A fierce winter storm is sweeping the U.S., and fire fighters have a good opportunity to remind their communities of how to keep their homes safe during this cold season.

In cities like Chicago, twenty inches of snow has accumulated within the past 24 hours. While residents concentrate on clearing their sidewalks and drive ways, fire fighters should also encourage them to remove snow from fire hydrants.

All fire fighters know that every single second counts during an emergency. Residents should be reminded that the more time that a fire fighter has to search and remove snow from a fire hydrant it takes precious moments away from containing a fire.

Fire officials in Brockton, Massachusetts are emphasizing that point this week after a 97-year-old woman nearly escaped her burning home thanks to the heroics of her neighbor.

Other tips you can pass along to residents during the chilly months is to keep all combustible items away from heating units and to have at least one working smoke detector installed in their homes.