A house fire is a homeowners worst nightmare and can leave you with absolutely nothing.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), from 2014 to 2018, more than 27% of fires occurred in the home, and even worse, the house fires led to more than 73% of reported injuries and 77% of civilian deaths.
The cause of these house fires ranges from unattended cooking in the kitchen to candles left burning. Most of these fires can be preventable by taking the time to inform yourself about the different types of fire hazards and help protect your family’s safety all year long. Let’s take a closer look at the five potential risk factors in your home and how to prevent and prepare for a house fire.
1. Cooking Appliances
The kitchen is the heart of the home and where family and friends come together to eat, but according to NFPA, cooking appliances are actually the main cause of home fires. Every time you cook in your kitchen, pay attention to all the sources of heat that could lead to a house fire.
Kitchen Fire Hazards
Be mindful when using your stovetop, oven, or microwave, as these appliances can easily start a fire. Any heat source in the kitchen can catch flammable items such as hand towels or oven mitts. Cooking foods that are high in protein can lead to grease fires and leave a lingering odor. Appliances like deep fryers can present the same risks.
Kitchen Fire Safety Tips
- Keep any flammable materials away from all heating sources in your kitchen.
- Always stay in the kitchen while cooking food.
- Keep an appropriately rated fire extinguisher in an easily accessible place in your kitchen. Class B extinguishers are powerful enough to put out oil and grease fires.
- If there’s a grease fire, smother it, and don’t use water!
According to NFPA, from 2010-2014, about 92% of house fires involved a clothes dryer. The main reason these dryer fires happen is due to improper cleaning, but with routine maintenance, you can decrease the chance of a fire starting.
Dryer Fire Hazards
Lint that builds up over time becomes hazardous when exposed to the dryer’s heat settings.
Dryer Fire Safety Tips
- Every time you dry a load of clothes, make sure you clean out the lint screen. It takes less than 15 seconds to clean and can help you avoid a fire.
- Take time every few months to fully clean out the dryer vent and that you’ve got proper ventilation.
- Annually have your dryer inspected by a professional. An expert will be able to check the vents and interior machinery for any extra lint buildup and any potential fire risks.
As we gear up for the cold winter, you might have turned your heater on or started a toasty fire in your fireplace, but what you might not realize is these sources of heat can pose a potential fire hazard.
Heater Fire Hazards
If items such as flammable materials or dust bunnies get near a space heater or fireplace, they can easily start a fire. A fireplace’s purpose is to contain a fire in your home, but if poorly maintained, it could be a huge problem.
Heater Safety Tips
- Sweep and dust regularly.
- Make sure to place your space heaters at least three feet away from flammable items.
- Only plugin one heating source in an electrical outlet at a time.
- Unplug space heaters and extinguish fires in your fireplace before leaving your home or going to sleep.
- Every year you should have your chimney checked by a professional.
- Always use a fireplace screen to avoid hot embers from flying out and potentially catching items in your home on fire.
- Never leave a heater or a fire in your fireplace unattended.
4. Electronics and Outlets
Almost everything in your home requires an electrical outlet to function. There are probably outlets all over your house, and you may have power strips to operate multiple devices in one location. It’s important that the outlets and power strips in your home are operating safely.
Electrical and Outlets Fire Hazards
Old appliances, damaged cords, or defective outlets can all ignite an electrical fire. These risks are hard to notice if you aren’t aware of them.
Electrical Fire Safety Tips
- Do not run cords under rugs or carpet
- Do not use light bulbs that go over the manufacturer’s recommendations for light fixture wattages.
- Do not use any cords with unprotected or frayed wires.
- Limit the number of extension cords you have so only one appliance is connected to each wall outlet.
- Unplug electronics when you are not using them. (Or if you leave town for a few days!)
- Identify testing labels that authorize the safety of your electrical appliances. If you can’t locate the testing labels or the appliance is old, you might want to replace the item or have a professional inspect them.
A fireplace can bring an unmistakable cozy ambiance and warmth to any room, but a fireplace requires diligent maintenance. Failure to do so, could end up disastrously.
An open flame in your home is a hazard in itself, so caution is a must! Consider purchasing a fireplace guard or screen to act as an extra barrier and never leave your fireplace unattended.
Fireplace Safety Tips
- Don’t ever use chemicals such as gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal starter.
- Use the right wood! All types of wood can burn differently than each other, some are slow burns, whereas others can be a bit more fierce. So depending on how long you’re looking to have a fire, you may want to consider a specific wood type.
- Use dry wood every time! Using wet or damp wood can result in more soot buildup in the chimney.
- Always double check the damper and make sure the flue is open when you’re using it, and closed when you’re not.
- Never let ash bases exceed one inch and always clean your ashes or risk more smoke.
- Keep the area around your fireplace free of flammable and loose objects.
- Be proactive and have a professional inspect your fireplace once a year!
6. Miscellaneous Hazards
There are additional measures you can take to reduce the risk of fire hazards in your home that you may not have realized until now.
Miscellaneous Fire Hazards
Old papers, trash, or areas with heavy clutter like your garage, attic, or basement creates the perfect recipe for a fire. The more clutter you have in these spaces makes it easier for a fire to spread, especially if you have gasoline, oil, or cleaning solutions near. Be mindful of other common household items that are highly flammable such as aerosol cans, nail polish, rubbing alcohol, etc. In addition, you should always pick up grass clippings in your yard because the insulation of the piles makes it hard for heat to escape and can lead to a fire.
General Home Fire Safety Tips
- Refrain from leaving piles of lawn clippings in your yard.
- Clear clutter from garage, attic, and basement.
- Don’t store glassware in direct sunlight.
- Do NOT leave a candle burning unattended.
- Store unused batteries in their original packaging and recycle them after use.
- Keep flammable liquid away from heat sources.
- Make sure to place outdoor cooking appliances at least 10 feet away from your home, fence, or other structures.
How To Prepare and Plan For A Fire
The blueprint to fire safety is taking preventive measures to reduce the fire hazards in your home and also be prepared by having a plan in the event your house catches on fire.
Having a family emergency plan is key in protecting you and your loved ones. Start by checking your smoke detectors at least twice a year, so you can be quickly alerted when a fire happens. Gather survival supplies, contact information, evacuation routes, and fire preventives such as a fire extinguisher. You and every member of your household should know exactly should always know the quickest, safest ways out of your home, where to meet and who to call in an emergency.
It doesn’t hurt to run a few practice drills and have a strategy to help everyone in your family have a better understanding of what to do in a fire. Knowing the potential fire hazards in your home and having a family emergency plan is imperative in keeping you, your family, and your home safe. If you, unfortunately, experience a house fire, don’t panic because you know exactly what to do!
No homeowner wants to experience a house fire; they can be terrifying and destroy items you can never get back. Brushing up on your home insurance policy will help you know what coverage options you have and ensure you have the right protection to rebuild your life should a fire occur, so you’re not left to pay for anything out-of-pocket. At TGS Insurance, we will help you build a home insurance policy that is packed with all the protection you need from any perils, including a house fire. We know how important protecting your home is, so we make buying home insurance simple!