‘Tis the season for shopping for gifts, hanging Christmas lights and entertaining. The holidays are coming. Most people prepare for the holiday season but not everyone prepares for the winter season. In some ways preparing for one means preparing for the other, that’s true, but I mean doing things that make sure you're house is safe as well as joyful, like checking the heater in your house, checking your circuit breakers to make sure your Christmas tree doesn’t spontaneously combust, and just remembering to be careful when you're cooking or enjoying any type of fire. Here are ten tips to help you have a safe winter so your house can be festive all winter long.
First, you’ll want to check and make sure that your gas heater is working properly. Make sure the gas line doesn’t have any leaks. Most of the time if there is a leak you’ll be able to smell the gas. If this happens to you get out the house and call a professional. One other thing you’ll want to do is get a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas that is poisonous. Gas heaters can sometimes produce it. Carbon monoxide detectors are not expensive and usually just plug into an open outlet. Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are things like headache, dizziness, and confusion. If someone in your house starts to have these symptoms then you’ll want to get them and everyone else out of the house and call a doctor and a technician.
Candles are nice to look at but can be a big fire hazard if you're not careful. If you burn candles at Christmas time then you’ll want to make sure that they’re away from anything that can catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave the room and don’t leave candles burning overnight. Also make sure you burn pure candles. Often candles that have artificial fragrance can actually be toxic and breathing the air in the room where it’s being burned can be harmful.
Christmas trees are one of biggest causes of fires each winter, so it’s important to know how to prevent them. First, if you’re buying a real tree make sure that the needles are not dried out and don’t fall off when you touch them. When you take your tree home cut a few inches off the base of the trunk. This will help it absorb more water. You’ll want to water your tree daily as well to keep it from drying out. Don’t think that if you have an artificial tree that it can’t be a fire hazard. For both types of trees, don’t use old extension cords to plug in your tree lights and don’t use old lights because they might cause a spark where the insulation has rubbed off.
The fireplace can also be a danger during the winter. One of the best things you can do to keep your house safe when you are using the fireplace is to set up a perimeter around the fireplace. Doing things like removing anything that should not be near the fireplace and keeping the kids away from the open flame will make sure that your fire doesn't get out of control. You should also put a screen or a grate in front of the fireplace to make sure that sparks don't fly out. When you dispose of fireplace ashes, make sure they are entirely put out, and don’t leave them near your house.
Outdoor fireplaces can be a danger too. Follow the same safety rules for indoor fireplaces like setting up a perimeter around the fireplace. Also, make sure there are no plants or trees near your fireplace and keep kids a safe distance away. If the fireplace is portable then make sure you don’t light a fire near dry grass or under a tree as both can catch on fire. You should also have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher on hand just in case.
If you’re cooking for a big Christmas feast (or even just cooking daily meals), you should always have someone in the kitchen to watch the oven or stove when you're not there. You should never cook when you are drowsy or unfocused. Be extra careful when you're cooking with oil as it can overheat and catch fire easily. If you do have a grease or oil fire then don’t try to put it out by pouring water on it. This will make the oil spill out of the pan and spread the fire. Instead put a lid over the fire and wait a few seconds. The lid will cut supply of oxygen to the fire thus snuffing it out.
You should be careful when plugging in all those decorations as it’s easy to overload electric sockets. Don’t plug to many decorations into one socket as it might blow a fuse and start a fire. Never run extension cords under carpets or rugs because if the cord gets hot then it could also spark, and always make sure you replace old extension cords and check the fuse protectors.
Smoking is a fire hazard all year round, so I thought I should mention it here. If anybody smokes they should do it outside in the open. Before they dispose of their cigarette make sure that it is entirely put out.
If you have a generator for emergencies then here are a few ways to use it safely. Make sure that you use your generator in an area that has good ventilation so the fumes won’t come into your house. Generators can also create carbon monoxide so you’ll need a carbon monoxide detector as well to make sure you do not get carbon monoxide poisoning .
For this tip I’ll switch gears and talk about saving money instead of safety. First, portable electric heaters may be convenient but they are also very inefficient. It takes a lot of electricity to produce a small amount of heat. I’m not saying not to use them but make sure you turn them off when you’re not using it. Also, you should leave your lights and your Christmas tree on a timer so they turn off after you go to bed.
The final tip is to please use common sense. If you feel that rigging up the lights or burning a candle next to the Christmas cards might be a fire hazard or dangerous then simply don’t do it.
If you have any more safety tips for this winter then please share them in the comments below.