While every year, we see a decrease in the number of deaths resulting from home-based fires, the instances of fire in the home remain far too numerous, considering that many fire catastrophes are preventable. 85% of deaths associated with fire occur within the home. Something as simple as a burning candle, or an unattended stove, can be enough to ignite an unstoppable flame that destroys your house, and harms your family.
While some disasters are unpredictable, understanding the hazards in your home can help to reduce the risk of fire. The following list covers some of the most common threats to be aware of, and preventative measures you can take.
Cooking and Clutter
Around 41% of home fires start in the kitchen, contributing to 15% of all fire-related deaths in the home. In other words, your kitchen holds more fire threats than any other part of your house. When a pan overheats, splattering grease, it only takes a few seconds for the flames to engulf the rest of the room. The best way to avoid disaster is to keep an eye on food when you’re cooking – particularly when using high temperatures, or oil. Most kitchen fires happen because people become distracted and leave appliances unattended.
It’s also crucial to maintain a clean and organized kitchen. In the event of a grease fire, or small flame, clutter in the kitchen acts as kindling that can exacerbate the problem. Keep combustible items, like kitchen towels and cookbooks, at least three feet away from any source of heat.
Faulty Wiring and Electricity
Electricity is what we use to wake up in the morning, to be productive, and even to relax; but it also represents significant risk in a household. Old, damaged wiring is responsible for approximately 50,000 home fires a year. It might seem costly to have an electrician assess your property for frayed cords and damaged electricals, it will be much less than the possible injuries that could occur if you ignore the problem. Once a professional has checked your wiring, be sure that you use your electricity carefully. Keep these tips in mind for safe electricity usage:
- Avoid overloading extension cords, or using them to permanently plug in appliances. Extension cords are for short-term use and may cause hazards over time.
- Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in outlets located in the basement, garage, bathroom, kitchen, and outside. These devices shut off an electrical circuit when a fire hazard occurs.
- Use light bulbs that don’t exceed the maximum wattage on the fixture or lamp.
Dryers and Washing Machines
It may be practically impossible to live without your washer or dryer, but it’s important to remember that these appliances represent a significant threat when not given adequate attention. In 2010, about 16,800 fires involved drying machines or washers. While you may be unable to prevent every potential fault, you can take precautions to decrease risk. For instance, clean the dryer’s lint catcher every time you use the machine. Lint is highly flammable and can quickly build up, creating a perfect atmosphere for fire.
You should also ensure that your appliances have plenty of space for air to circulate around them while they are on.
Candles and Smoking
Candles and smoking are two of the most obvious sources of home based fires. Candles fill your home with romantic lighting and great scents, but they can be extremely dangerous when left unattended. If you plan on leaving a candle burning non-stop, use flameless or battery-operated products; or, find alternative products that can melt wax without an open flame. Keep burning candles twelve inches away from any other object, and on surfaces where they won’t be accidentally knocked over.
While smoking may not involve a persistent, open flame like a candle, it represents a similar threat. Burning ashes can quickly lead to catastrophe when combined with combustible materials; so be sure to smoke outside, or away from furniture, and use wide, sturdy ashtrays.
Safety with Smoke Alarms
This list addresses just some common fire hazards; others include misuse of space heaters, children playing with fire, storage of flammable products, and even holiday decorations. While awareness of the risks will reduce the chances of an unnecessary fire, you can never eliminate all risk completely – be prepared with an emergency plan if a fire should occur, and protect your valuables in a fireproof safe.
Though many threats are preventable, the best way to protect yourself against avoidable (and unavoidable) risks is to use a smoke detector. In 2014, the NFPA reported that one home structure fire occurred every 86 seconds, and three in every five house-fire deaths happen without a working smoke alarm present.
It’s impossible for us to remain aware of threats at all times – smoke alarms provide valuable seconds to families responding to an emergency. Check your detectors at least twice a year, to help keep your home safe.
Which measures have you taken to protect your home against fire hazards? Let us know in the comments below!