace will use to operate at full temperature all night.
Be sure to use a newer electric blanket that has a shut-off mechanism that keeps them from overheating or catching fire.
To prolong the life of the blanket, keep it completely flat when in use and store it carefully when you’re finished using it for the season.
Keep wires away from pets that might chew them.