Are You Prepared? Prevent a Home Fire Before It Happens
Preparing for a house fire may not be at the top of your preparedness priority list, but it should be. It’s one of the easiest preps you can do to keep your family safe. A little preparation now can mean life or death when you need it. In 2014, there were 1,298,000 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused:
- 3,275 civilian deaths,
- 15,775 civilian injuries, and
- $11.6 billion in property damage.
- 494,000 of these were structure fires. (source)
I hope you’ll take a few minutes and learn how to prevent home fires. It could save the life of someone you love!
Don’t Forget Your Smoke Detectors
Having fire alarms in the proper places and keeping them tested and ready is vital. You know this! Every room should have a fire alarm and if you have the double fire and carbon monoxide alarms, even better. These are the official installation guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association.
- Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
- On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.
- Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.
- Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.
- Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm).
Interconnected smoke alarms increase safety and will ensure that EVERYONE in the house will hear the alarms. In a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey of households with any fires, including fires in which the fire department was not called, interconnected smoke alarms were more likely to operate and alert occupants to a fire. Battery-Operated Combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amazon)
- When smoke alarms (interconnected or not) were on all floors, they sounded in 37% of fires and alerted occupants in 15%.
- When smoke alarms were not on all floors, they sounded in only 4% of the fires and alerted occupants in only 2%.
- In homes that had interconnected smoke alarms, the alarms sounded in half (53%) of the fires and alerted people in one-quarter (26%) of the fires.
Remember that smoke detectors have an expiration date – 10 years – and should be switched out as they near their life expectancy. All you need to do is mark the installation date on the back with a sharpie when you are hanging them.
Store Flammables Properly
As mothers we have a tendency to be obsessed with cleanliness and organization. As the old saying goes “everything in its place and a place for everything.” Or at least that’s what we’re all aiming for. So it goes with flammables.
Anything that is combustible should be stored in well ventilated areas and in the proper container. I prefer to remove them from my house and keep them in the shed away from potential heat “triggers.” Any rags or materials that have had contact with those flammable materials should be immediately and properly disposed of. Keep them in a metal can away from heat sources until you can.
Matches and lighters need to have their own special place away from heat and small curious fingers and eyes. If your kids can see it they will eventually reach it – it’s a talent of most children.
You may also like: How to store fuel for emergencies
Don’t Skip Chimney Maintenance
Chimney’s need the same care and maintenance as any other major appliance or vehicle. Inspect your chimney regularly, and clean them before “fire season” each year to prevent creosote buildup. Keep your wood stoves, pellet stoves, and fireplaces clean and in good repair for optimum safety and efficiency. The danger is not just inside your chimney though. Check regularly to be sure that branches and leaves are kept away from the chimney area.
Your chimney should also be at least 3 feet taller than your roof, insulated, and have a spark arrestor on top. So before you start cozying up in front the fire, get in touch with your inner chimney sweep. Some local fire departments may even rent cleaning equipment for a reasonable price and show you how to do it properly.
Look into purchasing a Chimney Fire Suppressant device that puts out chimney fires when its smoke emissions rise up the flue to replace the oxygen. This is a good safety measure to have available even if you keep your chimney in good repair. A chimney fire is VERY dangerous and intense.
Teach Your Family Fire Safety
Teaching your family about fire safety is perhaps the biggest way you can help with fire prevention and preparation. It’s about more than telling them not to play with matches though; you need to teach them possible fire hazards and to be aware of their actions.
Its little things like tossing a shirt over their lamp or leaving a blanket too close to the heater that mom’s don’t always catch but kids can prevent. If you put your child in charge of fire safety in your house, you can guarantee that they will take it seriously. Visit Sparky Schoolhouse to download fire safety apps, eBooks, lesson plans, and other fun ways to teach kids about fire safety.
