According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more fires occur in the home during the winter than at any other time of the year. This may come as no surprise to homeowners, as this is traditionally when the temperatures plummet, causing those who live within a given dwelling to crank up the heat or light their fireplace. Due to improper maintenance, a home fire occasionally results.
But as prevalent as fire danger is in the winter, it's also frequent in the summer as well. And oftentimes, the threats come from Mother Nature itself.
Of course, perhaps the biggest safety threat in the summer result from wildfires. Traditionally, these take place when conditions have become overly arid.
Lightning storms, though, bring significant risk as well, and a home or a person can be hurt if they're in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Be wary of combustible liquids
Chemicals like gasoline, lighter fluid and paint thinner should be kept out of the home, or at the very least, in the basement. But their mere presence exposes homeowners to a potential safety risk. USFA says that to account for this, look for any indications that chemicals have spilled. This can be determined simply by smelling or looking on the ground for signs of wetness. These liquid sources are combustible and if anything has spilled, lightning that strikes a house could subsequently spark a fire.
Another liquid-related risk to be aware of is gas, which homeowners traditionally use to power their stoves and ovens. USFA recommends smelling around where the gas is located for any signs that there may be a leak. A hissing sound may be present as well, which may also suggest a leak has formed.
Gas leaks can be quite serious, so to err on the side of caution, USFA says it's best to leave the house immediately and to call a trained professional to have the gas system checked.
Generators must be used properly
In the overwhelming majority of cases, lightning storms produce nothing more than a power outage. But it's in the ensuing period in which the lights are out that a fire risk can result. For example, many people purchase generators so that they can restore at least some of their appliances and lights while an outage is in effect. Individuals who are unfamiliar with generators may bring it inside the house or position it near to the residence's physical structure. Either way, improper placement of a generator can increase the risk of a fire and can also create breathing related issues due to the large amounts of carbon dioxide that generators emit.
USFA advises homeowners to purchase an extra long extension cord and to follow the generator's instructions for how to connect it. Be advised that the electrical outlet used is of critical importance, as if it's connected to the source coming from the power lines, it can electrocute a utility worker if they happen to be working on it at the time.
Homeowners may be surprised as to just how costly lightning storms have been for residents, many of whom had to file insurance claims due to the damage the events created. According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than $1 billion in insured losses resulted from lightning strikes in 2011 alone. In addition, one of the nation's leading insurers received more than 186,000 claims during the same year, all related to lightning.