There were 365,500 home fires reported in the U.S in 2015, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That’s more than 1 thousand fires a day on average, with 7 million in direct property damage and over 11 thousand civilian injuries. What’s even more tragic is nearly all home fires are preventable. Most home fires are caused by items we use every day, such as space heaters and stoves, but the real cause of the fires isn’t these items. Carelessness, neglect, and poor judgement are usually the real culprit.
There is a plethora of precautions you and your family can take to ensure that you are as safe from home fires and possible, ranging from cooking safety to cleaning your dryer filters.
Most home fires happen as a result of carelessness while cooking. The best precaution anyone can take is to never leave the stove unattended. It only takes a little bit of hot grease and a few seconds of you being away for a fire to start.
It’s also extremely important to always keep flammable kitchen materials, such as dish rags and paper towels, away from the stove and other cooking appliances at all times as having these around is a recipe for disaster.
A final suggestion is to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, as this allows you to be prepared for fires and can even result in you getting a discount on your insurance.
Another very common cause of fire, the candle, is a staple in many households. Though they look and smell nice, candles are still open flames that can be potentially dangerous. There are three main precautions that must be taken to keep your family safe:
- Never leave candles near flammable materials, such as curtains that can blow in the wind and start a fire in seconds.
- Never leave burning candles where children can reach them or pets can knock them over.
- Don’t light a candle and leave it unattended while you’re gone. The flame should be always be extinguished before you leave.
Space heaters, though convenient, can be very dangerous if not used in a safe manner. They should not be used when you’re sleeping and should be connected directly to the outlet, not by an extension cord. Of course, it’s also essential to keep them at least 3 feet away from any flammable materials and items and they should always be turned unplugged when you leave the home.
Fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and maintained annually.
Wiring that’s been damaged, overloaded outlets, and misuse of electrical devices can all cause a catastrophe. Electrical cords that are cracked or frayed can heat up to the point of starting a fire or causing sparks. Be sure to check your cords and replace any that aren’t in good shape and never run them under a rug as they need room to “breathe”.
More essential precautions are:
- Have an electrical inspection done on your home
- Avoid overloading (outlets, extension cords, and power strips). Extension cords are meant to be used temporarily, not as a permanent part of your home.
- Do not remove the third prong from a three-prong plug to fit it into a two-conductor outlet. Also, do not try to bend the prongs to make the plug fit into an outlet.
- Purchase surge protectors to protect your appliances from a power surge
- Be aware of signs of faulty wiring: flickering lights, intermittent power surges, outlets that make a buzzing sound, and fuses that trip or short consistently.
As with everything else, keep flammable materials away from outlets and appliances that can potentially cause a fire.
Dryers can quickly collect lint in the exhaust vent which can restrict/block the flow of air resulting in the dryer to work inefficiently and overheat. It’s also critical to clean the lint screen before each load of clothes. A sign that indicated you need to clean out your exhaust vent or lint screen are clothes that are still damp after a typical drying period.
Teaching your family about fire safety:
- Teach any children about the dangers of fire, how to avoid causing them, and what to do in the event that one does occur.
- Create a fire escape plan for your family so that everyone Is prepared in the case of a disaster. Practice your plan with your family and get used to the idea of feeling door knobs with the back of your hand and staying low to the ground where smoke is less dense.