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Fire Prevention and Safety

Tips to Keep Your Property at a Lower Risk for Fire Damage

Fire safety in the winter months is more important than ever. According to the Department of Public Safety, the majority of Minnesota home fires occur during winter, peaking in January. What’s more, 41% of all fire-related deaths in Minnesota happen during the 3 month span of November-January. Because of this, the topic of fire safety is never more relevant than it is now.

As many know, but few truly experience, fire damage is devastating. At best, you can expect significant property damage from the flames, smoke, and soot. At worst? You can lose far more than property alone.

Fire, Smoke, and Soot Damage

Fortunately, with a few simple precautions and regular maintenance, you can greatly reduce the risk of fire damage to your home and keep your loved ones safe. In this blog, we will explore three key areas of fire prevention and safety: space heaters, dryer lint, and smoke alarms

1. Space Heaters: Staying warm without unnecessary risk

Space heaters are a popular choice for supplemental heating, providing warmth to specific areas in your home. When used properly, space heaters can be a valuable tool for those needing a little extra oomph during those especially cold days. However, when used improperly, they can quickly change from a nifty tool into a fire hazard.

To ensure the safe use of space heaters:

  • Follow the 3 feet Rule: Maintain at least three feet of clearance around the heater, ensuring that it is away from combustible materials such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.
  • Be Conscious of Electricity: Space heaters draw a considerable amount of power, and using them with a power strip is a significant fire risk. The high current flow required by space heaters can overwhelm the capacity of typical power strips, leading to overheating and the increased risk of fire. Always plug your space heater directly into an electrical outlet in the wall to ensure it has the necessary power supply without overloading the circuit.
  • Never Leave Unattended: Always turn off space heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Those with pets, children, and unknown electrical issues could set themselves up for an unpleasant surprise when they assume nothing will go wrong…
  • Inspect Regularly: When winter rolls around, and it’s time to dig your heater out of storage, check for damaged cords, plugs, or dials before running. If you notice any problems, hold off on use, and either contact a professional to repair the heater, or replace it. 

Remember, while space heaters can be a convenient way to warm specific areas, they also carry a fair amount of risk. 10% of all structure fires in Minnesota were caused by heaters and furnaces in 2016. Utilizing them responsibly and avoiding common pitfalls will help keep your home cozy without compromising safety.

2. Dryer Lint: The less, the better!

Lint buildup in dryer vents and traps is one of the most well-known causes of home fires. Even so, knowing the risk that’s posed doesn’t always guarantee protection. Lint can accumulate in multiple places, and your dryer itself could be predisposed to irregular heat issues.

For dryer maintenance, we recommend:

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean the lint filter/trap before or after each use. Wool and cotton fabrics are the most common culprits for lint production. So, be cognizant of laundry loads containing both, and never assume cleanliness before running. Additionally, periodically clean the dryer vent and duct to remove any accumulated lint. To do so, vacuum both ends of the ducts, and check for points of buildup that block the entry or exit of lint/heat.
  • Professional Maintenance: Consider hiring a professional to inspect and clean your dryer vents annually. These individuals have the tools and expertise to reach and clean areas that may be challenging for homeowners.
  • Ventilation Monitoring: Ensure that your dryer is vented to the outside and not into an attic, crawl space, or any other enclosed area. If you have an accordion-style duct, consider replacing it with a solid, metal duct. Accordion ducts can allow lint to pool in areas where they sag or in the low points between ridges.
This image shows the four main styles of dryer vent materials. They are ranked in order from best to worst, and broken down into two primary categories: recommended and not recommended.

As far as dryer safety goes, research your specific brand and model to identify any recalls or hazards. Since their invention, there have been a plethora of dryers known to cause fires, so finding out ahead of time what to look for can greatly reduce your risk of injury.

3. Smoke Alarms: Make it a habit!

Smoke alarms are an obvious necessity for quickly identifying a fire, but they are only effective if they are properly maintained. One all-to-common oversight is neglecting to check and replace the batteries regularly:

  • Regular Testing: Test your smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are in working order. Most alarms have a test button that can be pressed to check the alarm’s functionality.
  • Change Batteries bi-annually: Even if your smoke alarm appears to be working normally, replace the batteries at least twice a year. A simple battery change takes minimal effort, and keeps you protected for months on end. 

If you catch yourself taking out the batteries during a cooking mishap, place them in an obvious spot, and leave a note so you don’t forget to reinstall. Additionally, perform a functionality test every time you put batteries into the unit.

  • Replace Outdated Alarms: Smoke alarms themselves have a limited lifespan. Replace them every 10 years, or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, to ensure optimal performance.

By paying attention and taking appropriate action, you can immediately and drastically reduce your risk of fire damage from these common hazards. Regular maintenance, awareness, and a commitment to safety can go a long way in safeguarding your property and the well-being of your loved ones!

Dryco is a locally owned and operated restoration company that specializes in fire damage restoration throughout the Northland. Located in Duluth, MN, our team is has helped hundreds of home and business owners who have experienced property damage from fire, smoke, and soot. We know better than most, the struggles one endures when experiencing a fire. That’s why it’s important to increase awareness for simple safety tips that keep you protected.

Dryco is certified in all things fire damage restoration, from board ups, structural cleaning/demolition, contents cleaning, and reconstruction.