Residential Fire Prevention and Safety

A small fire in the home can spread very rapidly, and can engulf your entire home in flames within just minutes. It is important to become familiar with how fire works, how fires start, and the how to stay safe in the event of a fire. On this page, you will find practices and methods for keeping yourself, your family, your pets and all residents in your home safe from fires.

 

Preventing a Residential Fire

Install Smoke Detectors Throughout the Home

The first step for preventing fires in the home is installing smoke detectors. Smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of your home, attics and garages, and in hallways near all bedrooms. Be sure to test out smoke detectors once a month to make sure they are always functioning properly. Replace batteries in smoke detectors whenever changing the clocks for daylight savings. Replace all smoke detectors every 10 years. Never take down or remove the smoke detector's batteries when cooking. Disabled smoke detectors have been found to be the cause of many preventable residential fires. 

Install Fire Extinguishers

Make sure to have fire extinguishers readily available throughout your home, in the event of a small fire. Using a fire extinguisher to will prevent small fires from becoming large. Fire extinguishers should be kept in the kitchen, garage, and any areas of your home where fires may occur. Fire extinguishers should be checked regularly to ensure they are working properly. If you are not sure about how to use a fire extinguisher, consider contacting your local fire department on training information to get you started. You'll be able to learn how to properly use and maintain it.

Teach Kids About the Dangers of Fire

Over 100,000 fires are set every year by kids under 5 years old playing with lighters or matches. To avoid this from happening, take the time to educate your children about the potentially deadly consequences of playing with fire. Teach them to STOP, DROP, and ROLL if their clothes catch on fire in an emergency. Also, teach them about what firefighters do, and to not hide from them when they are in sight.

Create a Plan for Escape

Have a well-thought out and organized plan in case there is a fire in the home. Developing an escape plan could save your life. Discuss the plan with your family in full detail, so that everyone is on the same page. The escape plan should include at least two escape routes from every bedroom. Everyone in the home must learn basic home fire safety procedures; i.e., checking doors for heat before opening them, staying low on the ground to stay out of smoke, and knowing the closest way out. Practice your household escape plan, hold yearly family fire drills and refresh the plan whenever changing rooms around or adding new residents to the household. Keep exits clean and clear at all times, and test windows and doors regularly to ensure easy access for escaping in the event of an emergency. 

Create a Family Communication Plan 

Plan out your family communication methods, for in the event that there is a fire. Make sure that everyone knows how to call 9-1-1. In any emergency, it's important to ensure that everyone at home knows who to contact if they are not able to locate one another, or in any other instance. Create a plan, informing all family members of who to call and where to meet in the event of a fire. Refresh the communication plan when adding new lines of communication or new residents to the household.

Common Causes of Residential Fires

Clothing Dryers

Lint will easily get a fire started under the right conditions, so it is very important to keep your clothing dryer well-maintained. It is highly recommended that the air exhaust pipe to the outside of the home be inspected yearly to ensure that there is no blockage, which may interfere with the dryer working efficiently and safely.

After each load, clear the lint filter before starting a new one. Check around the drum as well, because sometimes lint can collect in this area. If you can, avoid having your dryer operate overnight or while you are out of the house. Keep in mind that it is better to do several rounds of drying if needed, rather than overloading the dryer. Doing so may lead to an excess of lint, increasing the chances of a house fire taking place.

Children & Pets

To kids, fire is exciting and certainly peaks curiosity. It is very important that kids know about the serious dangers of fire. In addition to explaining how fire is a tool and not a toy, it's beneficial to also inform them of an escape plan, what the sound of the smoke alarm is like, etc. Keep them away from any stoves that are on or burning candles. Lighters and matches should not be left out in the open where children can easily access them.

Similarly, you can't expect pets at home to know any better. So, if any burning candles are left out in the open for them to reach or play with, you and your home may be in trouble.

Electrical Appliances

Faulty electrical appliances can also result in a fire, so it's imperative to check them regularly to make sure they are operating properly. Frayed or damaged cords should be unplugged and replaced immediately. If you have kids at home, consider opting for tamper resistant outlets, so that they don't injure themselves or pose a risk when you are not directly supervising. It is dangerous to constantly overload outlets with high-wattage devices, so it's strongly recommended that you spread out your appliances. As far as lighting goes, only use light bulbs that match the fixture's recommended wattage. Extension cords come in really handy when you need to plug in multiple devices in any given vicinity. Just make sure that they are not tucked in under rugs, carpet, or other furniture. Since they power so many things, it's inevitable that extension cords get hot and when overheated, it could fray or wear out, resulting in a potential fire hazard.

If you experience problems with any outlet or wiring at home often, such as blown fuse, constant light flickering, or sparking, then you may want to contact an electrician and have him address the issue. Putting this off may exacerbate the issue in the long run, and it's always better to tackle these problems as they arise.

Flammable Liquids

Liquids like cleaning agents, paints, gasoline, and adhesives, for example, are highly flammable. This means that they can start a fire with high temperatures or other sources like small sparks of static electricity. To prevent this from happening at home, store flammable liquids away from any heat source. If possible, keep it outside of the home in a ventilated and cool area.

Smoking

Another really common cause of house fires is smoking accidents. Smoking indoors is never a good idea. Take the extra step and go out onto your balcony or backyard if you must smoke. When you are done smoking, make sure that the embers are completely out in the ashtray or run under water.

Portable Space Heaters

Space heaters come in really handy in the winter months when you only need to really warm up one room, but it's important to use them responsibly. These actually account for a third of heating fires, so you will want to make sure that any flammable items are kept at least three feet away from an operating space heater. Keep the space heater on a flat and stable surface when using it so that it doesn't potentially fall on something and catch on fire. Some are designed to automatically turn off once tipped over -- these ones are much safer. Space heaters should not be left on overnight or unattended.

Cooking

Most house fires occur as a result from using cooking oils, fryers, microwaves, and unattended cooking. To avoid potential hazards, never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking, especially when you are using high temperatures or cooking oil. After you are done cooking, ensure that the stove and/or oven is completely turned off before leaving the kitchen. Hot items should be kept away from loose clothing, dish towels, and other fabrics that could potentially cause a fire.

Fireplaces

Use a fireplace regularly at home? It is essential to get it checked out yearly to ensure it is working properly. Similar to space heaters, you'll only want to use the fireplace when you are home and make sure that it's put out before you go to bed. To prevent flying sparks, utilize a fireplace screen big enough to cover the entire opening, and heavy enough to stop any rolling logs.