The cold weather and darkness this month have us turning on lights, heating and appliances. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, that may be why January is the leading month for electrical fires. Today’s electrical demands can overburden the electrical system in a home, especially homes more than 40 years old that have older wiring, electrical systems, and devices.
Protect yourself and your family by making sure all electrical work in your home is done by a qualified electrician and following these tips from USFA:
- Always plug major appliances–such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers–directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance.
- Unplug small appliances when you’re not using them.
- Keep lamps, light fixtures and light bulbs away from anything that can burn.
- Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
- Check electrical cords on appliances often. Replace cracked, damaged and loose electrical cords.
- Don’t overload wall outlets.
- Never force a three-prong cord into a two-slot outlet.
- Install tamper-resistant electrical outlets if you have young children.
- Use power strips that have internal overload protection.
Find more home fire prevention tips and information at USFA’s electrical fire safety outreach materials webpage: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/electrical.html.
You say you just don’t have time to prevent injuries? If you’ve got less than one minute to devote to safety, use it to:
- Wipe up a spill right away. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal unintentional injuries for every age group, except 10 to 24 year olds—and for them it’s the second leading cause! Wiping up spills is one of several simple ways to prevent falls.
- Not leave a child alone near water (yes, even for less than a minute). Kids don’t drown only in pools. Bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and hot tubs can be drowning dangers as well.
- Test your smoke alarm to make sure it’s still working, and everyone in your household can hear it. Even alarms that are hard-wired or have long-life batteries need to be checked. You should have at least one working smoke alarm on each floor, and one inside every sleeping area is best. Consider having both ionization and photoelectric alarms, or dual alarms that incorporate both technologies. Ionization smoke alarms respond best to flaming fires, and photoelectric to smoldering fires.
- Put away matches or lighters in a high cabinet or locked drawer, out of sight and reach of children. Children playing with fire is a leading cause of fire deaths for children under age 5.
- Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Space heaters are involved in 32% of heating fires but cause 82% of associated deaths and 64% of injuries.
- Adjust the thermostat on your water heater to keep hot water less than 120°F, to prevent scalds.
- Turn off the stove if you have to leave the kitchen while cooking. Unattended equipment is the #1 contributing factor in cooking fire deaths.
- Put on your glasses and read the fine print on that medicine bottle. Unintentional poisonings have risen steadily since 1992, and for people 35 to 54 years old, they’re causing more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. Know how much, and how often, you can safely take any medication whether prescription or over-the-counter, as well as possible interactions with other drugs.
- Keep the metal mesh screen of your fireplace closed, but leave glass doors open while burning a fire. The U.S. Fire Administration says leaving the doors open gives the fire enough air and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. The screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace. Close the glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney from getting into the room.
Got a few minutes more? Use these 8 simple tips.
Our 1-minute moves can prevent injuries and take a total of less than 10 minutes. If you can find just a few minutes more, use them to:
- Put away household cleaners and medications in a place that’s out of sight and reach of children.
- Clear clutter from hallways and exits to prevent tripping.
- Install handrails on stairs and adequate lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs. Leading causes of adult injuries include falls from stairs, steps and ladders.
- Use this fire safety checklist to check your home for hazards.
- Call to schedule an annual chimney cleaning.
- Play Help Mikey Make It Out with your kids. This fun, interactive game at homefiredrill.org teaches life-saving home escape lessons.
- Plan and practice your home escape. Working smoke alarms and CO detectors save lives, but does everyone in your home know what to do when they sound–especially in the middle of the night? Does everyone know your meeting place outside, where you can find each other and firefighters can find you? Visit homefiredrill.org.
- Check the manufacturers instructions to see if you should replace your CO detector. You need a new detector every two to 10 years, depending on the model. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes, and unlike smoke from a fire it’s colorless, tasteless and odorless. It can be created by open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage (even with the door open). If you have only one carbon monoxide detector, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends it be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you.