Winter may be halfway over, but much of the U.S. is still experiencing some of the most extreme weather on record. Need we remind you? Messy mixtures of snow and ice paired with below freezing temperatures have made it necessary to crank up the heat at home. Staying warm and toasty during the frigid winter months is no doubt a basic human necessity. But as renters get resourceful with their techniques, the risk of disaster lurks.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, how we heat our living spaces is largely to blame for the many fires that take place each year. In 2012 there were reportedly 97,000 apartment structure fires resulting in 380 deaths. If there’s any silver lining to highlight, it’s that, possibly due to increased awareness or prevention methods, the number of fire-related apartment deaths has fallen by over 62 percent since 1980.
Heating your small space is a must, but the right safety precautions have to be in place to avoid a potential life-threatening catastrophe. Below, we outline some of the main causes of apartment fires and how you can prevent one from setting your humble abode ablaze.
Lots of cooking and baking takes place during the cold winter months when the desire for warm, home-cooked meals is at its peak. Don’t deny yourself a hearty feast, just be mindful of how you go about it.
- Do not fall asleep while cooking. If you’re too tired, turn the meal off and finish it once you’re fully awake and alert.
- Use a timer to remind you that food is cooking. If your microwave or oven doesn’t have one, use your phone, tablet or traditional alarm clock.
- Keep oven mitts and food packaging far away from the stove top area.
Read more: 8 Tips to Prevent Kitchen Fires
Although they’re not the most effective heating choice, candles are often used to set a soothing atmosphere. They also come in handy when power has been lost. But they’re also known to start fires, particularly when left unattended.
- Blow out candles before going to sleep and any time you leave your apartment.
- Keep candles at least one foot away from any other objects.
- Always use candle holders and make sure that the surface is flat and away from any edge where it may tip over.
- Never use candles in any apartment where an oxygen tank is in use.
- Opt for flashlights instead of candles in case of a power outage.
Fire-related home incidents caused by heating mechanisms largely take place during the winter months of December, January and February. As long as you’re using extra measures to heat your apartment, you are at risk. When using an portable space heater, keep these tips in mind:
- Anything that can melt or burn should be at least three feet away from the heater.
- Never leave these small heaters on all day or night, even when you go to sleep.
- Children and pets should not be allowed in the same area where portable space heaters are in use.
- Follow your space heater’s directions exactly if you are unsure of its proper operation.
In general, you should be prepared for a fire emergency at all times. It may not happen in your unit, but it could take place right next door.
- Check with your apartment manager about whether or not your building has an escape plan. Knowing escape routes and alternatives ahead of time is a great thing.
- Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors bi-annually. Most people do this at the beginning and end of Daylight Savings Time every fall and spring.
For more details on fire safety and prevention, check out the following resources: