Put a freeze on winter fires: Home and fire safety tips to follow this winter season

(BPT) – Nobody wants to believe a catastrophic event like a fire can happen to them, but home fires affect tens of thousands of families every year. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home fires occur more in the winter than during any other season. As the snowflakes fall and temperatures drop, it’s important that you take the proper steps to ensure your family and home are protected from the unexpected.

Test, maintain and replace.

Correct smoke alarm placement, regular maintenance and alarm replacement are essential parts of a comprehensive fire safety plan. Once alarms are installed on every level and in every bedroom, test them regularly, change the batteries every six months if battery-powered and be sure all alarms have a battery backup if hardwired. If you can’t think of when you last installed your smoke alarms, chances are, it’s time to replace them. Smoke alarms don’t last forever and need to be replaced at least every 10 years. When it’s time to replace your alarms, install alarms with a 10-year sealed battery that eliminates late-night battery chirps and battery replacements for a decade.

Plan and practice your escape plan.

Installing smoke alarms is step one, but knowing what to do when they go off is vital to your home safety plan. Involve everybody in your household when developing an emergency escape plan. Collectively identify two exits out of each room, including windows and doors, and set a dedicated meeting spot outside. Once outside, stay outside and call 911. Be sure to practice your escape plan with your entire family at least twice a year.

‘When developing an escape plan, it’s important to prioritize escaping, leaving all personal belongings behind,’ said Ashley Gocken, a home safety expert with First Alert, a leader in residential fire safety. ‘The planning process helps families practice how to safely evacuate children, pets and anyone in the household needing special assistance.’

Identify your exit.

Doors are a great way to gauge the closeness of a fire. Before opening a door, feel the doorknob or higher on the door with the back of your hand. If it is hot, or if there is smoke coming around the door, leave it closed and use your second way out. If you decide to open a door, do it slowly and be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present. If you can’t get out, cover vents and cracks around the door with clothing, towels or newspapers to keep smoke out. Call 911, stay where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or flashlight.

Stay low.

If you encounter smoke while escaping from a fire, consider using an alternative escape route. However, heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling, so if you must escape through smoke, drop to the floor, crawl on your hands and knees and keep your head 12 to 24 inches above the floor.

Close windows and doors.

Before bed or when leaving home, you should always close windows and doors as a preventative measure. This is important because oxygen will allow fires to continue to grow if a fire does start. Closing windows and doors holds back the radiating heat of fire for a short period. If a fire breaks out when you are home, focus on your escape plan rather than closing windows and doors. This allows you a better chance to escape and can also improve otherwise untenable conditions.

To learn more about how to keep your family and home safe from fire, visit FirstAlert.com.