With over 250,000 house fires each year, nothing can equal the value of lives lost in these deadly natural disasters. But increasing overall awareness can help to prevent them, such as turning the stove off and blowing out a candle before you leave the room. Taking simple steps like these will not only prevent major property damage but keep you and your loved ones safe.
The key to preventing a house fire is to be aware of all fire hazards on the property. Keeping young children and pets away from these dangerous objects will also keep them safe. Finally, by ensuring that they are kept a safe distance away from any sparks, flames, and heat, you will significantly lessen the chances of your home becoming a part of this statistic.
Tips on How to Prevent House Fires
1. General Fire Safety
- Make sure there are working smoke alarms installed in every room and remember to change the batteries every six months.
- If you live in an area with frequent lightning, you can install a protection system to prevent outages, overloaded circuits, and flying sparks.
- Consider having a home sprinkler system. At any time a fire is detected while you are away, these systems can prevent the fire from spreading too far.
- Teach your kids about fire safety and to stay away from matches, candles, lighters, and open flames. You may want to keep these hazards locked away for safe keeping.
2. Conduct a Home Inspection
- Whether you feel confident that you can inspect every inch of the house yourself or hire a professional, make sure that all wiring, heating, air conditioning, and plumbing are in good condition. This will not only prevent power outages but flying sparks that can quickly turn into a fire if it makes contact with a flammable substance.
- Check the attic and crawlspaces thoroughly for any untreated water damage or if any critter has found and chewed on the wiring. Many insects and nuisance wildlife will chew on the insulation and padding to expose the wire, if they haven’t chewed them already.
- If you do find that any wiring or appliances are damaged, unplug and replace them immediately. While unplugging them, use a pair of electricians’ gloves to prevent injury from any flying sparks.
3. Inspect the Electrical System
- When checking the electrical system, inspect each circuit, fuse box, panel box, as well as the circuit board to ensure that nothing is overloaded. Check to see that there is only single circuit running through the board and they are not combined. You may want to check with an experienced electrician if you are unsure.
- Know the differences and similarities with power strips and surge protectors. You are able to plug in electrical devices to both of them, but only the surge protectors will prevent a power spike. You will want to use these on the devices with high monetary value, such as your phone, laptop, TV, etc.
- All grounded receptacles must be connected properly, such as to either two or three-pronged appliances. While there are adapters to allow three-pronged to connect to two-pronged, avoid having too many of them on one circuit.
- If any breaker connections have become damaged, such as thermal, corrosion, damaged insulation, or poorly taped, replace it right away. Allow a fire damage restoration technician to inspect the building materials around it and remove any smoke residue.
- Any connections that have been installed correctly, such as using the wrong material or are too tight or too loose must be repaired right away. Failure to do so can lead to overheating as well as fire damage.
4. Inspect all Appliances
- Remove all grease and crumbs from the oven, stove, and microwave. To prevent a flame from using the grease to spread quickly, make sure these appliances are completely clean before turning them on.
- Check the power cords behind the appliances, looking for damaged wiring, insulation, or outlets. Replace anything that is broken or has exposed wire.
- Inspect the stove vent hoods and filter on a frequent basis. If the stove has an exterior vent, check it to ensure that nothing is blocking the air flow, such as bird nests, dust particles, leaves, and other debris.
5. Check the Dryer
- Inspect the dryer vent to ensure that it is using the proper duct material and that it is installed properly.
- Never forget to clean the lint out of the filter after each use to allow for proper air flow. Also clean out the vent on a regular basis.
- Check behind and under the dryer to remove any remaining lint.
- At any time you are using the dryer, make sure that it is turned off before leaving your home. You can always turn it back on when you return.
- Keep a smoke alarm in the laundry room or above the dryer to detect any smoke the moment it occurs.
6. Be Careful with the Space Heaters
- Keep all space heaters at a safe distance from young children, pets, and flammable materials (curtains, furniture, blankets, etc.).
- Place the heater on a solid, firm surface with minimal traffic, avoiding tables, chairs, and high shelves to prevent them from tipping over and causing severe injuries.
- Avoid using extension cords with the space heaters because they can overload the cord, causing it to overheat and even start a fire.
- Replace old space heaters, especially if they are damaged.
7. Be Careful When Using Extension Cords
- In addition to space heaters, do not use any air conditioning units with extension cords.
- Keep them away from moving furniture, foot traffic, and other furniture to prevent additional damage.
- If you are using them during the holidays, keep in mind that the decorations will be lit for weeks and that a high quality cord is needed during heavy use.
8. Fireplace Maintenance
- Before using your fireplace, make sure that it is properly inspected and cleaned at least once each year.
- Remove all ash and other burned wood before lighting the fire, placing and transporting them in only a metal bucket away from the property.
- Inspect the chimney and fire pit area (hearth) for damage sheet metal, cracks, and other potential hazards.
