The fall season comes with its own unique fire dangers, but with a little bit of consideration and preparation, you can sidestep some of the most common things that contribute to home fires this season. And since October is National Fire Prevention month, what better time of year to review your safety plans and make sure your home is protected?
Here are some common threats to life and property and how you can be safer with some simple preventative steps.
1. Change Smoke Detector Batteries
Unless you change them regularly, you’ve probably forgotten the last time you replaced a smoke detector battery. Or maybe you just wait for that annoying beep at 3AM to remind you that the batteries are low.
Smoke detectors are only going to alert you to threats if they’re working properly, so keeping the batteries fresh is important. At a minimum, you should change batteries once per year, and one of the best ways to remember when to do that is to time it to the changing of the clocks. Each fall when you set your clocks back, use the opportunity to swap out smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
You can even make it a twice-a-year ritual and do it once in the fall and again in spring. That way you know you’ll always have charged batteries.
2. Get Your Furnace Serviced
Without regular maintenance and inspection, your furnace can become a safety and fire hazard. Furnaces burn fuel to heat your home, and even a small problem can lead to a huge catastrophe if unattended.
Faulty connections can mean deadly carbon monoxide leaks, and malfunctioning controls can cause sparks that may lead to fires or even explosions.
Annual furnace maintenance in the fall before you begin to use your furnace in earnest can save you from fire and other hazards. An HVAC contractor will know what to look for, which parts to repair or replace and how to service your equipment to keep it working efficiently and safely.
3. Watch Out For Space Heaters
If you have a particularly chilly room, you may invest in a small space heater to help your furnace along. They’re good for boosting the temperature in selective areas of your home, and may help you save on heating costs by allowing you to keep temperatures lower in the rest of your home. But they can become real hazards if not used properly.
Space heaters need space – typically at least three feet of it – all around it on every side. Be cautious about where you put it. Keep your heater away from curtains, bed linens, clothing, upholstery or anything flammable.
Always turn off and unplug the heater before you leave your home. In fact, you’re better off turning it off and unplugging it every time you leave the room. The last thing you want is a draft to blow a bit of paper into it or the cat’s tail to get caught in a grate or opening.
4. Pay Attention To Fireplaces
Fireplace safety starts before you light the first kindling of the season. Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected and be sure the fireplace is cleared of leftover ashes. Even if you cleaned it well after last season, you never know what may have blocked the chimney in the interim. Everything from leaves to birds’ nests to other animals looking for a home can create a fire hazard.
When you light a fire, keep all other flammable materials away. That includes magazines, curtains, toys and even your sleeves. Never leave a fire unattended or go to sleep while it’s still burning. And never vacuum leftover ashes. Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire for three full days, and you certainly don’t want a potential fire hazard in your closet overnight.
5. Don’t Store Fuel In The Garage
When it’s time to clean up after summer, you may be tempted to store your nice, expensive grill in the garage to protect it from winter’s ravages. But before you do that, think twice about bringing the propane tank with it.
Your best bet is to close the tank valve and store both together, covered, outside your home and at least ten feet away from anything flammable. But if you must bring the grill inside, detach the fuel tank and leave it outside. Propane is flammable and it needs to be stored in an open, well ventilated area.
Likewise, don’t store containers of lawnmower or leaf blower fuel. Both are flammable, can be volatile under the right circumstances, and should be kept out of your house. In fact, you should empty your mower or blower’s tank before storing it away for winter.
6. Be Safe On Halloween
Candlelit jack-o-lanterns are a Halloween staple but they aren’t the safest. Instead, choose a battery-powered light designed to look like a flame. If you can’t live without a true candlelight effect, then be sure to monitor your jack-o-lantern and never leave it alone on the kitchen table or front porch. Never use candles to line your windowsills, porch or walkway. Electric or battery operated lights are the only safe solution in this case.
Be careful with popular fall and Halloween decorations like straw scarecrows, crepe paper bows and dried flower wreaths. Keep them firmly away from heat sources like bulbs and heaters and certainly far from open flames.
And while you’re at it, fall is a good time to practice “stop-drop-and-roll” with your kids and to review your home’s exit plan in the event of an emergency. Young kids are likely going to be hearing about fire prevention in school during October, so reinforcing it at home will help.
7. Be Prepared For An Emergency
Not every danger can be avoided, so however careful you are, there may come a time when smoke or fire threaten your family and home. That’s when it’s most important to have safety measures in place.
Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home in a central location. One near the kitchen, and one in the laundry room is a good place to start.
Be sure that you have smoke detectors placed strategically throughout your home. Placement matters almost as much as presence when it comes to smoke detectors, so ask your alarm professional whether your home is sufficiently covered.
And always maintain a central station monitoring service. In the event of an emergency, the proper authorities will immediately be notified and dispatched to your home, whether you’re there or not. In dangerous situations when every moment counts, you want the peace of mind knowing that your family is protected as best as possible.
Be safe this fall – and all year. If you have questions about fire alarms, central station monitoring, or smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, let us know. Call us at (732) 566-5661 or contact us online for a free in-home consultation and estimate.