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11/20/2012 - Fire safety tips in preparation for winter

Fires can occur due to flammable objects around the home.

While there are lots of things to enjoy about the cold winter months, the heightened risk of fire isn't one of them. Many homeowners have been impacted by fires due to various mistakes within the home, such as forgetting that a candle is burning or not properly tending to a fireplace.

With this in mind and to help consumers avoid a homeowners insurance claim resulting from a damaging fire, the National Fire Protection Association has released some tips that can help ensure the winter is a safe one.

1. Teach children about dangers of fire. Young children may not fully understand fire risk or how it starts. Thus, NFPA says parents should discuss with their children how dangerous lighters and matches are, two things that may look like toys. Parents should place these items in an area that's out of reach, such as a drawer that has a lock.

2. Blow out candles if not in the room. Fragrant candles are often found in homes this time of year, many of them emitting smells synonymous with the holiday season. As pleasant as it may be, though, NFPA says these candles shouldn't be lit if homeowners find themselves going from room to room. They should be blown out under these circumstances.

3. Be aware of what's flammable. Heating sources like the furnace or fireplace are generally active in the late fall and winter, making them places where a fire could easily start. Any and all combustible materials - such as drapery or curtains - should be kept away from these sources.

4. Check smoke detectors. Virtually every home has at least one smoke detector, but many people wouldn't know it based on how infrequently they're maintained. NFPA says that at the very least, smoke alarms should be checked on at least once a year by testing them to see if they will sound off. There's usually a test button on these detectors to help determine this. If the detector is battery-powered, it's wise to replace the batteries during this annual check as well.

According to statistics from the NFPA, close to 66% of all fire deaths in the U.S. result from smoke alarms that weren't working at the time or weren't in place.

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