The holidays are a fun and joyous time for family and celebration, but the cold weather brings with it a number of safety hazards you need to be aware of. More than half of all house fires occur in December, January, or February. As you work to stay warm during the chilly winter months, always be aware of safety! The biggest causes of house fires are electrical heating appliances and open flames, each of which comes with its own safety concerns.
Electrical heating equipment is responsible for one in seven house fires and one in six house fire deaths. Your ducts need to be cleaned or at least inspected every year to prevent dangerous buildups and blockages. Space heaters and other mobile heating devices are even more dangerous. Never plug more than one of these devices into the same wall socket, and keep anything flammable at least three feet away. Every year tragedies happen because someone tried to dry their scarf or gloves by hanging them on the space heater. Portable generators should be kept as far from the house as possible. Invest in a good extension cord to keep a safe distance between you and your generator.
Open flames are another dangerous source of winter fires. No fire should ever be left unattended, not even the smallest candle. Your chimney should be inspected and cleaned every year; few things are as dangerous as a load of ash falling down the chimney and into a roaring fire. Even once your fire has been put out it could still be dangerous. Store the ashes in a clean metal bin with a secure lid, and make sure that bin is kept at least ten feet from your house. Christmas trees are also a very dangerous fire starter. Keep your tree well-watered, as a dry Christmas tree can turn into a raging bonfire in a matter of seconds.
The winter months also bring increased danger from carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas produced when fuel does not completely burn. Over the past ten years an average of 72,000 carbon monoxide related incidents have been reported with the numbers increasing each year. It is very dangerous, often seeping through an entire house before it is noticed. Your house needs to have a good carbon monoxide alarm in working condition to protect your family from this insidious threat. Every year roughly 200 people in the United States lose their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning, many of them without ever realizing what was happening.
As families gather this holiday season, keep fire safety in mind. Tragedy can strike without warning, but a little preparation and forethought can go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe.
About the Author: P. Christopher Guedri is an experienced personal injury lawyer with the law firm of Allen & Allen. He has handled complicated premises liability cases, bus accident cases, tractor trailer accident cases and brain injury cases across Virginia and the United States. In a career spanning over 30 years, he has been recognized by his peers as a superb litigator. Chris has been listed in the book Best Lawyers in America since 1997 and is ranked in Virginia Super Lawyers. He is AV Peer Rated by Martindale Hubbell. More recently, he was inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization of attorneys who are elected to membership based on their reputation for excellence.
 See Footnote 1.
 For more information on avoiding Christmas Tree fires: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Safety%20information/Safety%20tip%20sheets/christmastreesafetytips.pdf
 For more information on carbon monoxide safety and statistics: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Research/Fact%20sheets/NonFireCarbonMonoxideFactSheet.pdf