A home fire can be one of the scariest and most devastating events one can endure. Your home is supposed to be your retreat from the rest of the world. It's where you and your family make and store your memories. Nothing is ever certain, but there are simple ways that you can significantly reduce the risk of a home fire.
1. Maintain Your Smoke Alarms
Your smoke detectors are there to protect your home and its occupants, so maintaining them is essential to ensure they're in proper working order. Firefighters and fire damage restoration professionals advise homeowners and renters to replace the batteries in all smoke alarms with new ones at least once a year. Press the test button on them to make sure the alarm sounds. Also, dust or vacuum each unit regularly; dust and debris can block the detectors from recognizing smoke.
2. Examine All Heat Sources
Improperly working heat sources can be a fire risk, so it's essential to have your HVAC system inspected once a year. Also, regularly clean or replace the air filters. You must place space heaters several feet away from flammable materials (e.g., magazines, curtains, bedsheets, lighters) and be sure to keep them clean and free of dust and debris.
3. Inspect Electrical Cords
Always keep an eye on electrical cords before plugging them in. If the cord is frayed or chewed, or damaged in any way, don't plug it in. Get a replacement or have it repaired by a professional. Ensure any cords that get hot don't run near anything flammable (e.g., under rugs or around books).
4. Monitor Cooking Food
Never leave food on the stove or in the toaster oven unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, ask someone to watch it while you're gone or turn off the heat source. It's unnecessary to stay in the same room when something is baking in the oven, but never leave the house with the oven on.
5. Clean Your Stove and Oven
Be sure to clean your stove and oven after you cook each time. Food particles in or on the stove burners or in the oven can catch fire and start a fire. Also, make sure you keep all flammable materials away from the heat. Dish towels and paper recipes can be easily forgotten until they burst into flames. Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher close by in case a fire does break out. Also, learn how and how not to put out different fires (e.g., NEVER put water on a grease fire).
6. Practice Caution With Candles
Monitor lit candles and don't leave them unattended. Place them on a level surface away from flammable materials. Also, make sure they're out of the way of breezes, such as a ceiling fan or open window. Keep them out of reach of children and pets, and make sure you keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children. Don't leave candles lit when you leave the room or when you're sleeping. There are some excellent substitutes for traditional candles if you want to be safer. For the same type of ambient lighting, opt for flameless candles or fairy lights. For room scents, try alternatives like air diffusers with essential oils, air freshener sprays or potpourri.
7. Maintain Your Dryer
Your dryer should be inspected yearly to ensure it's operating correctly and doesn't have an excess of lint where you can't see it. Lint and faulty lines can be a fire hazard. Your dryer's lint trap should be cleaned out after every load of laundry. Also, periodically check behind the dryer and clean lint, debris or clothing items that are trapped back there.
8. Safely Store Flammables
Many household products are flammable, but many people don't realize it. Products like some household cleaners, shaving cream and hairspray can combust if exposed to excessive heat. A closet, medicine cabinet or other cool area is typically an excellent place to store these products. Just keep them away from space heaters or other heat sources. Also, make sure you don't have them close to appliances such as curling irons.
9. Use Caution With Your Fireplace
Don't leave the room when you have your fireplace burning. Have a barrier to block the flames from your flooring. Dispose of ashes in a fireproof container (e.g., metal), and only after the ashes have completely cooled. Keep your fireplace and chimney maintained.
10. Keep Fire Extinguishers Nearby
Any room with a potential risk of fire (especially the kitchen) should have a fire extinguisher. You may also want to put one in the garage and any room with a fireplace.
A fire can break out virtually any time, anywhere. There are no guarantees when it comes to a house fire. However, there are numerous easy ways you can practice caution and be prepared should the unthinkable occur. These practices could mean the difference between life and death, or being able to salvage your home or not. Make sure you and your family know about all aspects of fire safety.