Winter Home Safety
Winter months can present their own specific safety considerations in the home. Learn how to protect yourself and your family by minimizing the risk of fires and other hazards.
Heating the Home
At the beginning of each winter season, have a your chimney inspected and cleaned before using it. Buildup in the chimney can cause a fire if it is not properly cleaned.
Also, never use the following in your fireplace:
- Flammable liquids
- Cardboard, trash, or debris
These materials can cause intense flames, which can start chimney fires or send sparks into the room. Some of these materials may even cause toxic smoke.
Use a fireplace screen to keep possible sparks and embers from coming into the room.
Portable Heaters & Space Heaters
Make sure all heaters are in safe working condition. Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire—paper, clothing, and furniture. (Do not use heaters to dry clothing.)
Small children and pets should not be left alone with heaters. Always turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to bed.
Cooking & Kitchen Safety
Cooking fires are the most common type of fires in U.S. households. By paying attention while cooking, you can prevent a kitchen fire.
If you are frying, grilling, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. Turn off the stove if you have to leave the kitchen, even if only for a short time.
If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, you don't have to stay in the kitchen, but you do need to stay in the home. Check the food regularly and use a timer to remind you that there is something cooking.
Keep flammable objects—pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, and paper or plastic bags—away from the stovetop. Wear close-fitting clothing that won't drape over or touch burners while cooking.
Although turkey fryers may produce delicious holiday dinners, they pose significant fire hazards. For safe turkey fryer use tips, visit the US Fire Administration's page on cooking safety.
Following these tips can help make life safer year-round, not just during the holidays.
- Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children.
- Install at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home, including near sleeping areas.
- Have fire extinguishers in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage. An extinguisher with an ABC rating can fight fires caused by paper, wood, cloth, flammable liquids, and electrical short circuits.
- Make a family plan for fire emergencies, and practice your escape plan.
- Use your common sense. Identify potential danger spots in your home and take the proper precautions.
Adapted and excerpted from:
C. Lehtola, "Cool Weather and Holiday Safety Reminders," Safety News & Notes, Vol 7., No. 11, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (11/2006).
"Holiday Decoration Safety Tips (CPSC-611)" (1.35MB pdf), U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (Accessed 01/2015).
"Winter Fire Safety," U.S. Fire Administration (rev. 12/2014).
Related Sites & Articles
- A Green Holiday
- UF/IFAS Publications
- Safe Home Use of Firewood
- Other Sites & Publications
- Fireplace and Home Fire Safety—U.S. Fire Administration
- Focus on Fire Safety: Holiday Fire Safety—U.S. Fire Administration
- Winter Fire Safety—U.S. Fire Administration