Fire extinguisher next to stairs

Fire Risks at Home

Updated April 1, 2024 . AmFam Team

Your home is your castle, and short of building a moat around it, you want to give it as much protection as you can. Learn how to prevent fire hazards and you instantly give your home a layer of protection and you get peace of mind. Let’s take a look at some of the fire risks that may be in your home and ways you can avoid those risks.

How to Keep Your Fireplace Safe

The hearth can be the heart of your home, but it’s also an obvious fire hazard. Few places in the home are designed to manage fire and this cozy spot is definitely one. Brushing up on fireplace safety tips is a great idea for everyone in the home.

Did you know that your fireplace should be inspected and cleaned annually? Whether you have a wood-burning or a gas fireplace, routine inspections keep it burning safely and effectively. In addition to having the professionals give your fireplace a once over, you’ll want to clean the area around your hearth often and always keep the area clutter-free when the fireplace is in use.

When the fire is out the ash can still cause a fire. Embers can remain dormant for days and placing them in a plastic garbage bag, a cardboard box or using vacuum to clean up can cause them to reignite. Safely clean up ash with tools designed for this purpose and store them in a metal bucket with a tight fitting lid.

How to Keep Your Kitchen Fire-Free

The kitchen is another place where fire and heat is used regularly and can pose a risk. Paper towels, recipe cards and pot holders can all catch fire if they’re too close to burners. This is why the U.S. Fire Administration recommend keeping a three-foot safety zone around your cooking area and making sure all combustible items are outside of that perimeter and out of reach from children.

How to Put Out a Grease Fire

When you think of a cooking fire, you may instantly think of a grease fire on the stove. Grease fires aren’t as common as you may think because they’re preceded by thick smoke that alerts you to the danger. But if you do encounter a grease fire, remember to avoid putting water or flour on the flames as that will spread the fire. Instead, use the following steps to put out a grease fire:

  • Turn off the burner. Don’t try to move the pot as it may splash and burn you or spread the fire
  • Cover the pot. If you can, drop the lid on the pot and it should extinguish itself
  • Reach for the baking soda. If you have a lot of it on-hand, baking soda does a great job of putting out grease fires
  • Use a fire extinguisher. Class B fire extinguishers are designed for flammable liquids like grease
  • Aim for the source. When using your fire extinguisher, aim at the base of the fire, not the flames
  • Get out and call 911. If you cannot control the flames or, sometimes even if you did, it’s a good idea to call the experts

How to Store Flammable Liquids

While we’re talking about fire extinguishers, you may want several in your home. One place you’ll definitely want to keep a Class B fire extinguisher is wherever you store your flammable liquids. Most people tend to store gasoline, kerosene or methylated spirits in their garage or basement. These liquids need special attention in how they’re stored, where they’re stored and how they’re handled if a fire does occur. While each fluid is a little different, it’s best to store all of them away from any heat sources and keep a Class B fire extinguisher nearby and use utmost caution when using them.

How to Prevent Dryer Fires

A potential fire hazard in your laundry room is lint that can build up inside your dryer. Follow these tips to prevent lint from causing a dryer fire:

  • Always remember to clean your lint trap
  • Clean your dryer’s vent duct regularly to prevent lint from piling up
  • Consider buying a smooth vent duct instead of the original accordion-style duct that can get lint trapped inside its folds
  • Clean your dryer vent duct by removing the screws that connect the duct to the back of your dryer, then vacuum out the lint

Lint also can accumulate in the dryer cabinet. This is not as easy to clean yourself and having a professional do it every other year is a great way to make sure lint isn’t collecting at a dangerous level.

How to Prevent Appliance Fires

That frayed cord on your toaster may not affect the perfect toast it produces but it’s a fire hazard. Overloading your power points can also be a hazard. The easy solution here is to keep your appliances in great working order and to use all outlets, extension cords and power strips as recommended by the manufacturers.

Barbeque and Grill Fire Safety

Both gas and charcoal grills pose some risks, along with creating some of the most delicious meals around. Creating a dedicated space for your grill that’s on a flat surface, at least 15 feet away from any building and not under a tree is a smart first step. From beginning to end, practice safe grilling habits every time you grill, and you’ll earn a reputation for getting best results.

Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires

It’s always important to take safety precautions if any electrical work is being done in your home. Here are some quick tips that can help prevent electric fires from occurring:

  • Turn off your home’s electricity before doing any electrical work yourself
  • Have your home inspected by an electrical professional if there’s any concern it’s no longer up to code
  • Use sticky hooks instead of nails to prevent puncturing any wires behind your walls
  • Replace circuit breakers with arc-fault circuit interrupters to detect electrical arcs and sparks and stop them before a fire starts

Preventing Fires with Smart Home Technology

No matter what the hazard is, having a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector puts technology on your side. By using smartphone apps, you’ll get updates on smoke and carbon monoxide in your home no matter where you are. A smart home security system puts smart home technology on your side by automatically connecting to the fire department, saving valuable time. And, some smart home devices are eligible for discounts on your homeowners premiums.

In addition to having detectors as required by your state and local laws, having an emergency plan helps protect your family. In an emergency, it’s easy to get flustered and confused, especially if there’s smoke involved. Creating an emergency evacuation plan is the first step — practicing it until it’s habit is the next. People with small children should add monthly fire drills to their routine to ensure everyone in the family knows how to react in an emergency.

The final layer of protection you want to wrap around your home, your family and your valuables is insurance. While homeowners insurance does not prevent a fire, it can help you get back on track sooner. It also gives you the comfort of knowing you’re doing all you can to protect what matters most to you. Connect with your American Family Insurance agent  to see how to best protect your family and home.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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