With the winter chill approaching, we’ve likely already started turning our furnaces on and maybe even lit the logs in the fireplace. Although fire safety rules should be followed throughout the year, winter has its own specific risks. To protect your property and all who are in it, we’ve listed some suggestions on fire-proofing your home or business.
Check the Property for Fire Hazards
In order to practice fire safety, you need to be aware of certain situations that could put you at risk. Here are some of them:
- Leaving flammable items near heat sources
Don’t leave items that can catch fire on or near surfaces that could ignite them. For example, leaving potholders on top or near a hot stove. Or having a space heater too close to the bed or flammable furniture. Flammable items should be kept at least 3 feet away from a heat source.
- Overloading electrical outlets
Too many electrical appliances plugged into one outlet can cause an electrical fire. Use surge protectors if you need to plug in more than a couple items. Also, be sure to repair or replace any frayed elecrical cords.
- Forgetting to turn off hot appliances.
Leaving the stove burner or iron on can lead to disaster if some flammable item comes in contact with them. If you forget something cooking or boiling on the stove, the contents of the pot or pan will eventually dissipate and the cookware may catch on fire.
- Unattended candles
Candles are great for their ambience and pleasant scents. But left unattended, they can fall over, catching the surface or nearby flammable items on fire. Candles placed in a glass or metal are safer, as long as they aren’t placed to close underneath a shelf or other flammable item.
- Smoking in bed
So many devastating fires have resulted from people smoking in bed. It’s easy to drift off to sleep when you’re lying in bed relaxing. The burning cigarette can quickly ignite the highly flammable bedding.
- Burning fireplaces
Log-burning fireplaces are great! They produce a warm, cozy environment. But be careful--never leave the house or go to bed with your fireplace burning. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished and the fireproof door closed before leaving it. Also, don’t forget to open the flue and even keep it open if you’re not positive the fire is completely out.
- Ignoring the chimney
Creosote is a sticky, thick residue that accumulates on the inner walls of your chimney. Left uncleaned, it can start a chimney fire. To prevent this, clean the chimney annually (or hire a professional to do it). You should never throw trash or cardboard in the fireplace, as it increases smoke and creosote buildup. Always burn dry, seasoned wood.
- Not getting your furnace inspected
It’s important to get your furnace or other heating source inspected regularly to ensure it is working properly. A malfunctioning furnace can be a fire hazard.
- Sleeping with your bedroom door open
- Keeping the door closed in your bedroom can dramatically increase your chance of survival if your house were to catch fire.
Have a Fire Emergency Plan
If a fire occurs, you have limited time to react. The longer you wait to take action, the more devastating the damage can be. That’s why it’s important to have a plan beforehand. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re prepared in case of a fire in your building.
- Identify possible exits. Determine what exits are available. Ideally, there should be two exits in each room as possible escape routes. If the door is blocked, maybe a window can be used as an exit. If the room is not on the first floor, you might use a neighbor’s roof or a collapsible ladder.
- Make sure that all windows identified as exit routes can be easily opened and any screens or security features can be removed quickly.
- Sometimes, the smoke from a fire is so intense, it’s difficult to keep your eyes open or focused. Practice escaping the premises with your eyes closed.
- Have a set meeting place outdoors far enough away from the building. This is critical to making sure that all occupants are safely out of the burning building.
- Make sure all occupants are aware of and understands the fire emergency plan. Everyone should know when and how to place an emergency call to 911. Practice fire drills with everyone involved. Make sure young children are taught that the firefighters are there to help and not to be afraid of them.
- If you have pets, they require more specific steps in protecting them from fires. The ASPCA offers tips in creating a plan for your fur babies.
Fire Safety Equipment
Having some fire safety equipment and supplies on hand can be your first line of defense in the event of a fire.
It’s advisable to install smoke detectors on every floor of the house (including the basement), in every bedroom and in the hall outside of bedrooms. You should check the smoke detectors regularly to make sure they are working properly and replace the batteries at least twice a year. Reminders for changing the batteries could be when daylight savings time starts and then when it ends.
Having one or more small fire extinguishers on hand can extinguish small fires, or at least contain them until the fire department arrives. The type of extinguisher should be at least an ABC fire extinguisher. This model can be used to douse Class A (wood/paper/trash), Class B (flammable liquids) and Class C (electrical) fires. A Class D fire extinguisher is needed for combustible metals. All commercial kitchens should have a Class K fire extinguisher to specifically fight any deep fryer (cooking oils/fats) fires. Test your fire safety knowledge here.
You may also want to consider installing automatic sprinkler systems.
What to Do If a Fire Breaks Out
This is the time to put your fire emergency plan to work! Hopefully, you’ve exercised some fire drills so that the practices you followed come to mind. Once you notice smoke or flames, knowing the escape routes and steps to take are critical to staying safe.
Don’t obsess about possessions. They can be replaced; lives cannot. Above anything else, make sure you get out of burning building as quickly as possible. Here are some additional tips to ensure your safety.
- As you are exiting the burning building, yell “FIRE” as loud as you can so others in the building can be alerted. Once you are safe, call 911 to report the fire.
- If the fire is contained in one room with a door, close that door, if possible, to contain the fire. Close all doors behind you as you exit the building.
- Never open a door if there is smoke seeping through it or it is hot or very warm to the touch. Find an alternate escape route.
- Stay low as you walk through the burning building. Smoke rises, so crawling low as you exit the building will allow you to breathe cleaner air.
- Don’t take time to pick up valuables--time is of the essence!
- Don’t go back inside the building! Go to the predetermined meeting place and wait there. Let the firefighters know if someone is unaccounted for.
The Red Cross offers additional on fire safety and prevention.
After the Fire
Hopefully, you will never have to worry about this, but if you do experience a fire in your home or workplace, it can cause devastating effects. Depending on the extent of the fire, there may be a lot of damage caused by smoke and excess water remaining from extinguishing the flames.
Here are some steps to take to help you in getting things cleaned up and restored as soon as possible after a fire.
1. Call Your Insurance Company.
Notify your insurance agent immediately. He/she will provide you with options and steps to take to get your property restored. They will give you suggestions on where to turn for help and how the insurance claim process works. Cooperate fully with the claims adjusters; promptly returning calls, being available for home inspections, and completing all paperwork in a timely manner--will expedite the process.
2. Contact a Reputable Fire Cleaning and Restoration Company.
Don’t settle for a fly-by-night company to clean and restore your property. You need to hire someone who knows what they are doing. Someone who’s been in business for years and established a reputation for getting the job done right and on time. St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration has been in business since 1968, providing St. Louis home and business owners with fire cleaning and restoration services.
3. Separate Damaged from Undamaged Property.
While you’re waiting on the professional fire restoration company, get to work going through the rubble. The insurance company will probably need an itemized list of items that were damaged. The more details you can provide on the damages, the better and easier your insurance claim will be. Receipts are ideal, but if you don’t have those, list approximate date of purchase, original cost, photos--all can contribute to the proof of inventory.
If there are any salvageable items, remove them from the premises and place them in a safe place. Costs for storing these items may be covered by your insurance.
4. Find Somewhere to Stay During Restoration.
If your home is uninhabitable, you’ll need to stay somewhere during the cleaning and restoration process. Check with your insurance agent what your policy covers on rent costs, food, clothing and other items will be covered during this time.
Call St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration after the Fire
If your home or office building has a fire that requires cleanup and restoration, call St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration. We offer 24/7 emergency services to ensure you receive the immediate service you need. We’ll promptly dispatch professional technicians to your property to survey the damage and get to work restoring it to its original state.