5 fire safety tips to follow this winter season

(BPT) - Heating, cooking, decorations and candles all contribute to an increased risk of fire during the winter months. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home fires occur more in the winter than in any other season. As the snowflakes start to fall and the temperatures drop, it’s important that you take the proper steps to make sure your family and home are protected from winter fire hazards.

1. Be cautious of space heaters. December, January and February are the peak months for heating fires, and space heaters account for 43% of U.S. home heating fires, according to the NFPA. Space heaters should be placed a minimum of three feet away from anything flammable, such as upholstered furniture, tapestries, mattresses or bedding, and must be turned off when you leave the room or go to sleep. In addition, never store clothing on or around the unit, and never cover the cord or put anything on top of it. Have a three-foot kid-free zone around space heaters, as well.

2. Play it safe in the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries, so it's important to know what you can do to help keep your friends and family safe while entertaining during the winter season. The primary cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended stovetops and ovens. If you are simmering, baking or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen and use a timer for reminders. When cooking for longer periods of time, don’t forget to use the exhaust fan or vent above your stove to help prevent carbon monoxide (CO) from collecting inside your home.

3. Practice candle safety. Between 2013 and 2017, an average of 7,900 home candle fires were reported each year by the NFPA. When burning candles for festive lighting, keep them at least a foot from anything flammable, never leave them unattended and place them out of reach from children. Make it a routine to check that all flames are extinguished before you go to bed or leave the room.

4. Decorate with care. As decorations come in and out of storage during the winter months, they also come with potential fire hazards. For instance, a report from the NFPA revealed that nearly two-thirds of fires involving decorative lights are due to electrical failures or malfunctions. Check light strings for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Also, avoid plugging too many lights into an outlet; overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire. In addition, place any festive decorations no closer than three feet from open flames, lamps and other sources of heat.

5. Have a fire extinguisher on hand. Having fire extinguishers — and knowing how to use them — is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family. When seconds count, having a fire extinguisher nearby is crucial for rapid response. Fire extinguishers should be stored where they are easily reachable and in key rooms where there is a higher risk for fires such as the kitchen and garage. For general protection, it’s best to select a multi-rated fire extinguisher such as the First Alert Rechargeable Home Fire Extinguisher, which is capable of handling most household fires.

“Fire extinguishers should be a part of everyone’s fire safety plan, in addition to the proper placement and maintenance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “Having fire extinguishers at the ready can make the difference between minor damage and greater tragedy, as they can quickly put out a small fire before it spreads and causes larger problems.”

To learn more about how to keep your home safe this winter, visit FirstAlert.com.

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