Since autumn is here and cold weather is once again upon us, now is an excellent time to conduct a home safety check of your heating equipment, fireplaces and smoke alarms. The Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services, recommends that you:
- Check to make sure that all noxious gases vent directly outside by ensuring your furnace flue has no cracks, gaps or blockages.
- Check the firebox and chimney in your fireplace for cracks in the mortar.
- Protect an unlined flue with a fire-safe masonry wall or by installing a stainless steel exhaust duct.
- Note: If you have neither the equipment nor the expertise to accomplish these projects yourself, a reputable, qualified contractor should be hired to ensure that your chimney and fireplace are safe.
- Have a chimney sweep periodically clean out your chimney to remove the creosote. This is typically recommended after burning three cords of wood.
- Replace your smoke alarm batteries twice yearly. A good easy reminder is to always change your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.
- Make sure each level of your house and all sleeping rooms have a working smoke alarm and consider installing carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near any heating equipment that utilizes a 'flame' source. Remember, CO is produced from any combustion process.
- Install multi-purpose portable fire extinguishers in your kitchen, near the furnace, and the laundry area.
- Plan escape routes from all rooms in your house and practice "Exit Drills In The Home" (EDITH).
If you have any questions regarding these home fire safety tips, or on any other fire prevention issues, please contact the Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services at (301) 496-0487.