Fire prevention is something that all families should take seriously, because it takes less than 30 seconds for a single flame to become an out-of-control fire. Major fires don’t only cause irreparable damage to the things that you own; in addition to destroying your home and your possessions, residential fires can injure or kill you and your family.
This terrifying thought is unfortunately a common reality. Last year alone, the National Fire Protection Association reports that there were nearly 500,000 structure fires, and approximately 80% of those were in residential areas. Fires in the home can happen at any time, anywhere in your house, but more often than not they are entirely preventable. That’s why keeping your family well-informed about fire prevention measures is so crucial.
The leading cause of home fires is cooking mishaps, followed closely thereafter by negligence with cigarettes, old wiring, faulty heating equipment, unattended candles, holiday decorations, and barbeques.
Two proactive measures that you can take to protect your family in the event of a fire are installing sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. The American Red Cross reports that you can improve your chances of surviving in a home fire by 82% by installing both devices. You should install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, and you should replace the batteries at least once a year. Choosing a specific date to replace your smoke alarm batteries and noting it on your calendar is a good way to ensure it gets done each year. Not only are these two fire prevention measures beneficial to your family and your home, but they can also qualify you for homeowners insurance discounts of up to 10% of your premium depending on your provider!
Although most standard home insurance policies will protect you from fire damage, why run the risk if there are preventative measures you can take? The following tips will help you and your family prevent home fires:
Whenever you’re frying, grilling, or broiling food, be sure to stay in the kitchen. If you have to leave the stove for any reason, shut it off to avoid problems in your absence.
Keep the burners on your stove clear of any flammable items. Be sure to keep pot holders, towels, and plastic a safe distance from the stove. Designating spaces for them with hooks or storage units that are placed far enough from the burners will not only keep your kitchen orderly, but will also keep you safe. Loose-fitting clothing also needs to be kept from the burners, so roll up your sleeves or remove articles that may come too close while you’re cooking.
Don’t leave portable heaters running when you’re asleep or when you’re no longer in the room. While it’s understandable that you’d rather return to a warm room, it’s better to come back to a cold room than a room that’s engulfed in flames!
If you have appliances with frayed, old, or damaged cords/wiring, replace the cords (or even the appliances altogether). Also, don’t run electric cords under rugs or furniture—they’re perfect kindling if your electric cords catch fire.
Be sure that all candles are always placed on a level surface, in a very sturdy holder that won’t tip over. Put them out before you leave the room.
Your furnace and chimney should be inspected once a year. As we mentioned earlier, having a specific date for annual fire safety maintenance is a great way to ensure it gets done. Marking that date on your calendar, scheduling a visit from your heating specialist for maintenance, and checking your smoke alarm batteries can become an annual routine that way.
If you use portable heaters, always place them in the middle of the room. Not only will they disperse heat evenly, but keeping them at least three feet from anything flammable is the best way to prevent fires.
Just don’t smoke. If you do, smoke outside. If you absolutely have to smoke inside, limit yourself to only smoking in the kitchen, bathroom, or any room where you can’t lay down, in order to avoid falling asleep with a lit cigarette.
Never overload your outlets or extension cords. Distribute your power consumption so that one outlet doesn’t do all the work in a room.
Store flammable liquids far from any heating sources.
Thoroughly check your holiday decorations before decorating your house. If you have any with frayed or damaged cords, throw them out immediately. According to the National Fire Prevention Association and the US Fire Administration, approximately 240 home fires involve Christmas trees each year, and another 150 home fires occur each year that involve holiday lights or other decorations.
Maintain open communication with your kids about fire safety. Make sure they know about the dangers of fire, and keep all matches/lighters out of reach. Just like your kids practice in school, have a fire drill at home so that they know what to do in case of an emergency.
Establish a fire safety plan. Familiarize the kids with what the alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it, clearly outline a meeting place a safe distance from the house, and reinforce that their number one priority is getting out safely, not rescuing any of their belongings. Fires can happen anywhere, so make sure you have more than one route out of the house so that your family knows how to get out if certain routes are blocked by the fire. Also make sure your kids know how to call 911 once they’re in a safe place, and know how to stop, drop, and roll if their clothing catches fire.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average homeowner’s insurance fire claim is more than $33,000! Don’t forget that you’ll still need to pay your deductible on fire damage claims, which is why preventing fires in the first place is the best way to avoid costly tragedy. Please take fire prevention and safety seriously!