Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. residents are no strangers to cold winter weather. However, many are ill-prepared when it comes to practicing heater safety in order to prevent fires.
Before assuming you already know how to protect your home, consider this: improper use of heating equipment contributed to 56,000 fires that resulted in 470 deaths, 1,490 injuries and $1 billion in direct property damage — just between 2009 and 2013. Those are scary numbers.
In order to help you protect your family from the dangers of improper heating equipment, we broke down how house fires start, how you can create a fire safety plan for your family and what you can do proactively to avoid fires.
How do house fires start?
No one thinks a fire will happen to them -- until it does. If you want to protect your family, it’s important to understand how fires start. Here are some of the most common culprits:
Electric space heaters can provide an affordable way to heat just one room or supplement an inadequate heating system. If used incorrectly, though, they can be deadly. In fact, space heaters account for 43 percent of home fires and 85 percent of home heating fire deaths. If you do choose to heat your house with electric space heaters, make sure to plug them directly into the wall rather than use an extension cord, as they can overheat and start a fire. To make sure you’re following the proper codes, you may want to call Alexandria HVAC service pros.
Keep the space around any vents or radiators clear, particularly of items that are combustible. Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment was the third leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half of home heating fire deaths. Hanging clothes to dry on your heater is always a bad idea, and placing furniture in front of your heater can cause the heat to become trapped and build up to dangerous levels.
Unchecked smoke detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors only work when you have them properly installed and checked regularly. If your smoke alarm is over 10 years old or it does not sound when tested, change it immediately. It's also a good idea to make sure you have an alarm installed in every room on every level of the home, including the basement.
Dirty heating units
Over time, dirt dust and other residues can build up and cause problems with your heating system. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires is a failure to clean heating units -- primarily the creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment (like chimneys).
How to teach your family about fire safety.
No matter how much you protect your home, there are some things that you cannot predict. That’s why it’s always a good idea to create a fire escape plan and share it with your family.
- Locate two exits in every room. It’s important to find two ways to get out of every spot in case fire or smoke is blocking the primary exit. This could be another door, window or fire escape.
- Check your windows. It’s not uncommon for windows to get stuck through different seasons, especially if you’re living in an older home. Make sure you’re regularly checking that your windows are not stuck, you can easily open the security bars and that you can take your screens out quickly.
- Talk about fire safety. Of course, we all hope that we will never have to deal with a fire. And we don’t want to scare children if we don’t need to. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to your kids about what could happen in the event of a fire. One of the most important things you should let them know is that a firefighter is there to help them and they should not hide if they see one.
- Practice safety drills. Even if you’re confident in your fire escape system, you want to make sure you’ve prepared your kids for fire safety in the event you aren’t there to help them. The best way to ensure you’ve prepared your family is to practice safety drills. This can include asking them where they would exit, blocking off certain parts of the home that they can’t get to and practicing how to feel their way out of the house with their eyes closed.
What you can do to avoid house fires.
The best way to avoid the health risks, dangers and property damage produced by house fires is to stop them before they even start. Here are a few safety tips to avoid a house fire:
- Check your smoke detector batteries every month. A working smoke alarm can significantly increase your chances of surviving a deadly home fire. Check yours each month to make sure the batteries are fresh and that the devices themselves are still working. If you don’t know what to look for, call in the experts for Alexandria HVAC service.
- Contact your local fire department. If used incorrectly, fire extinguishers could cause more harm than good. It’s a smart decision to contact your local fire department for information on training, proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
- Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler. Not only can home fire sprinkler systems reduce the risk of fire-related injuries and deaths, but they can help lessen your homeowner’s insurance premiums and uninsured property losses.
- Check your HVAC system. A variety of things can cause an HVAC system to malfunction and cause a fire -- like built-up dust and dirt, inappropriate voltage levels, incorrect fuses, loose electrical connections and broken motors. It’s crucial that you get your home’s HVAC system checked each year by an Alexandria HVAC repair specialist to ensure you have a safe, functional HVAC system.
Protect your home from fire.
To ensure heater safety and maximum protection against house fires, it's best to have your heater inspected by an Alexandria HVAC repair specialist. To have your furnace, boiler or heater system checked, schedule an appointment with the experts at John C. Flood today.