October is national fire safety month, and fire prevention week is Oct. 7 through 13. We have some tips from Erie Insurance to help your audience stay safe by planning for the fall fix-up season, colder weather and upcoming holidays.
- CLEAN YOUR DRYER DUCTS
A survey from Erie Insurance conducted online by Harris Poll, shows one in five Americans (21 percent) admit they never clean their clothes dryer ducts unless they have a problem. Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? The most common cause of dryer fires is a failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.
- FIX UP YOUR FURNACE
Cold weather will be here before you know it, and it’s important to get your furnace checked…not just to make sure you have heat when frigid temps set in, but to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 56,000 structure fires per year in homes that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. Thirty-six percent of homeowners have their furnaces inspected and serviced at least once a year.
- SWEEP YOUR CHIMNEY
Nearly half (46 percent) of people who own a home with a fireplace never have their chimney cleaned (swept), unless they have a problem. Unclean chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which recommends an annual chimney inspection. The NFPA research shows the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30 percent) was the failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. In the 2009-2013 period, chimneys resulted in $25 million in direct property damage each year. Improper cleaning can also lead to other serious issues including a potential for carbon monoxide, fumes and possibly soot to enter the living spaces of your home.
- GRILL WITH CAUTION
Football season is a great time to toss some burgers on the grill. If you’re a renter, before you even consider grilling, check with your landlord to see if it’s allowed. Grill fires can start in a number of ways. To prevent a fire, clean the grill after each use. You should always keep it a safe distance from your building (at least 10 feet away) and away from trees. Place the grill on a solid surface that can’t burn, such as concrete or asphalt. And never walk away from the grill while cooking, as a spark or small flame can easily spread. Use long-handled spatulas, wear flame-resistant mitts and never wear loose-fitting clothes near an open flame.
- REMOVE THE X-MAS TREE WHEN THE HOLIDAY IS OVER
Nearly 40 percent of home fires ignited by Christmas trees occur in January — long after gifts have been unwrapped. To show homeowners what can happen when a dry Christmas tree catches fire, Erie Insurance and the Erie Fire Department staged a fire in a vacant home. The result? A Christmas tree fire can fill a room with toxic smoke in just 30 seconds and burn down an entire living room in one minute. In this particular staged scenario, the home was completely engulfed in flames and smoke in just five minutes. Proper care and maintenance of a Christmas tree can go a long way to make sure you and your family, as well as your home, are protected this season. Make sure your tree is properly hydrated and water it every day. A dry Christmas tree can catch fire and burn faster than a newspaper. The longer you keep the tree in your home, the more dried out it gets. One out of every three Christmas tree fires in a home is caused by electrical problems. Make sure to inspect the lights for damage, tossing out any that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked wires. Don’t forget to check smoke detectors, too, so you can be alerted in the event of an emergency. Keep your Christmas tree at least three feet away from any heat sources, including fireplaces, furnaces or space heaters. Instead of using real candles this season, opt for battery-operated, flameless candles. They look, smell and feel like the real thing without adding risk.