Preventing House Fires Year Round
On average, more than 300,000 house fires occur each year in the United States. House fires are the number-one disaster threat to homeowners and unlike natural disasters such as tornadoes and floods, most of them are preventable. To help you greatly reduce the risk of a house fire in and around your home, we’ve created a quick list of fire safety tips for year round. We’ve also listed some very surprising items in your home that are fire hazards if left unattended so be sure to take these fire-prevention steps to help keep your family safe:
Sources of home fires that are often overlooked
And of course, make sure to check your smoke alarms and familiarize yourself with the fire hazards around your home — especially these surprising ones:
- Loose batteries: Nine-volt batteries, which power smoke detectors, are designed with both posts on the top. Bits of metal, including other batteries and loose change, can create a bridge between the posts that causes a heat-creating charge. To prevent this, keep unused batteries in their original packaging and cover the posts of expired batteries with black electrical tape before properly disposing of them.
- Dust bunnies: If dust collects near electrical sockets and floor heaters, just one spark can cause a fire. Sweep or vacuum your floors regularly to prevent buildup. Pay close attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as behind doors or around entertainment systems.
- Clothes dryers: Cleaning the lint trap should be part of your regular laundry routine. Left untouched, lint can build up in your dryer duct with every load of laundry. Have a professional inspect and clean your dryer at least once a year to help eliminate a fire hazard.
- Glassware: When sunlight passes through some kinds of glassware, the concentrated ray can ignite flammable materials such as stacks of papers. Play it safe by moving all glass accessories, including vases, away from windows.
Year-round safety tips for preventing home fires
- Keep your stove company. Never leave the kitchen when you have food cooking on the stove. If you must leave the kitchen for any reason, remove the pan from the heat and turn the burner off.
- Care for your cords. Electrical cords can produce heat, so make sure they have room to “breathe.” Never trap them tightly between a piece of furniture and the wall or run them under a rug. Check the condition of cords regularly. Frayed wires or those damaged by pets are potential fire starters.
- Store dangerous materials safely. Flammable products such as paint thinner and lacquer can be ignited by heat sources around your home—even by sunlight streaming through a window. Always keep flammable products in a cool, dark place and in their original containers.
Preventing house fires during the colder months of the year
Believe it or not, homes are at a higher risk of fire during the colder months of Fall and Autumn right on through the shorter days of Winter. This is mainly due to using many more sources of light and heat in the form of exposed flame and displaying illuminated decorations with defective wiring.
- Control candles. Keep lit candles away from materials that could easily catch fire, such as curtains. Never light candles when you’re feeling drowsy—accidentally falling asleep plays a role in 12 percent of all candle fires. Opt for battery-operated candles if you want a little bedtime glow.
- Enjoy your fireplace safely. The National Fire Protection Association recommends making sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Also, allow fireplace and wood/pellet/coal stove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container.
- Use LED powered decorations: Older decorations that use incandescent bulbs produce much more heat and can lead to igniting a fire. The most commonly known example are older tree decorations igniting a Christmas tree. Using decorations with LEDs produce almost no heat and use much less power. They also help cut down your electric bill!
We’ve covered some surprising causes of home fire, but did you know that smoke alarms simply not being maintained properly, disabled by a resident for the sake of convenience, or not being installed at all are also a huge factor in contributing to fire deaths?
- When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
- Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
- Three out of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
- In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
- An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed, to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.
You can learn more about preventing fires in the home from the National Fire Prevention Association.