Fire prevention: 5 potential fire risks in your home
Autumn has arrived, and soon it will be time to celebrate Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.
But before you break out the space heaters, candy and candles for decorating, take a moment to educate yourself on fire hazards to ensure your home and family’s safety year-round.
Read on to learn about five potential risk factors that could be hidden in your home and how to take action toward better home fire prevention and preparedness today.
The kitchen may be the heart of your home, but cooking equipment is the leading cause of all home fires according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Next time you’re whipping up a delicious meal, consider all the sources of kitchen fires and be mindful of your cooking practices to reduce your risk.
Kitchen fire hazards
Cooking using the stovetop, microwave or conventional oven can easily spark fires. Heat sources can catch flammable materials like oven mitts and hand towels on fire, while cooking protein-rich foods without caution can result in grease fires, fire and smoke damage, and lingering, unpleasant odors and potentially toxic residue. Outdoor cooking equipment like deep fryers also pose significant risks.
Kitchen fire safety tips
- Always stay in the kitchen while food is cooking.
- Keep an appropriately rated fire extinguisher within easy reach in the kitchen. Class B extinguishers are suitable to combat grease and oil fires.
- Keep flammable fabrics and other items away from all cooking appliance heat sources
Dryers were responsible for over 90% of all the residential fires involving washers and dryers between 2010 and 2014 according to the NFPA (PDF). The leading cause of home fires involving dryers is improper cleaning, but you can easily reduce your risk with routine maintenance.
Dryer fire hazards
Debris that builds up in the lint trap can catch fire when exposed to the appliance’s heat settings.
Dryer fire safety tips
- Clean out your lint trap or lint screen after EVERY use. It takes only a couple of seconds and can help stop a potential fire before it ever becomes a significant risk factor.
- Get your dryer professional inspected on an annual basis. An expert will be able to access and check the vents and interior machinery for additional lint buildup and fire risks.
When it’s cold outside, you need to keep your home warm and toasty, but you also want to keep it safe. Here’s what to look out for when using space heaters and fireplaces.
Heater fire hazards
Flammable materials and dust bunnies near space heaters can easily ignite and create a quick-spreading fire. And while fireplaces may be designed to contain fire, they still require caution and regular maintenance to effectively manage flames, embers and smoke.
Heater fire safety tips
- Sweep dust bunnies regularly.
- Place your heater a minimum of 3 feet from all flammable items.
- Use the 1:1 rule — only plug one heating appliance into an electrical outlet at a time.
- Unplug appliances and completely put out fires in the fireplace before you leave home.
- Call a professional to check and clean your chimney at least once a year.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent hot embers from flying out and catching your possessions on fire.
Electronics and outlets
So many of the gadgets and gizmos we use on a daily basis require electricity to operate. You likely have multiple outlets in each room, so make sure the all the items you have plugged in throughout your house are operating safely.
Electrical fire hazards
Outdated appliances, faulty outlets and damaged cords can all spark electrical fires — and the risks are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them.
Electrical fire safety tips
- Do NOT use any cords with exposed or frayed wires.
- Do NOT run cords under rugs or carpets.
- Do NOT use bulbs that exceed the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for lamps and light fixtures.
- Use extension cords as needed so you only have one appliance connected to each wall outlet.
- Unplug electronics when not in use, including holiday lights.
- Look for testing labels that certify the safety of your electrical appliances and equipment. If an appliance is old or the safety label is missing, consider getting a professional inspection or replacement.
We’ve covered the main sources of most house fires, but there are additional steps you can take to further protect your home from hazards you may not have considered until now.
Other home fire hazards
Trash, old papers and dense clutter in areas like your garage, basement and attic create the perfect fuel for a fire. Pay close attention to other common, highly-flammable items you may keep in a garage or storage shed, including gasoline, chemicals and gases used for grilling.
Household items, like improperly stored batteries and even glassware sitting in a beam of sunlight, can generate enough heat to ignite a fire. Of course, you don’t want to forget about the dangers of candles either, especially during the holidays. Candles are particularly easy to knock over or bump into, posing additional risk.
General home fire safety tips
- Do NOT leave burning candles unattended.
- Avoid leaving piles of lawn clippings in your yard.
- Clear clutter from garage, basement and attic spaces.
- Safely store important papers and get rid of the rest.
- Discard unwanted materials, debris and trash in the proper receptacles.
- Store glassware away from direct sunlight.
- Store unused batteries in their original packaging and recycle them appropriately after use.
- Keep flammable liquids in tightly-sealed metal containers and away from heat sources.
- Place outdoor cooking equipment at least 10 feet away from structures, trees or overhangs.
Home fire prevention starts with you
The theme for Fire Prevention Week 2017 is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” because every second truly counts in a fire emergency. The key to fire safety is not only taking the proper precautions to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place, but also being prepared just in case one does.
At least twice a year, check that all smoke alarms in your home are functioning properly. That way, if a fire does break out, you’ll be alerted quickly and can react as fast as possible. This reaction period is when your family emergency plan comes into play, so prepare and practice ahead of time. Your family emergency plan should include survival and fire prevention supplies, contact information and evacuation routes. You and every member of your family should always know the fastest, safest ways out of your home, where to go and who to call in an emergency.
Don’t be afraid of the potential hazards in your home — be aware, and use the fire prevention week activities above to minimize your risk. Develop an exit strategy and run practice drills with your family to help avoid preventable tragedy during the joyous holiday season. With knowledge of the most common fire risks, our tips for fire prevention and a strong emergency response plan in place, you and your loved ones will be well equipped to protect yourselves and your home through the holidays and beyond.