Home Fire Safety Tips for autumn
As summer heat gives way to chilly fall temperatures, it is time to prepare the home for the colder season. One of the most important things you can and should do is to make sure your home is secured against preventable fire hazards.
The main thing to address is your primary home heating system. This is the time to change furnace filters, if applicable. In addition, if you do have gas central heating or a gas wall heater, you should call in a professional to inspect the heater and, if necessary, to light the pilot light. The flame in a gas furnace should burn blue. Other colors indicate that the gas is not burning cleanly. Next, check the area around the furnace. Make sure that nothing is touching the furnace and that the area surrounding it is clean. Cardboard, clothing, furniture, books and other flammable items should be removed from the immediate area.
Fireplaces and Stoves
If you plan to use a fireplace or wood burning stove, have the chimney or stovepipe checked and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep before the first use. After the initial cleaning, you should check your chimneys and stovepipes every two weeks. Ask the chimney sweep to show you how to do this. What you will be looking for are obstructions and creosote buildup. Creosote is a natural by-product from burning wood. It is a highly flammable, tar-like substance. Creosote build-up can easily lead to chimney fires.
In addition to having your chimney and stovepipes cleaned regularly, you should prevent excess creosote by burning dry, well-seasoned wood. You can also use special firebricks containing a chemical that prevents creosote buildup. Many home improvement stores and fireplace supply stores carry these combustible bricks. Remember to keep the fires and embers well contained by using fire screens or doors. Also, keep the area around your fireplace or wood stove free of all flammable items.
Space heaters provide an efficient, cost-effective way to warm an individual room; however, space heaters also pose a significant fire hazard if they are not used properly. Check for frayed electrical cords. Replace old or damaged space heaters with brand new ones. Look for heaters that are electric and have safety features such as sensors that shut off the heater if it tips over or overheats. Space heater cords should be placed out of the way to avoid creating a tripping hazard. Furniture and all other flammable items must be kept at a safe distance away from the space heater. The heater should come with a manual describing the exact distance you should keep items away — this will usually be several feet. In addition, do not place the heater on an unstable surface — the floor is best anyway, as heat rises — and do not leave it on in a room when you, or another adult, are not there to keep an eye on it. Never use gas or kerosene space heaters indoors. You risk not only fires but also carbon monoxide poisoning.