As outdoor temperatures cool, its only natural to warm things up inside. Did you know that fire hazards in and around your home or business stem largely from heating your space? Its true. With that being said, it is no surprise that The American Red Cross reports a drastic increase in the amount of US house fires during the fall and winter months. When it comes to fire prevention, we consider ourselves to be experts on the subject. To keep you, your family, and your co-workers safe this season, let’s take a few moments to review some key fall fire safety tips and fire prevention techniques. Replace Batteries in Smoke Alarms & Locate Fire Extinguishers Turning the clocks back in the fall is an ideal time to do a system check in your home or business. Replace the batteries in all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors (regardless if they haven’t lost charge.) If you have a fire extinguisher (and you should!), make sure it’s fully charged, and still within the expiration date. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, get one! Develop a Home Fire Safety Plan If your home catches fire, what’s your plan? Make sure everyone in your home of appropriate age knows where the extinguisher is stored and how to properly use it – better yet, take a few minutes to develop a fire safety plan and escape route for your family. Knowledge and preparation are the keys to keeping yourself, and your family members, safe in the event of a fire. Here are a few key elements that you need to consider in your safety plan: Determine an Evacuation Routesmok Maybe it’s the next door neighbor’s house, or front yard across the street. Regardless of where you designate your safe zone, make sure everyone involved knows the plan and doesn’t need to rely on someone else for this critical information. Get the Kids Involved Teach them how, and when, to dial 911 (make sure little ones know their address, too). Ask them often if they can recall the safety evacuation plan you’ve discussed. Make them learn the stop, drop, and roll method for extinguishing a fire on themselves or escaping beneath a fire. Bring Fire Safety to Work If fire safety in the workplace is your area of concern, you’re not alone. After all, The Municipal Association Risk Management Service (MMARMS) reports that approximately 80,000 workplaces experience fire every year, causing disruption of public services and utilities and the loss of valuable property and information. While your business may have a safety team employed, be sure proper training has been administered, and a post-fire recovery plan is in action. If your facility is without a safety team, dedicate a group of individuals to educate their co-workers on the location of fire extinguishers, as well as the best practices for using them. Check your Heating System Before it gets really cold—early October is the ideal time—turn on your heating unit to ensure it is working properly. Your unit has been sitting dormant for about 6 months, so you’ll want to make sure everything is in proper working order before you really need it. While furnaces are a leading cause of house fires in the US, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of furnace fires: Regularly replace furnace filters. Keep all areas around the furnace clean and unobstructed. Keep the burner area clean and clear of debris. Keep all combustible items at least six-inches away from the vent pipe. Never close off more than 20% of heat registers. Should you notice any issues with your heating system during the test run, contact a professional immediately. For preventative care, have your central heating system cleaned and serviced by a certified HVAC contractor once annually. A proper working heating system greatly reduces fire risks, but also reduces utility costs as they work to heat your space more efficiently. Fireplace Safety: 101 Throughout the year, everything from crud to critters cozy up in your chimney. Keep your fireplace clear of debris, and have it inspected each year before use by a professional chimney sweep. Note: when hiring a contractor, always do your research! If you have a gas fireplace, have all lines and connections inspected before flipping the switch. A professional chimney inspection uncovers any issues and necessary repairs that need to be made – Don’t skip this step! In addition to yearly cleanings and inspections, there are a few things you can do to enhance fireplace safety: Use a fireplace screen, guard, or glass doors to keep hot ash and sparks contained. Store extra wood, and other types of combustible materials, at least five-feet away from your fireplace. Never leave a fire unattended. Burn seasoned hardwoods, such as oak, that have been split and stored in a safe and dry environment for at least six-months. Keep fires small – Never overload your fireplace. When building a fire, strategically place logs on a metal grate at the back end of your fireplace; always use kindling to ignite fire. Additional Fire Safety Tips & Considerations Perform a DIY home inspection, then break out the leaf blower and rake! Something as simple as a pile of leaves can be the catalyst for a fire. Take a couple of hours, and clean your gutters, check your downspouts, and remove all leaves and debris from the perimeter of your space. Know the burning regulations and requirements in your area and never burn leaves or trash on an exceptionally windy day. Never park your vehicle over a pile of leaves. The heat emitted from your car can ignite the leaves, destroying your vehicle and all things around it. After every load of laundry, always clean the dryer vent. Every season, test your smoke detectors. On a regular basis, clean your toaster and/or toaster oven to remove crumbs and leftover food. Get familiar with your homeowner’s insurance policy – know what your coverage includes. Most of these recommendations seem like common sense, right? But as we get busy we don’t always put safety in the forefront. When the clocks roll back this fall, take that extra hour to prepare your home or business for a fire-safe fall and winter season.