Few accidents are more devastating than a house fire. Each year in the U.S., residential fires cause thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in damage. Even more troubling is the fact that most of these fires are preventable. The leading cause of house fires is cooking, with heating, electrical malfunctions, and unintentional fires following closely behind. Fires are tragic and dangerous, but there are many things you can do to help prevent house fires and protect your home and family.
1. Check cords and electrical wiring.
Frayed cords and wires do not have the necessary protective exterior to keep electrical currents from igniting surrounding objects and areas. For this reason, it’s important to inspect electrical cords and wiring regularly and replace any worn parts. Cords and wiring can also generate heat when in use, so you should never run cords under a rug or trap them between furniture and the wall.
2. Don’t overload outlets.
Plugging too many things into one outlet or using the wrong kind of outlet for an appliance can overload the circuit and cause the plastic casing on the outlet to ignite. Only a surge protector can prevent power spikes, but it’s important to note that not all power strips are surge protectors, and plugging too many things into an average power strip is equally dangerous. You want to make sure you are plugging things like computers and other valuable electronics into a designated surge protector. Similarly, large appliances, like refrigerators, should always be plugged directly into the wall and never into a surge protector or extension cord with a smaller capacity.
3. Never leave cooking food unattended.
Since cooking is the leading cause of house fires, it is so important to make sure you are present when food is cooking. Food can easily burn, grease and oil can ignite, or pots could boil over and start to burn. Always stay present when cooking to prevent fire, and be sure to keep a kitchen fire extinguisher readily available.
4. Keep the stove and oven clear.
Don’t place anything flammable near the stove, such as towels, cookbooks, or even low-hanging curtains or other kitchen decorations. Also, be sure to keep the stove and oven clean, as food splatter and grease can ignite later when the stove or oven is turned back on.
5. Clean dryer vents regularly.
Lint buildup is dangerous and could cause a dryer fire. Always check the lint trap between each load of clothes. In addition to checking the lint trap, be sure to regularly inspect the area around the dryer for pockets of lint or dryer sheets, and check the outside dryer vent on your home several times per year to be sure it is clear of debris.
6. Inspect heating sources.
Alternative heat sources, such as space heaters and fireplaces, can cause fires if left unattended. Only use modern space heaters with updated fire safety features, and have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually to prevent house fire. Additionally, change the filters in your home’s heating system regularly to prevent a build-up of lint and dust, and have your heating system inspected annually to ensure it is working properly.
7. Properly store flammable products.
Many household cleaners are flammable, as are many cosmetic items. Check the instructions on these containers to make sure these items are being stored properly—usually, in a cool, dry place away from any heat sources, including direct sunlight.
8. Regularly test and change the batteries of smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms can’t detect fires if they aren’t working properly. Test smoke alarms once per month and change dead batteries as soon as you’re alerted that they are low on power. It’s also important to make sure that you have a smoke alarm in each bedroom, as well as in every hallway of your home. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
9. Install a security system with a smoke alarm.
Many modern security systems can be set up to integrate smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. With these systems, you can get alerts about potential emergencies via the system’s mobile app or text alerts, even when you aren’t at home, and many security companies will automatically notify emergency services if an alarm goes off. You’ll also receive notifications when batteries are low.
While many of these precautions may seem like common sense, it can be easy to overlook small hazards and put your home at risk. Taking these simple steps can help you be prepared in the event of an emergency and dramatically reduce the likelihood that you will experience a fire in your home.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.