As the hot weather eases and the leaves display vivid colors, many of us rejoice in this special season. This snippet of beautiful weather is the ideal time to get our homes ready for winter, inside and out. It’s also perfect for taking essential safety steps to protect our families before the cold weather sets in.

1. Brush up on your fire safety knowledge. Because we have on average just two to three minutes to escape a house fire, it’s critical to implement key fire safety steps now.

One part of protecting your family is to close the doors before you doze.

“‘Close Before You Doze’ is a campaign that focuses on straightforward actions and simple behavioral changes which can provide critical help in delaying the spread of fire,” says Stephen Kerber, director, UL FSRI. “This doesn’t require major effort or going out and buying anything.”

Browse all 12 critical fire safety tips for protecting your family.

2. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when you change your clocks back to standard time this Nov. 4, 2018.

“This day is a good reminder to replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors,” says Barb Guthrie, UL’s vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility. “Exceptions are smoke detectors designed with non-replaceable 10-year batteries.

Also, make sure your smoke alarms are functional by testing them monthly and never remove or disable a smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, you should replace it with an alarm that is certified by an independent certification body, such as UL.

You should have smoke detectors inside every sleeping room and on every level of your home, including the attic and basement; learn more about ideal placements. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, purchase one with a UL Mark.

“The reality is that carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and deadly,” says Guthrie. “We all have elements of carbon monoxide in our homes, particularly as we move into the winter months and settle ourselves in our homes. A carbon monoxide detector will identify when you have a toxicity level in your home that requires you to evacuate. If the alarm goes off, get out and call the fire department. They will measure for carbon monoxide and detect where the fault is.”

Carbon monoxide also can add tragedy to already dangerous natural disasters, in the form of portable generators producing carbon monoxide being run too close to a house or in an enclosed area, Guthrie reminds readers. Learn more about carbon monoxide and natural disasters.

3. Take time to do your fall indoor and outdoor maintenance. Preventative maintenance will help keep your family safe from accidents, as well as help protect your home from burst pipes, ice dams and other costly damage.

Use these checklists for outdoor maintenance and indoor maintenance.

4. Get a flu vaccination before the end of October, recommends the CDC. Flu season is right around the corner, and coming on the heels of last winter’s season – the deadliest in decades.

“As a consumer, you need to consider what you have the power to do to protect yourself and your loved ones,” Guthrie says. “Flu shots are a great example of reducing your family’s risk of serious illness.”

Learn more.

5. As the days grow shorter, be prepared for the dangers of driving at night, advises the National Safety Council (NSC), when the risk of a fatal car crash is three times greater.

Even with the high beams on, headlight visibility is only about 500 feet (250 feet for normal headlights), creating less time to react to something in the road. To combat darkness:

Aim your headlights correctly, and make sure they're clean.

  • Dim your dashboard.
  • Look away from oncoming lights.
  • If you wear glasses, make sure they're anti-reflective.
  • Clean the windshield to eliminate streaks.
  • Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time.

Get more night driving tips.

Implementing these essential fall safety tips will help to keep your family safer, as well as help protect your house.