Safety Tips: How to Prevent a Fire at Home

With the National Fire Protection Association estimating that nearly 400,000 house fires occur every year, it’s important to make sure you and the other members of your household know how to prevent a fire at home. There are a few essential safeguards and maintenance items that every household should put in place in order to make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent house fires.

Install smoke alarms

One of the key protection points is to make sure you have smoke detectors and alarms installed in your home. For new homes, the National Fire Alarm Code requires hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms with battery back-up on every level of the home, outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. In existing homes, alarms should be installed at minimum on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area.

It’s important to test smoke alarms at least once a month and make sure the tests are audible to people in other areas of the home. If the smoke detectors are battery operated, be sure to replace the batteries at least once a year. The smoke alarms themselves should be replaced at least every 10 years, as they can become less sensitive to triggers over time.

Carbon monoxide detectors are equally important. While these don’t detect fires per se, they detect potentially hazardous levels of carbon monoxide gas, which can be generated from the incomplete combustion of fuels.

Installing proper fire alarm and detection systems can take these detection measures a step further, and potentially be a life-saving difference between a minor fire and a devastating loss. These systems can help alert you (and the fire department) as soon as the threat of a fire occurs.

Keep fire extinguishers on hand

Make sure to have at least one fire extinguisher accessible in your home, nearby but not too close to potential fire hazards. Be sure they’re properly charged with the gauge or test button. If the pressure is too low, or the extinguisher is otherwise damaged, replace it or have it professionally serviced.

Most fire extinguishers are one-time use, so if you’ve used one already, you need to replace it.
Make sure anyone using a fire extinguisher knows how to use it properly and that the rest of the home has safely evacuated and the fire department has been called. Household fire extinguishers should only be used on small fires that are not actively spreading. Don’t bother trying to extinguish a larger fire; just evacuate safely and call 9-1-1.

Install a sprinkler system

Installing a sprinkler system is another security measure you can take to prevent small fires from becoming devastating ones. Unlike a smoke detector or other fire alarm, a sprinkler system can start fighting the flames immediately, decreasing the chance that deadly smoke and gases will reach you or your family. Sprinkler systems can also help protect your home if you’re away, and can notify the fire department for you if they’re connected to your home’s alarm system.

Take other preventative measures in your home

Appliances

Appliances are common causes of house fires. Look for frayed wires or damaged cords, as well as surge marks. Replace any appliance with exposed wires as soon as possible. Don’t run cords under rugs, and keep them away from furniture as much as you can, as this can be another common cause of house fires. Be sure not to overuse extension cords or crowd multiple into one socket.

In the kitchen

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, half of house fires start in the kitchen. To help prevent kitchen fires, keep flammable items like curtains, dish towels, oven mitts and cleaning agents or other flammable compounds away from the stove, oven and any other heating elements. Don’t leave food cooking unattended, and be sure to keep your stove and oven clean, as food particles and other debris can easily combust. Have all heating sources inspected by a professional annually.

It’s also important to know how to extinguish common kinds of fires that occur when cooking, like grease fires. Keep heavy metal lids or cookie sheets near the stove in case of a fire, as these can be used to quickly extinguish small fires. With grease fires, it’s also important to remember that they cannot be extinguished with water. To extinguish a grease fire, quickly turn off the heat source and cover the fire with a heavy metal lid, or try to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher. Baking soda or salt can also help extinguish a small grease fire. If you can’t extinguish the fire, call 9-1-1 and evacuate.

In the bedroom

Keep bedroom and other doors closed, as this can help prevent fires from spreading into adjoining rooms. Make sure your mattress contains flame-retardant chemicals, or purchase a flame-retardant mattress cover for extra protection.

Electric blankets and space heaters are two of the most common sources for bedroom fires. Make sure you don’t overload wall sockets, and use electric blankets that have the ability to shut off automatically.

In the bathroom

Store cleaners and flammable cosmetic items like hairspray and shaving cream safely and away from heat sources or electrical outlets. Don[‘t leave small grooming tools or appliances, like electric razors and hair dryers, unattended, and be sure to unplug them while they’re not in use.

In the living room

Candles can be a fire hazard in the living room or any room of the home. Don’t leave candles unattended, and make sure to practice good candle hygiene by trimming the wicks to help control the burn. Keep them in a safe place where pets or children can’t reach them or tip them over.

If you have a fireplace, this can obviously be a spot for fire hazards. Keep the fireplace clean and clear of debris and flammable items, and use fire-safe tools to move around logs inside the fire.

In the laundry room

Dryers are a frequent source of home fires because dryer lint is very flammable. Dryers can easily overheat if vents aren’t cleaned regularly, and it’s easy for the dryer lint to catch when they do. These fires occur more frequently in the fall and winter months, but can happen at any time of the year. Be sure to clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry, and never use the dryer without the filter in place or with a damaged or clogged filter.

Don’t overload the dryer or dry materials that aren’t safe to put in the dryer. If possible, don’t leave the dryer running while you’re sleeping or not at home. Make sure your dryer has been installed properly and uses the correct electrical plug and outlet.

In the garage or yard

Grills and fireworks are common sources for fires, and these can also be exacerbated by potting soils and fertilizers. Be sure to keep these items far away from each other in cool, dry areas.

Keep these and any other flammable products away from any potential heat sources. Combustible materials, like paint and gasoline, should be stored tightly in their original containers. You can also store tightly closed paint containers upside down so the paint creates a seal. If a container develops a crack or leak, replace it with a container that is appropriate to store the material.

It’s important to do everything you can to safeguard your home, but you can never fully prevent a fire from occurring. The most important thing to do in addition to these measures is make sure your family has a fire escape plan in place and practice it regularly so that everyone can safely evacuate in the event of a fire. To learn more about fire and other home alarm systems, contact Barcom Security today.

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