Winter Safety is a priority for Emergency Disaster Preparedness.

From Texas to Montana, Washington to Florida, and all across America, winter has announced its arrival. Maybe you have your shovels and scrapers, hats and gloves ready for use, but are you safe in your own home? Most people have a sense of confidence that no harm will happen to them. That same confidence may cause an oversight. Safety, especially fire safety, is a major concern of ours. Helping people prepare for a disaster or emergency is our business, however, today we shall emphasize fire safety. Personal experience, from being in an emergency service sector for thirty years, has shown that some common oversights have led to major fire disasters. Disasters, that should have, and could have been prevented had the proper precautions been adhered to.

Clean the Dryer Vent

For instance, the author was at a client’s home, when he noticed that lint from the dryer was hanging from the floor joists in the basement. When the dryer was installed, it was properly vented to the exterior of the home. However, the exhaust pipe was the plastic flexible style and the lint inside it collected over time causing it to sag. The sagging flexible pipe restricted the venting of the exhaust. Once the pipe was at the point where the weight of the lint created this restriction, the lint extruded throughout the basement unnoticed. The homeowner was informed of this impending disaster.

 The heat from the dryer could ignite the lint and spread like a wildfire throughout the basement. Lint from a dryer burns quickly and moves fast. The burning or smoldering lint will catch dust on fire and could burn between the walls and up to the attic. Before you know it, the fire is now in the basement, in the walls and overhead. The danger is obvious. The fire that might have been smoldering, unnoticed for hours, then erupts suddenly could surround people and pets.

On a different occasion, a woman did some laundry while she was cooking the family Thanksgiving dinner, as she needed towels for her guests. In this case, however, there was only a small amount of lint that was visible. The dryer did set the lint on fire and followed the exhaust to outside the home! The small fire was extinguished in time before the house caught. The damage was minimal and was the talk of the feast.

It is not difficult to clean the dryer exhaust vent. Just use a long handle brush and a vacuum. We recommend that you wear a dust mask to prevent inhaling the lint. As an emergency disaster preparedness company, we also recommend cleaning the vent at least once or twice a year, more often if necessary or desired. Think of safety first, an hour of your time and little investment. If you are not inclined to clean it yourself, contact your local appliance repairperson and ask them if they will clean it or if they can suggest someone who will.

Space Heaters

Space heaters may be a great way to keep warm on cold days, just plug them in, turn them on and enjoy the heat. One drawback of space heaters is they might be knocked over by a pet or child. Older models do not have an automatic shut-off when they are not in an upright position. Combustible objects such as wrapping paper, rugs, furniture or blankets that are too close will cause a fire. Keep a minimum distance of three feet or more between the space heater and anything else. Energy.gov states “Safety is a top consideration when using space heaters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.” Therefore, it is essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.

Christmas Trees, Wreaths and Garland

Christmas trees, wreaths and garland are decorative and joyous. When purchasing a tree or other natural decoration, Christmas Wreathremember that they dry out. Purchase these items as fresh as possible, and while a tree can be watered, wreaths and garland cannot. During the winter months, the humidity inside the home can become extremely dry. The dryness saps the moisture from these natural objects and creates an unintended fire hazard. Be vigilant as to where you place them. Never put garland, wreaths or trees near a fireplace or space heater. These sound like common sense ideas, but the number and frequency of Christmas tree fires as stated by the American Red Cross are astounding with “nearly 47,000 fires [that] occur during the winter holidays claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries, and costing $554 million in property damage.”

Chimney

Fireplace fires, although warm and cozy, build up creosote in the chimney. This creosote is a tar like substance that once it catches can burn for a very long time. The fire will crack and fatigue the chimney flue and could eventually burn the nearby wood structure. Once again, the author is witness to several chimney fires. The roar of the fire starts out as a low woof-woof-woof and as the fire picks up speed, the sound amplifies to that of a locomotive (without the whistle); some have likened it to the sound of a tornado in the nearby distance. It is an extremely scary sound. Outside the house, the chimney looks similar to a giant blowtorch, with flames shooting straight up and then fanning out. A Chimney fire is not a situation you want to be in, especially in winter when you must leave the home for personal safety. Whether you heat your home by gas, oil, pellet stove or wood, have your chimney cleaned annually.

Electrical

There are natural rules that must be followed when using electricity. If you are the Griswold’s, you might be able to get away with so many extension cords plugged into one outlet (after all, that is TV magic), but it is a surefire way to burn down the house. Don’t do it! Follow the instructions on the light packaging. Do not use multiple sets of lights over the recommended number established by the manufacturer. When decorating the tree, use cool burning lights. These lights do not dry out the tree as fast. When using outside lights, make sure they are UL rated for outside, because they are specially designed for exterior use. In addition, use an outside UL rated extension cord. A short due to weather conditions may create a fire that could go unnoticed for some time. We recommend using a UL timer so that the lights will shut off automatically.

From all of us to all of you, may your Holidays be safe, healthy and enjoyable.

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