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Be Fire Safe PA

The Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) provides important year-round and seasonal fire prevention information to help Pennsylvanians stay safe and healthy.

Explore the below information to Be Fire Safe PA!

Winter Fire Safety

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When temperatures dip, Pennsylvanians turn to their home heating systems for warmth. Heating our homes, however, is the second leading cause of U.S. home fires, deaths, and injuries.

December, January, and February are the most common months for heating fires.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the winter months and year round.

Be Safe While Heating Your Home

If you’re just starting to use your home heating system, it’s not too late to get it inspected. After six or more months of disuse, you’ll want to make sure everything is in proper working order. 

There are a few things homeowners can do to ensure their heating systems are well maintained and safe to use:

  • Regularly replace furnace filters.
  • Keep areas around your furnace free of clutter and combustible material; never set items on top of your furnace.
  • Keep combustible materials a safe distance from vent/exhaust lines.
  • Before winter arrives, turn your system on for a test run.

If you notice any issues with your home heating system, contact a professional immediately. Certified HVAC contractors often offer preventative care services, including cleaning, that reduce fire risk but have the added benefit of reducing utility costs.

A Word on Supplemental Heat (Space Heaters)

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), space heaters are the most often cited pieces of equipment in home heating equipment fires. They account for as many as 40 percent of incidents.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure you’re being fire safe:

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning. If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call your local fire department or gas company.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

Fireplace Safety

Both modern and older fireplaces have a way of collecting dirt and debris over their lifetimes. It’s important to keep fireplaces clear of debris and schedule annual inspections to before use. If your home is equipped with a gas fireplace, have all the lines and connections inspected before use.

In addition to these recommendations, here are a few other helpful tips:

  • Fireplace screens, guards, or glass doors are helpful safety devices to keep hot ash and sparks contained inside the fireplace.
  • Spare wood, and other combustibles should be stored at least five feet away from the fireplace.
  • Do not overload a fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Burn seasoned hardwoods, that have been stored in a safe and dry environment for at least six months.

Candle Safety

Candles may seem harmless, but they cause an average of 7,900 fires each year according to the NFPA.

These incidents peak in December with the top two days being Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Keeping Safe in the Kitchen

Cooking fires are the number cause of fires and home injuries.  The leading cause for fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.  Don’t let a holiday or special occasion in the kitchen turn into a disaster:

  • Stay alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire:

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Have a Plan and Practice It

Do you know what to do in the event your home catches fire? Does your family? This knowledge is critical to ensure everyone’s safety. From the moment a smoke alarm sounds, you and your loved ones may have just two minutes to respond.

Take the time to develop an evacuation plan. Families should have a designated meeting place a safe distance from their home, for instance, a mailbox. Everyone should be able to identify to points of escape from each room in the house. It’s also a good idea to practice your emergency plan under challenging conditions, like when its dark.

Make sure the kids understand how and when to dial 9-1-1. They should also know their home’s physical address. Teach them the stop, drop, and roll method for extinguishing fire, and when practicing your escape plan, teach them to crawl to avoid smoke.

Don’t forget about older adults. These individuals often have unique health challenges or mobility issues that make evacuation burdensome. Home fire fatalities disproportionately affect older adults.

Check the Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

Working smoke alarms save lives. That's why it's important to test your smoke alarms once a month. Replace batteries when needed, and replace your smoke alarms when they've been in use for ten years.

If you have fire extinguishers in your home, they should be routinely checked to make sure they’re fully charged, and within their expiration dates.

Additional Winter Safety Resources

For more information, visit these websites and resources: