This winter, make sure your home is warm, welcoming, cozy . . . and safe. Along with holiday cheer and seasonal joys, winter also brings safety hazards. By combining awareness with prevention, you can avoid some of these dangers and protect your home.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a dirty or structurally deficient chimney could pose a fire hazard. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” The Chimney Safety Institute of America also recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Make sure to have your chimney inspected annually by a qualified professional.
RELATED: Winter Home Maintenance Checklist
Using portable space heaters to supplement the heating system in your house or as primary heat sources means taking special precautions. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heaters should be kept at least three feet from anything that can burn. It’s also important for space heaters to have a thermostat and overheat protection, and auto shut-off feature. Place heaters on solid, flat surfaces, and avoid blocking foot traffic and exits. Don’t use extension cords and keep children away from heaters at all times. Turn off or unplug heaters when you leave the room or go to bed.
Frozen plumbing pipes can burst and become an injury hazard as well as cause damage to your home. To help avoid this problem, make sure your home and pipes are well and properly insulated. Keep your thermostat set at a consistent temperature of at least 55 degrees. If you have a garage connected to your home, keep the garage door closed. When temperatures plummet, open cabinet doors around pipes and let faucets drip. Prevent exterior water pipes from freezing by disconnecting garden hoses and draining remaining water in spigots. Be sure to winterize and drain automatic sprinkler systems, too.
Never leave candles unattended, even for a minute. Make sure candle holders are flame-proof and place candles at least 12 inches away from any flammable materials, including holiday decorations. Always keep candles and lighting materials out of the reach of children and pets. Before you go to bed, double-check that all candles are safely extinguished. For maximum safety, use flameless candles in your home.
When decking your halls for the holidays, be sure to choose a safe spot for your tree well away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources. If you choose a live tree, make sure it has adequate water to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Select decorative lights that have been tested for safety and inspect the wiring each year for cracking and fraying. Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the home. Never burn wrapping paper or greenery in a fireplace. Keep ornaments, tinsel, and other decorating materials and small objects away from children. You can find more holiday safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
High-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, light switches, appliance handles, and others can harbor cold, flu, and virus germs. Thoroughly clean these surfaces regularly with soap and water followed by disinfectant, and wash hands frequently.
Be sure to inspect the exterior of your home for winter safety hazards, too. Keep the driveway and walkways clear of snow and ice to avoid slipping dangers. Remove dead trees and limbs to prevent injuries and property damage when they fall. It’s also important to make sure that outside lighting is adequate and operable with shorter winter days.