Fire is the most common disaster in the home. A fire can quickly spread, destroying your possessions and home, as well as endangering your loved ones. There are thousands of accidental or preventable home fires every year. A few simple precautions can make a big difference in keeping you safe. Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared, follow these 7 fire safety tips:
1. Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms will alert you to evacuate in the event of a fire. An alarm should be installed on every floor, and in all the bedrooms. Be sure you have enough coverage to wake anyone who might be asleep. Alarms need to be tested regularly, with experts recommending every 2 months. The batteries need to be replaced at least once a year to ensure they’re not low on power in the event of a fire. Most alarms will give off a ‘low battery’ signal letting you know when they need to be changed.
2. Have an escape plan
On average a fire leaves on 2 minutes for the occupants to escape. Having your exits planned can save valuable time. Know which exits are closest from each part of the house. A fire can start anywhere, so plan alternative routes to avoid the blaze. Make sure that all residents know the plan, and have a regular drill. Practice will help everyone remember in an emergency. And make sure your hallways and stairways are clear for an easy exit.
3. Maintain your appliances properly
The major appliances in your house can become hazards if they are not maintained. When cleaning, make sure to pull your fridge out to clean and vacuum the coils. These can accumulate dust and hair, which can be combustible. Scrub out the filters above your stove. These can accumulate grease and can turn a small stove-top fire into a more serious blaze. Clean the lint trap out of your clothes dryer, as it can overload and ignite. Check electrical cords often, as fraying or overloaded sockets can start an electrical fire.
4. Don’t let household materials become hazards
All sorts of household items can combust. Make sure to recycle newspapers and junk mail regularly. Store your household cleaners away from heat sources, with the containers sealed. Be sure they don’t mix, as different chemicals can react together. Get rid of opened paint rather than storing it. Oil based paint is very flammable, and spills can create a large hazardous area. Be especially careful of clutter piling up near curtains, outlets, or anywhere else that might help fire to spread.
5. Keep a clear perimeter around your house
Fires can start outside, and spread to the home. Keep anything that could combust at least 10’ away from your home. Clear any bird or animal nests away from the home as they can easily become hazards. Maintaining a clear perimeter can also make it easier to evacuate. Having the exits blocked in an emergency can slow down your escape. Clear access to the home can make things easier for firefighters and other emergency responders.
6. Never leave Flames unattended
Most household fires are the result of fires left unattended. Make sure to put out candles after you leave the room. Douse home fireplaces at night, and make sure the gas is switched off with propane fireplaces. Any wood burning stoves need to be kept clean and properly ventilated. When smoking, be sure to use a quality ashtray to keep ashes and butts contained. Keep lit cigarettes away from the rest of the pack. Never fall asleep while smoking; this often results in the smoker’s death.
7. Make sure children are responsible about fire
Kids tend to get curious about fire. They are often the cause of accidental home fires. Make sure they are educated about the danger, and know about potential hazards. Keep any lighters and matches out of reach of small hands, or even locked up. Make sure they know to keep away from kitchen appliances and other hazards without supervision. Be sure that any kids who might be visiting have basic knowledge of fire safety. Be sure they know to tell an adult in the event of smoke or flames. Children are easily frightened in a fire, drills and education can help prevent them from panicking.