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Winter Fire Safety and Cautions: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Introduction

Did you know that the majority of house fires occur during winter months? Well, to some, that may be a surprise.

The winter months lead to an increased risk of fire-related issues in the home because of an increase in heating and cooking-related activities.

This article will explain some simple precautions that you can follow to ensure your home and family is safe in the event of a fire, as well as explaining the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Why Winter Fire Safety?

A study by the American Red Cross revealed that approximately 47,000 fires occur in the US during the winter months, which result in over 500 deaths, over 2000 injuries and approximately $554 million in damage to property.

The winter holiday season sees an increase in candle fire and Christmas tree fire risks, and one in 40 Christmas tree-related fires result in a fatality.

It is important that families need to be aware of the risks associated with Christmas trees, candle lights, and holiday lights in order to ensure family safety during the winter months.

Even if your family was able to escape without damage from a fire, a fire would more than likely lead to considerable costs through property damage, therefore it is worthwhile understanding the risks and taking steps to mitigate those risks in your own home. After all, a fire can spread in a matter of seconds.

 

What can I do to prevent a fire?

There are ten measures which have been commonly recommended which anyone can monitor in their home, they are detailed below:

  1. Ensure your home has smoke detectors installed at every level of the house and ideally installed near sleeping areas.
  2. You should test the smoke detectors on a monthly basis and replace the batteries twice a year to be confident that the detector will work in the event of a fire.
  3. Consider the installation of home safety sprinklers to operate in tandem with smoke detectors to reduce the catastrophic risks of a fire at home. The advent of sprinklers will also lower your homeowner’s insurance rates.
  4. Ensure that each family member is trained in using the fire extinguisher in the home.
  5. Store any flammable items such as matches away from the reach of children.
  6. Don’t smoke in your own home as you are only increasing the risk of a fire.
  7. Dry Christmas trees are more susceptible to burning in a fire. Therefore, make sure you regularly water your Christmas tree to make less flammable.
  8. Do not use appliances which have frayed wires or cords.
  9. Avoid overusing extension cords or loading electrical circuits beyond their capacity.
  10. Make inspections of service heating components on a regular basis.

In the event of a fire, what should I do?

While you may follow the precautions above, it is impossible to prevent a fire beyond all certainty. Therefore, in the event of a fire, there are a number of procedures that each family member should be aware of to ensure a safe escape.

These procedures are listed below:

  1. Crawl low to the floor under any smoke that is present to predetermined fire exits in the house.
  2. As soon as the smoke alarms are triggered, start to exit immediately.
  3. If the main room exit is blocked because of the smoke and fire, use a subsidiary room to exit the house.
  4. If you cannot avoid the smoke, you must stay low and move as fast as you can because the smoke is toxic.
  5. Ensure you feel the doorknobs before opening any doors to a room. If they are hot you must the exit from a different room.
  6. Be cautious when opening a door and shut it immediately if the room is consumed with fire and smoke.
  7. If you are unable to reach another family member in the house you should call 911 instantly.
  8. When trapped in a room, try to prevent the entry of smoke by covering vents or cracks in the room. Call 911 immediately if this is the case and signal for help from any windows using a flashlight or something bright-colored.
  9. If your clothes or hair are caught on fire, you must stop, drop and roll

What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Throughout the year Carbon monoxide poisoning is a threat, but this threat is heightened during as temperatures drop in winter months. CO is very poisonous which is produced b burning fuels such as petrol, natural gas, charcoal, wood and kerosene.

The risk of illness or death increases when the amount of CO in the air and time it is present increases. with the level of CO in the air and the amount of time exposed. CO emissions can be the result of incorrectly maintained home appliances or when they have been misused.

Something to be aware of with carbon monoxide poisoning is that it is a silent killer. In most cases, people are completely oblivious to the presence of carbon monoxide as it silently lingers in the air. It is tasteless, non-irritant, invisible and odorless, therefore you must take precautions to prevent the risks of CO poisoning.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Common illnesses caused by CO poisoning include food poisoning and flu. You will most likely not even be aware that the illness was caused by CO poisoning. The common symptoms include general weakness, nausea, headache, abdominal discomfort/pain, disorientation. You may also suffer from irritation, numbness, seizures, chest pain and even a loss of consciousness.

How do I prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Some common tips to prevent the risk of CO poisoning include:

  • Never using gas stoves or an oven as your primary heating source in your home.
  • Avoiding the use of charcoal when lighting a fire inside the home.
  • Inspect the exhaust systems of every fuel-burning appliance in your home each year. These include vents and chimneys which may have blockages.
  • Do not leave a car or motorbike left running in a garage.
  • Avoiding leaving a rear car window open as passengers will access the exhaust CO emissions.
  • To ensure your CO levels inside your house are monitored, you should install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup inside the home

What should I do if I suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

If you fear you have been exposed to CO poisoning, you should vacate the building you are in immediate and seek medical attention. If the symptoms are serious such as fainting or collapsing, you should call 911 immediately. The most high-risk individuals are pregnant women, those with heart conditions and children.

Final Remarks

This article has tried to illustrate the importance of being aware of fire safety at home particularly in winter months. It is good to at least be aware of the heightened risks and procedures you can follow to mitigate these risks.

Furthermore, the dangerous silent killer of carbon monoxide poisoning is increased during winter, therefore if you or a family member display any symptoms you should seek medical attention urgently and follow the steps to mitigate any future risks of CO poisoning.

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