- Always use a barrier around the fireplace when using it, such as a wire mesh spark screen or glass doors to prevent sparks from igniting the floor if they pop out.
- Be careful of the type of wood used for the fire. Only burn the seasoned, dry wood (not damp or green wood) to prevent the accumulation of creosote in the chimney. Avoid using cedar in an open fireplace to prevent sparks from popping out.
- Do not burn anything other than wood in the fireplace, such as trash, trees, paper, cardboard, etc. This will prevent chimney fires.
9. Be Careful with Ignition Sources and Flammable Materials
- To be extra safe, keep all flammable liquids, such as paint thinners and gasoline in approved containers and away from the house.
- If any electrical appliance shows a pilot light when connected to gasoline, remove it from the garage right away and dispose of it properly.
10. Kitchen Fire Safety
- Never leave an open flame unattended on the stove or any other appliance.
- Keep a small fire extinguisher readily available in an easily accessible area for immediate use when needed. Ensure that it is always in working condition.
- Keep the stove and oven clean, especially before using them.
- At any time you are cooking with oil, keep a metal lid or cookie sheet next to the flame to suffocate any flames that get out of control. When doing this, do not touch the pan or use water, as the oil can splash and spread the flames.
- Do not cook while drinking alcohol, taking medication, or are very tired. Instead, eat something small, such as vegetables or fruit while cooking (if you are not tired). Otherwise, eat a sandwich or cereal and go to bed early.
- Keep away hot pads, towels, tea clothes, or any other flammable materials from open flames and hot surfaces.e
11. Keep Emergency Phone Numbers
- In any case that you do find a fire of any size in your home, make sure to keep a list of emergency contacts, such as the fire department as well as your local fire and smoke damage restoration company to respond immediately.
- Always keep all phone numbers of your loved ones.
12. Only Smoke Outside
- If you must smoke, always do so outside to prevent burning ashes as well as cigarette and cigar butts from touching carpet or wood surfaces.
- Before disposing of the cigarette, use an ashtray to put it out properly. Or run it under water before throwing it away.
13. Be Careful with All Other Open Flames
- Pay extra attention during the holidays as there will be a lot of burning candles. Make sure they are all kept in safe areas away from young children and pets.
- Consider covering flames with a wire cage to prevent severe burns.
- You may also want to use flameless candles instead to avoid the flame altogether.
- Extinguish all open flames on candles, oil lamps, and other decorations before leaving them alone.
- After extinguishing a match, run it under water before throwing it in the garbage.
14. Use Caution Around the Christmas Tree
- Christmas trees will be covered with lights as well as ornaments made of flammable fabrics. Make sure the lights are high-quality, such as LED.
- If you have purchased a real tree, pick one that is young and not too dry or damaged to prevent any possible fires from occurring.
- You may be surprised when watching a Christmas tree catch fire on YouTube.
15. Unplug Electrical Devices
- As soon as you are done using any electrical appliance, including hair dryers, straighteners, curling irons, charges, etc., unplug them.
- Disconnecting these devices can also lower your electric bill.
16. Pet Fire Safety
- Especially if you have just adopted a new dog or puppy, keep them in the crate while you are sleeping or are away to prevent them from getting into trouble.
- With new cats, keep them in a small room where they cannot hide, such as under furniture or other large appliances.
- Keep cats and dogs busy by providing them with toys, treats, and food to keep them away from cords.
- Don’t forget to keep other small animals, such as ferrets, chinchillas, birds, hamsters, etc. away from fire hazards, always supervising them when they are out of their cages.
- If your pet has a chewing problem, keep them away from electrical cords, wiring, and appliances, for everyone’s safety.
- Scold your pets if you find them chewing or urinating on any other flammable material or fire hazard.
17. Outdoor Fire Safety
- When raking leaves in the fall time, keep them away from the building, especially if you choose to burn them.
- If there are a lot of lawn clippings, also keep them away from the structure as they will create heat when fermenting and can possibly catch on fire.
- Use extra caution when using your grill, cleaning it before and after using it.
- Keep in mind that wooden decks can easily catch fire if any burning wood or sparks fall. Consider using non-flammable pads for extra safety.
- Turn off the grill and propane before leaving them alone for any period of time.
Emergency Help – Fire Damage Cleanup
Taking measures today will always significantly reduce your chances of a property fire from occurring, but there are numerous possible causes for it to happen. Whether it happened while you were out of the house or sleeping, once a flame has started, it will spread within seconds to consume the house. But as soon as you notice it, don’t hesitate to evacuate everyone immediately. After ensuring their safety, call 911 for the fire department to put out the flames. But what is just as important is to call for emergency disaster restoration services.
While it is always best to keep the number of your local emergency restoration provider on hand, check out ServiceMaster of North Texas. For all property owners living in the Dallas, TX area, you can expect an immediate response from our fire damage restoration technicians. Equipped with advanced products, equipment, and training, you can expect our professionals to return your home to its original condition in no time. Don’t hesitate to give us a call for more information!