An average of 358,500 homes in the US experience a fire each year according to the National Fire Protection Association. While the sources of these fires vary, there are common factors in many of these incidents. The three leading causes of home fires are cooking, heating equipment and electrical malfunction. With this knowledge, we’ve put together a list of tips to help prevent your home from falling victim to fire.
Kitchens are one of the most common places for house fires to begin. With the combination of heat sources and flammable ingredients, this is a room where extra precautions should be taken. Food should never be left unattended when frying, boiling or broiling. Also be mindful to keep cooking sources clear of combustible materials such as rags, oven mitts, towels, wooden utensils and food packaging. Additionally, children should never be left unattended in the kitchen especially when heat sources are in use.
If a grease fire breaks out in your kitchen, make sure you know how to properly put it out. If the fire is contained to a pan, pour baking soda over the flame. You can also cover the pan with a metal lid or baking sheet. Never douse the fire with water or try to swat the flame with a towel, as both can cause the fire to spread.
Electrical issues are another common source for house fires. To help prevent an incident, always have extensive electrical work completed by a licensed electrician. Major appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and dryers should always be plugged directly into an outlet instead of using an extension cord. Electrical cords should be checked for fraying wires and should not be placed under carpet or rugs.
Large appliances such as dryers should also be maintained. Lint can accumulate in your dryer vent and become a fire hazard. Cleaning the lint filter before each use and occasionally having your dryer vent cleaned by a technician can help prevent a dangerous blockage.
Space heaters can be a good source of heat for a small space, but these appliances should be used with caution. Be sure to keep flammable items a minimum of three feet away from a space heater and position the heater on a level surface. For extra safety, only purchase space heaters that automatically turn off if tipped over and never leave a space heater unattended or operating overnight.
Fireplaces should also be used carefully. Have your fireplace inspected annually to remove soot and debris and ensure that a fire is completely extinguished before going to bed. To prevent a spark from igniting a fire use a fireplace screen that covers the entire opening and is sturdy enough to prevent a log from rolling out.
Candles account for an estimated 15,600 home fires each year. To prevent a fire, candles should never be left unattended especially around children or pets. When in use, make sure candles are placed on even surfaces away from flammable materials such as curtains and upholstery and be certain to extinguish candles before going to sleep.
With outdoor open flames, such as a grill or fire ring, make sure they are placed at least three feet from the siding, decking and eaves of your home. Opening your gas grill before lighting and cleaning your grill after each use can also help prevent a fire.
Installing smoke alarms on every floor of your home and in each sleeping area will give your family early notice in case a fire does break out. Check your alarms each month to ensure they are functioning properly and be sure to change the batteries regularly. Keeping a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home can also help reduce the risk of a fire spreading.
Since a fire can engulf a home in a matter of minutes, it’s important to have an evacuation plan in place. Devise a strategy that has at least two escape routes from every bedroom and discuss the plan in detail with your family. Choose one person to be responsible for getting young children or pets of out of the house safely and establish a meeting place a safe distance from the home so all family members can be accounted for.