5 Ways to Prevent House Fires
When it comes to fire safety, it’s always good to prepare, but it’s better to prevent. Remembering to blow out candles and give space heaters…well, space, are good places to start. Consider these how-to’s for preventing fires from starting or spreading, and keep these fire safety tips top-of-mind to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Educate Everyone on Fire Risks and Safety
The first and most important thing you can do is make sure everyone in the household is educated on fire safety measures, including children. How many of us leave the kitchen with food cooking on the stove? The answer is probably most of us. It’s unsafe, and yet we do it anyway. Utilize your resources, including your local fire department, to educate your family on household fire safety and make small but preventative changes around the house — like turning the stove off every time you leave the room — even if it’s just for a moment to answer the door or load the washer.
Test Your Smoke Alarms
The U.S. Fire Administration suggests testing smoke alarms once a month and changing their batteries twice a year. But a lesser known detail is that it’s best to replace the alarm itself every 10 years.
When that time comes, consider upgrading to smart detectors. These connect to Wi-Fi and send alerts to your phone when an alarm goes off or the batteries need to be replaced. They can also be integrated with a larger smart home system that can then notify emergency services of the fire. Upgrading to a smart device could also qualify you for the American Family Insurance Smart Home discount.
Keep in mind, every level of the house and every bedroom or sleeping area should have a working smoke detector.
Keep Lawn Clippings and Other Flammable Items in Safe Places
Built up lawn clippings and dry leaves can create heat and start fires. After a hard day of yardwork, keep the debris a safe distance from the house and dispose of it as soon as possible.
Other common household items that are flammable should be stored according to their safety labels and kept away from sources of heat. These include:
Make sure the cap is securely on the bottle. Store it in a cool, dark place with even temperatures to prevent discoloration and destabilization of the formula inside. It’ll keep you safe from fire hazards and preserve your nail polish for longer.
Store rubbing alcohol in a temperature-stable environment away from sparks and open flame. Keep the cap tight on the bottle to avoid evaporation.
Hairspray and Other Aerosol Cans
Keep all aerosol cans away from open heat or flame. Baking spray should be kept far from stovetops and ovens, and hairspray should never be used to light a fire — no matter what action movies tell you.
Gasoline & Paint Thinner
Store gasoline and paint thinner out of the rain and in a covered, well-ventilated area, but not in your house. Never smoke, light a match or build a fire near flammable containers.
Store cooking oil in cool, dry places that maintain a steady temperature. Don’t leave it on the stovetop while cooking, and don’t pour it down the drain when you’re done with it. Dispose of cooking oil in a sealed container — preferably non-recyclable — and throw it out with your regular garbage.
Flour should never be used to put out a grease fire as it is highly flammable and possibly explosive. Store it away from hot surfaces and other heat sources, like gas burners, and take care when cooking roux or choux pastry that may require flour be added directly into hot pans.
Keep Pets Contained
When you’re not home it’s best to keep pets, especially new, untrained pets, in a crate or a safe room where they can’t mistake electrical cords as chew toys or a bathroom. This will also prevent your little fur babies from nestling into tight spots, like the refrigerator motor.
Check Your Home Appliances and Wiring
Lastly, perform regular checks around your home and keep up with maintenance. It’s easy to forget out-of-sight areas, like crawl spaces and ventilation shafts. Here are some areas to keep in mind:
- Electrical wiring may have frayed over time, or been damaged by pests. Check crawl spaces, attics and basements, and bring in a licensed professional to replace faulty wiring.
- Make sure your air conditioner and heating unit are cleaned regularly and functioning properly. Also, avoid using extension cords for air conditioners.
- Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year, and use a screen to prevent embers from flying out into the living space while in use.
- Use only dried/seasoned hardwoods in your fireplace that have aged for 2-3 years.
- Keep your stove and oven free of built up grease, and clean the vent hood and regularly.
- Clear the lint trap of the clothes dryer after every load, and keep the outside vent clean.
Implementing these fire safety practices around the house is just a start, but protecting your home doesn’t stop here. An American Family Insurance agent can help you make house fire prevention a regular practice.