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Ways to protect your house amid winter weather

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance provides free smoke alarm program for residents.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Temperatures this week are likely to hit single digits in the Memphis area, and The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance ensures the public that the simplest changes can make the biggest difference.

Keeping real Christmas trees watered and away from heat, turning off any lights around the tree and using electric candles on Hanukkah menorahs will keep homes safe from fire during the winter months. 

Kevin Walters with the TDCI said there’s one thing that outweighs everything else when it comes to fire safety.

“The fastest thing that can save your life in a home fire is a working smoke alarm,” Walters said. “As we say, a working smoke alarm is faster than the fastest fire truck.”

Tennesseans may also be eligible to get smoke alarms for free. The TDCI's free smoke alarm program has provided more than 200,000 smoke alarms across the state since launching the program and have made significant improvements in the Mid-south.

“If you are in Memphis in the Shelby County area reach out to your local fire department and ask about getting a free smoke alarm,” Walters said.

Alongside smoke alarms, frozen pipes pop up frequently when temperatures drop into single digits. It’s best to keep your water dripping to prevent damage. 

If your pipes do freeze, here’s what to do:

“Shut off the water immediately, don’t attempt to thaw the pipes without first turning off the water at the main shut off valve,” Walters said. “And you thaw the pipes with warm air, never, I repeat never, try to thaw your pipes with a blow torch or any other source of heat.”

Speaking of heat, when you need some warmth, make sure it’s coming from your home’s specified heat source. If you’re using a heater, be sure to turn it off and unplug it when you leave.

“People use their stove to warm their home consistently and this is a huge risk for themselves,” Walter said. “A, your stove and your oven could potentially start a fire, and then 2, there are toxins that could emanate from the stove you’re using that could lead to poisoning — lead to carbon monoxide poisoning for example.”

If you’re going to be away from your home at all this winter, be sure to check your home insurance policy before heading out to see what the policy covers, and be sure to take pictures of any and all damages to file a thorough claim once you’re ready.

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