Detecting and Preventing a Home Fire

Last week was National Fire Prevention Week. While the number of structure fires is down by 10% from 2013, there were still over 1.3 million fires reported, or one every 65 seconds. Every 2 hours and 42 minutes, a person dies from a fire, which is up by 13.5% in 2013. There were over 3,200 fire deaths last year, of which, 3 out 5 may have been averted had there been a working smoke alarm in the home. Even where smoke alarms were present, 23% of all home fire deaths were attributed to smoke alarms that didn’t make a peep.

With this in mind, let’s focus our attention on improving fire detection and warning, as well as how to prevent a home fire.

Smoke Detectors: A working smoke detector should be placed near the ceiling in every bedroom of an apartment or home, as well as all hallways leading to bedrooms. One should also be placed near the ceiling in the kitchen too. If you live in a multi-story home, smoke detectors should be placed on all levels, including the basement.

Smoke detectors should be checked monthly to ensure they work. Batteries should be replaced twice yearly such as when the time changes in the fall and spring. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. If you’re buying or just bought a previously owned home, go ahead and change the detectors as you would the locks.

Fire Prevention: Having working smoke detectors is important to surviving a fire; avoiding one in the first place is even better. Here are 21 actions you can take to avoiding a home fire.

  • Do not leave cooking unattended, especially if you’re cooking with oil and grease.
  • Keep all combustible items such as towels and cooking mitts away from cooking areas.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen that’s rated for kitchen fires.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from combustible material such as curtains, furniture, throw rugs, etc.
  • If you have a fireplace, have the chimney cleaned annually and do not place ashes in a paper or plastic bag until you’ve confirmed there are no burning coals present.
  • Have your furnace inspected annually.
  • If you smoke, do not smoke in bed or on upholstered furniture.
  • Smoke outside and use deep, sturdily built ashtrays.
  • Ensure all smoking materials are completely out before going back inside or going to sleep.
  • Do not use any small appliance with a frayed or loose electrical cord.
  • Do not overload an outlet with plugs, nor run electrical wires underneath a carpet or rug.
  • Do not burn candles near combustible materials.
  • Keep candles of reach of children and pets.
  • Blow out all candles before leaving a room or your home.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children
  • Consider updating your electrical panel if your home is over 50 years old.
  • Store flammable liquids in a cool, dry area, away from all sources of heat, and out of the reach of small children.
  • Keep Christmas trees and decorations a safe distance away from heat sources, and refill the tree stand with water daily if you have a fresh cut tree.
  • If you have a gas grill, perform regular maintenance on it.
  • Do not use a charcoal grill in windy conditions where sparks could blow onto dry grass or leaves.
  • Keep all grills away from flammable areas such as wood siding, decks, trees and shrubs.

What else would you recommend? Share your recommendations, experiences, and questions with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook and Google+ pages. I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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