You’ve installed smoke alarms in your home and test them frequently, but what steps are you taking to prevent fires from occurring in the first place? With more than a million house fires injuring thousands of people and causing billions of dollars worth of damage in the U.S. every year, having a prevention plan might not only save you an insurance claim; it could save a life. Continue reading to learn seven of the most common ways fires start at home and what you can do to prevent them.
Kitchen fires are not only the most common source of house fires, but they can also get out of hand very quickly – especially if grease is involved. They usually occur when a frying pan is left unattended on the stovetop and are worsened when flammable objects, such as kitchen towels, are left nearby. To avoid a fire in your kitchen, always use a timer when baking, and never leave a stovetop unattended while cooking. We also recommend keeping flammable materials like paper towels, oven mitts, and food packaging in a separate counter space far away from the stove when preparing food.
Candles may smell nice and create a pretty ambiance, but they are also the cause of thousands of structure fires every year. They are often left burning unattended, where children or pets can move them, knock them over, or even set flammable materials near or on them. If you choose to burn candles in your home, always place them away from combustibles and out of the reach of kids and pets. Also, make a point to extinguish candles before bed, as most candle fires start in bedrooms after owners have fallen asleep.
Outdoor grilling is a popular pastime, but it can also present a fire hazard without proper safety precautions. To keep the fire on the inside of your grill, be sure to start with clean surfaces, as the buildup on dirty grills can spark a blaze. Also, pull your grill safely away from overhangs, eaves, shrubs, tree branches, deck railings, and other structures that could catch fire. Finally, do not leave your grill burning unattended, as doing so is one of the top three causes for grill-related fire damage.
If you clean your lint screen after each load of laundry, you are off to good start at preventing a dryer-related fire. However, there could be unseen hazards lurking in places you cannot see them – particularly your vent duct. Over time, lint can accumulate in sagging areas of accordion-style vent ducts. Be sure to check your duct periodically for buildup, and consider replacing it with a short metal version that will not acquire low points.
Electricity is a modern luxury that improves our lives in countless ways, but it can also be very dangerous when proper safety precautions are not adhered to. To avoid an electrical fire, inspect your electrical outlets to ensure they are not loose. Whenever possible, be careful not to overload an outlet with the use of extension cords. Instead, unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use. Also, the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) can help sense and prevent electrical shock and electrical fires when they start.
Portable heaters can help warm areas of your home while keeping your utility bills down during the colder months of the year, but they are also the second most common source of house fires. To minimize your risk while still keeping the heat on, be sure to keep your space heater on a flat, level surface at least three feet away from other objects and combustible materials. You should also avoid leaving your portable heater running unattended or while you are away from home.
Solvents, stains, other highly flammable liquids can sometimes generate heat as they dry. If they are soaked into rags, drop cloths or other combustible materials, this could lead to a spontaneous fire even without external exposure to heat. If you work with flammable liquids and materials, follow manufacturer instructions for disposal. Instead of throwing stain-soaked rags into a pile, for example, you might instead deprive them of oxygen in an air-tight, metal container.
Have a Plan
Your fire response plan is just as important as your prevention plan. If your home catches fire, get everyone safely out and call 9-1-1 immediately. Keep fire extinguishers in your home, and remember that grease fires should be smothered since using water or a fire extinguisher on them could exacerbate the flames. Finally, make sure your homeowners or renters insurance coverage is up-to-date and providing adequate protection for your house and belongings against a potential fire.