Protect your Family from Cold Weather Fires

Home fires occur more often in winter than in any other season. Why? Cooking is the leading cause of winter home fires. Plus, holiday decorations, chimney fires, space heaters, electrical wiring, smoking, and candles. Alternative sources of power such as kerosene and wood-burning stoves used during power outages from winter storms also contribute. Home fires in the cold months are most common in the early evening hours, from 5-8 pm.

Home fire protection has two parts:

  • Prevention of fires, and
  • Protection from fires.

Preventing Winter Fires
The United States Fire Administration (USFA), which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), offers detailed tips on how to prevent the most common causes of winter fires, including cooking, heating, candles, winter storms, smoking, and electrical hazards, For free winter fire safety tips and winter fire publications.

Fire Protection Plans
A fire protection plan can protect your family in the event fire does break out in your home. USFA recommends every household have a fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, a fire escape plan, and residential sprinklers.

Smoke alarms
The risk of dying in a fire is twice as high in homes without working smoke alarms. While almost all homes in the United States have smoke alarms, 62 percent of deaths from home fires occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Making sure that smoke alarms are in working order are vitally important for the safety of your family.

USFA recommends a working smoke alarm on every level of the home. Smoke alarms should be cleaned and checked monthly. For battery operated smoke alarms with standard batteries the batteries should be changed every six months.

Fire escape plan
Fires can get out of control very quickly. That’s why it’s important to have a fire escape plan in place before you need it. To make a fire escape plan for your home:

  • Draw a plan of your home, showing all the windows and doors.
  • Find two ways out of each room. Make sure all doors and windows that go to the outside are easy to open. Draw lines on your drawing showing the escape routes from each room to the outside.
  • Have a plan for people who may not be able to get out on their own: infants, young children, people with disabilities, elderly adults.
  • Pick a meeting place if you have to evacuate, such as the end of the driveway or a nearby street sign.
  • Make sure everyone knows the plan—how to get out of each room and where to meet.
  • Practice your plan at least twice a year with everyone in the household. Practice at night and during the day.

Home fire sprinkler systems
If commercial buildings need sprinkler systems, why not homes? Automatic sprinkler systems connected to the domestic water supply provide low-cost protection for new construction and retrofitting.

Prevention and Protection
As with all hazards, prevention is the key. But prevention efforts can fail; that’s why every household needs a home fire protection plan in place.

Winter Fire Safety. U.S. Fire Administration.