The kitchen may be the biggest fire hazard and fire starter of your home. This is where the most effort and diligence should be concentrated. You may be the kind of person to move around the house multitask as you are cooking, but that’s not a good idea. When it’s time to cook then stay in the kitchen!
Check food regularly, use an accurate timer, and never leave the stove unattended. If you have to leave, turn it all off, no matter how little time you will be gone. It only takes a small spatter of grease and a few seconds to start a fire. Don’t forget to have a charged Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher, know how to use it, and have baking soda within reach of your stove. Remember that the stove is not counter space and nothing should be left on top of the stoveif the burners are still warm.
Fires don’t just start inside your home. Outside maintenance can help prevent fires that start or enter your yard from getting to your house. Ever hear of Firewise landscaping? Download this pamphlet from Firewise.org and learn how keep yourproperty safe. Be sure and keep landscaping well-watered, clean, and well-spaced to prevent or at least slow an advancing fire. Don’t neglect your roof and keep gutters clean, especially of dry leaves.
If you live an area prone to wildfires, make sure you have everything you need to take with you close on hand during fire season and pay close attention to fire warnings. Keep your 72 hour kits and evacuation box close by, as well as face masks in case you have to evacuate quickly in heavy smoke. If your community has a wildfire protection plan adopt their recommendations.
Be sure that your address is clearly posted on your home or close to the street. If you have a long driveway keep it clear of overgrowth and clutter so that fire crews can get their trucks close to your house quickly. Can a fire truck get over the bridge, or through your landscaping, or a lock box on your gate? If you live in a rural area is there enough room for all the emergency vehicles that will need to respond to a house or wildfire?
Beware of Electrical Problems
Don’t just call an electrician when there’s a problem, have your system checked and maintained regularly. An electrical problem will most likely manifest itself in a fire or lack of power. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the electrician is going to give you valuable safety and maintenance information specific to your home.
Be proactive about electrical cords and appliances. Look for frayed wires and cords, and replace them as needed. It’s not worth the risk of an electrical fire. Obey these safety rules, they can deter big problems in the future.
- Make sure you do not run extension cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
- Cords should not be touching nails or screws.
- Keep items away from outlets.
- Make sure the outlets and extension cords are not overloaded.
When is the last time you checked your clothes dryer? Cleaning the lent filter and keeping the vent clear inside and outside can lead to a huge decrease in your fire risk. Any appliance repair man can do an annual cleaning and maintenance to ensure the safety of your home, usually at a discount if they’re already there fixing another issue.
Be Fire Ready
It may sound counter intuitive but the last step to being prepared for a home fire is to be ready for when it happens. Having insurance (home or renters) will ease the stress and difficulties caused by a fire. It’s much cheaper to pay insurance than to pay to replace everything you owned, including a house that’s no longer there.
Most insurance agents will recommend doing some sort of inventory on your home when you sign up for insurance. This can be kept with you agent and updated regularly. This makes it easier for the insurance company to replace your belongings and get you off to a fresh new start. Simply taking photos of each room in your house, looking at all 4 walls is enough of an inventory for most insurance companies. In your kitchen you can simply take a picture of several open cabinets and drawers. This actually takes very little time and will save a lot of time and hassle later.
Use these 8 tips to prevent home fires as the beginning steps to your family emergency plan. Have you ever been scared by the threat of a home fire? What other suggestions do you have to keep your family safe?
One super important tip, especially not in winter: DO NOT plug portable heaters into power bars or extension cords. They aren’t rated for the amount of power draw these heaters have and can quickly overheat and cause fires.
Thank you so much for listing off your many ideas on how to prevent home fires from happening. One thing that I thought was really important was that you should always have a fire alarm and a smoke detector installed in your home, but you also need to make sure that they are working properly. My girlfriend and I just bought our first home, and we need to acquaint ourselves with the fire alarm so that we can know what sound is what and how to tell if there needs to be a battery replacement. Thanks again for the post, and we will make sure that there are smoke alarms in the basement as well!