Fire is the most devastating thing that can happen to your home. You can minimize the risk of fire by using the following tips. Use the information to build a plan of escape to keep you and your loved ones safe if a fire does occur.
Prevention Around the House
- Check your wiring, especially if your house is an older one. Older wiring may crack, exposing the live wires and causing shorts, which can ignite building materials. If you have mice or squirrels, they may chew the wiring. Have an exterminator get rid of them, then check the wiring for damage.
- Evaluate the electrical load in your home. Modern homes use many more electrical appliances than in the past and your wiring may not be able to handle the larger load. This can cause wires to overheat, creating a fire hazard in the walls. A qualified electrician can tell you about your wiring capacity. Have him check the circuits at the same time, to be sure there are enough of them of the proper size to handle appliances such as dryers and window air conditioners.
- Inspect gas appliances yearly. Natural gas appliances such as furnaces and water heaters require proper venting to allow fumes to escape safely. You should have furnaces checked yearly to assure they are burning cleanly and correctly. Have gas water heaters checked regularly for leaks or bad burners.
- Keep flammable objects away from heat sources. Everybody stores things like boxes, packing materials, and papers, as well as flammable liquids and aerosols. These should be kept in a well-ventilated area, away from any heat sources like pilot lights or light bulbs. Ideally, do not keep such items in the basement. Remember, fires tend to move up, so a fire in the basement is a greater danger than one in the attic.
Prevention in the Kitchen
- Get a fire extinguisher. Be sure you get one that is rated for the kinds of fires you may encounter in the kitchen. One labeled ABC will handle all fires, including electrical, so it is a good one for the kitchen. Be sure it is large enough to handle a moderate fire but be careful not to get one too heavy for easy use. And be sure everyone knows how to use it! An extinguisher that no one can use won’t help. Keep it out in plain view and service it regularly. The instruction book will give information as to how often it should be inspected.
- Be prepared for fires on and in the stove. Grease fires can happen very suddenly and be very frightening. Cutting off air to the fire is the way to put it out. Keep a large box of BAKING SODA near the stove and use it to smother the flames. Other substances like flour may burn or explode, making the fire much worse. Turn off the burner to remove it as a heat source. A large lid can be placed on top of a pan of burning grease. If the fire is in the oven, turn it off, as well as any vent to the oven, and leave the door shut until the fire stops. This will prevent extra air from entering to fan the flames.
- Use common sense when working around any heat source. Don’t wear clothing which can dangle and catch fire or become entangled in pot handles. Always use protection when picking up utensils or pans on the stove. Assume everything is hot! Be careful not to leave pot holders, cook books, etc., close to stove burners where they might catch fire.
- Buy them and use them. Since studies show that most fatal fires occur at night, it is imperative that you have smoke detectors to wake you and your family in time to reach safety. Buy smoke detectors that are approved by independent agencies. At a minimum, get one for each floor of your home as well as the basement. One should also be placed outside each bedroom. Keep them away from doors, windows, and vents since drafts can keep them from working properly.
- Keep them working properly. The best smoke detector you can buy will only be able to save you if it is operating properly. Change the batteries twice a year. Write it into your daily planner to remind yourself. A good memory aid is to put in new batteries each time Daylight Savings Time changes. Test the detectors regularly, once a month. Replace any faulty detector immediately. Never paint your detectors and keep the covers clean. Covers filled with dust cannot function properly. Replace detectors after 10 years since the sensor can lose their effectiveness.
- Don’t forget about carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted in any fire, including fireplaces and gas furnaces. Detectors constantly monitor the air and will signal when a build-up of the deadly gas is occurring, long before you are aware of the symptoms of fatigue, headache, and nausea. Since the gas can travel through heating ducts, place one near or in each bedroom.
The Hazards of Smoking
Smoking causes thousands of house fires every year. Cigarettes which fall into furniture can cause fabric to smolder for hours, even after the cigarette is removed. The smoldering will eventually flame and the piece of furniture can be engulfed in fire in a matter of seconds. A few common-sense rules can keep you and your family safe from such a disaster.
- Never smoke in bed. It is amazing how many people ignore this simple basic rule. If you fall asleep before the cigarette is extinguished it will fall into the bedclothes or onto the carpet. Such fabrics emit smoke which will cause unconsciousness before flames ever begin.
- Never smoke near anything flammable. Smoking around trash, papers, or boxes can allow hot ash to fall and ignite such objects. And flammable liquids emit fumes which will ignite readily. Never ever smoke near gasoline or any other volatile flammable fluid.
- Be sure the cigarette is out when you discard it. A lighted cigarette thrown into the garbage may smolder for hours, then ignite into a large fire. Be sure you use ashtrays and never empty them unless the contents are completely cold.