Chestnuts – The Only Thing You Want to Get Roasted by Your Fireplace

As the busy holiday season approaches, home safety may be far from your mind. As you prepare for this festive season, take a few minutes to consider the following safety guidelines and help ensure that your family celebrates a safe and secure holiday season.

While the holiday season is prime time for a roaring fire, chimney fires burn hundreds of home in the United States each year. While some might believe that as Santa slides down your chimney this year he cleans it a bit, the truth is a clean chimney is the first step to avoid costly chimney fires. Besides their song and dance numbers in the Disney movie Mary Poppins, chimney sweeps provide a valuable professional service. However, each year many homeowners fail to hire a chimney sweep to clean their chimneys. To avoid becoming a fire victim, and for safe, warm fires this holiday season, schedule an annual cleaning. Then take these easy steps to prevent a chimney fire:
  • Never burn holiday wrapping paper. Air-dried oak firewood contains about 20 percent moisture while the moisture content of wrapping paper is approximately five percent. Wrapping paper tossed in the fire will flare and may shoot burning embers up the chimney and out into your room. In addition, cheery ink used in wrapping design can turn toxic when burned. The same holds true for your Christmas tree, which is dried out and highly flammable by the end of the holiday season. Always discard, never burn, your tree.
  • If you haven’t used your fireplace recently, check to be sure your damper is open before you light the season’s first fire.
  • Space heaters are handy when holiday guests arrive. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters caused 79 percent of home-heating fire deaths from 2005 to 2009. The following reminders can help keep you, your family and your holiday guests safer this season.
  • Ensure an independent testing body like Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approves your heater. Buying a low-cost heater can prove problematic if it is not UL approved.
  • Keep a safe margin around your heater. Experts recommend at least a three-foot clearance to prevent combustion with other materials.
  • Use the heater only when adults are in the room to monitor safe use. Turn off your heater before sleeping.
  • Keep your heater on a level surface to avoid tipping.
  • Plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet. Do not use extension cords, which increase the chance of a fire.

Candles add a warm and festive glow to any holiday setting. However, more residential candle fires occur in December than any other month. Here are a few tips to make your candle-lighting exploits a little safer this holiday season.
  • Keep candles in sight. According to the US Fire Administration, more than one-third of candle fires originate in the bedroom.
  • Keep candles at least one foot from items that may burn. Synthetic materials may be more flammable than natural fibers, so watch those tablecloths and trim.
  • US fire departments receive a call on a candle fire on average every forty minutes. To keep your family safe, strongly consider switching to flameless candles this season. Many look and smell as pleasant as real candles.
“The pipes, the pipes are frozen,” is one Irish ballad you will not want to sing this season. Over the holidays, many Florida and South Carolina homeowners travel to visit family and friends. Water pipes in warmer-climate homes may be more vulnerable to freezing since builders often locate pipes in unprotected outside areas. No one wants to return home to a flooded house. These tips can prevent frozen pipes and their subsequent damage.
  • If the temperature falls below 20˚, pipes can freeze. However, pipes can still freeze above that threshold due to factors like wind and pipe location. Keep the heat in your home at about 50˚ while you are away to prevent freezing. Keep cabinet doors located under sinks open. Closing them restricts heat to those pipes, which may cause them to freeze.
  • Whether at home or away, in extremely cold weather, keep faucets dripping to prevent broken pipes. To avoid wasting water, use this method only on pipes exposed to cold air and place a large pan or bucket under the faucet to use that water for plants.
  • If you are going on an extended trip, you can always drain your pipes. To do so, shut off your main water valve and let every water fixture, both hold and cold, run until the lines are empty. This approach is not foolproof, however, because some water may remain in low-lying lines.
  • After arriving home and opening a faucet, if no water comes out (assuming you remembered to pay your water bill before you went on vacation), call a plumber. You may have a damaged main water valve.

No one wants anything less than the safest holiday season. These few tips can help to ensure that you roast only your chestnuts and keep Jack Frost out of your pipes.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.