As the winter season jumps into full swing, it is always a good reminder to keep our homes safe from fires by following a few simple Safety Rules to protect our families and homes.  In this blog post, we cover a few things we can easily do to ensure that our homes are as ready for the cold season as we are ready to enjoy their warmth.

The reason we are urging vigilance is simple – the national statistics in this arena tell the story.  On average, seven people die and 36 people are burned every day from a home fire with children and elderly being the most vulnerable. These tragedies result in over $7 billion in property damage.  All of these statistics are derived from over 60,000 fires each year, according to the Red Cross.

In order that we not be a statistic this season, let us think about these steps to prepare our homes and keep our families, friends and homes safe:

  1. Smoke Alarms – install on every level of home, including each bedroom or sleeping area.
  2. Test Smoke Alarms each month to ensure that they are working.  No one wants them going off in the middle of the night to alert the batteries need to be changed.  While the batteries can last up to a year, make an effort to change them out every six months as part of a routine.  The small amount of time and the cost of batteries is well worth the effort.
  3. Carbon Monoxide Detectors are an important part of keeping our home and family protected as burning wood can create this poisonous gas.  If we forget to open a damper in our chimney when burning a fire, a carbon monoxide detector may save us from this poisonous gas.  Install these near fireplaces or gas stoves and heaters, as well as in bedrooms.  Follow the same procedures to keep the batteries fresh.
  4. Heaters – these are a leading cause of home fires, so be sure that all heaters are properly maintained and that instructions and warning labels are followed.  In addition:
    1. Make sure electric cords are in good shape and are not damaged. 
    2. Never leave a heater unattended and turn it off if you leave the room.
    3. Don’t let children or pets play too close to a heater.
    4. Ensure that heaters are positioned at least three feet from items that could burn – rugs, paper, clothing, blankets, etc.
    5. Place space heaters out of areas where people can trip over the cord, so avoid doorways and other high-traffic areas in the home.  Be sure to keep them on a flat, level surface.
    6. When the heater is not being used, be sure to unplug it and store it when it has cooled down.
  5. Fireplace – as warm and cozy a fire can be, it is extremely important to keep our fireplaces maintained and in proper working order.
    1. Have fireplace maintained and cleaned every year, perhaps more if used often.  Over time, a dangerous build up called creosote can adhere to the inside of a fireplace that burns wood.  This needs to be removed before it builds up and can burn and damage your home and chimney.
    2. Debris can sometimes fall into a chimney, so do your best to ensure that these items cannot get into your chimney by having a proper chimney cap installed, or having these items removed often.  Things such as fallen leaves and bird nests are often culprits.
    3. When burning a fire, use only dry, properly seasoned firewood.  Properly seasoned wood has less water in the wood and will burn cleaner with less smoke.  It will also heat our homes more effectively and efficiently.
    4. Only burn wood and try not to drop in other household items, such as newspaper or cardboard boxes.
    5. The Damper – be sure to open the damper before starting a fire.  A closed damper can cause excess smoke and gas to be released in our homes almost immediately after starting a fire.
  6. Escape Plan – talk about an escape plan in the event of a fire with family members, roommates and guests.

Most importantly, if a fire occurs in our home, we need to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside a burning building.

Keep safe this winter with these tips and if an unfortunate situation should occur, be sure to contact your insurance adjustor immediately to get the coverage that you have a right to expect.  If you need advice or resources when it comes to dealing with an insurance company that gives you the run-around, feel free to contact  Van Cleave Law for a free consultation to help with your situation.  Our team will evaluate your situation and get you moving in the right direction to make you whole again.

Read more about Insurance Bad Faith issues here.