As the weather gets colder, it’s likely that we’ll turn up our heat and brace ourselves for the winter ahead. But because the use of heating systems increases during the cold weather months, so does the frequency of residential and business fires. In fact, more than 50,000 heating fires in residential buildings occur each year in the United States, a majority of which happen from November through March, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
It is important that business owners and homeowners alike prepare their employees and families for potential fires, and practice important prevention habits. Grange Insurance, a Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company, offers advice on how to play it safe when it comes to fire.
1. Make sure you’re covered.
Homeowners, renters and business owners should ensure they have the proper insurance coverage in place in case of a fire. Most policies cover fire damage to residences or businesses, as well as personal belongings, but may have some limitations. In addition, most commercial insurance will protect business owners from liability if an employee is injured or loss of life occurs during a fire.
“Review your policy to ensure your personal property is covered, especially expensive items such as machinery or jewelry. It’s also important to understand whether or not your policy provides additional living expense coverage, which can help pay for you to stay in a hotel or temporary housing while your home is rebuilt or repaired,” said Ken Kozek, Vice President of Claims at Grange Insurance. “If you do not already have a homeowner, condo or renter’s policy in place, consider investing in one. As a business owner, it is imperative that you have a proper policy to protect against liability and property damage or loss.”
2. Practice makes perfect.
It only takes minutes for a house or business to become engulfed in flames, making a planned escape route a necessity. Plan an escape route and post it where everyone can easily find it. Practice your route at least twice per year at different times during the day, especially with children or people with disabilities.
Designate a meeting spot a safe distance from your home or business, such as a tree across the street, so you can assure everyone made it out safely. Alert the fire
department if someone is missing or if pets are trapped so they can perform a rescue safely.
3. Fire-proof your home or business.
Stop the fire before it starts by eliminating potential hazards in your home or business. Equip yourself with fire extinguishers, regularly tested smoke alarms and sprinklers. Keep curtains, towels or any items that can easily catch fire at least three feet from heaters. Business owners should also consider posting “No Smoking” signs around machinery and flammable materials to alert employees of potential danger.
It is also important to protect important papers including birth certificates, property inventory and proof of its value, such as receipts, titles and appraisals.
“In the case of a fire, business owners may be required to show proof of property value to ensure full coverage from their insurance policy,” said Kozek. “Make copies of all your important documents, and keep the originals in a bank safe deposit box outside of your business.”
4. Memorize emergency contact information.
Make sure that everyone in your home knows how to dial 9-1-1. Business owners and families should also post emergency phone numbers in a central place such as on the refrigerator or in the break room so they are easily accessible.