Fires are one of the most devastating disasters homeowners can face. With little to no warning, a fire can break out and quickly engulf a home and all of its content. Even if the flames are doused early on, the residual smoke damage and water damage left behind from rescue efforts can ruin your property and personal belongings. To help you prevent (or in worst case scenarios recover from) fires, ServiceMaster is proud to present some fire safety tips and resources for homeowners.
Fire Prevention Tips
Unlike other home disasters (such as those brought about by tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods), the majority of household fires are preventable – with a little thought and preparation. In our next section, we discuss some fire prevention tips to help you avoid the devastation this type of catastrophe can cause.
Prevent Electrical Fires
Roughly 10% of all home fires are a direct result of electrical malfunctions, resulting in roughly $1 billion in property damage each year and up to 1500 reported injuries or deaths. Fortunately for homeowners, electrical fires are one of the easiest types of fires to prevent.
For starters, always be sure to keep flammable items away from any appliance that gets hot. This includes space heaters, ovens, water heaters, and so forth. The same goes for electrical outlets or sockets – never leave paper or other easily ignitable objects anywhere near a power source. All it takes is a single spark to start a blaze!
Another way to prevent electrical fires is to inspect plugs and power cords on appliances and electrical equipment. Be sure to replace any frayed or damaged cords. Do the same for electrical outlets or sockets. Scheduling inspections for the change of each season is a great way to make sure you follow-through.
Overloading electrical outlets is another frequent cause of electrical fires. This occurs when you plug too many appliances into a socket or piggyback one power strip onto another power strip or extension cord. Try to avoid this practice, especially with powerful appliances like refrigerators and dish washers.
Finally, consider having a home inspector, licensed electrical contractor, or electrician conduct an inspection on your home’s wiring – particularly if you have an older home or suspect shoddy electrical work. Outdated wiring practices, such as aluminum wires or using the wrong gauge of wire, are fire hazards and something you will definitely want to get fixed if they are discovered in your home.
Kitchen Fire Prevention
Another leading cause of household fires involves the kitchen – and cooking in particular. The number one rules to avoid a fire of this nature is to never leave cooking food or a hot stove unattended. In addition, be sure nothing flammable is ever kept near the oven or stovetop – this includes towels, electrical cords from appliances, pot holders, wooden spoons, candles, paper, and chemicals of any kind.
Home Heating Fire Prevention for Winter
During the winter season, electric blankets and space heaters can lead to fire damage and property loss if left unattended. Never fall asleep with either of these devices plugged in or turned on. If you leave your home, be sure to switch them off and ensure that they are no longer hot prior to leaving. If you notice any frays in the cords or power plugs, replace the blanket or space heater immediately – don’t risk fire to save a few dollars.
Also be certain that you never leave flammable items (paper, chemicals, cloth or clothing, and so forth) within 3 feet of space heaters and electric blankets.
If you own a fireplace, the above advice is applicable as well. Never leave a fireplace burning unattended or when you go to bed. Likewise, keep all flammable items well away from the hearth. If possible, purchase a mesh guard and place it in front of any fire you start – this will help prevent ash or “sparks” from spitting out of the fireplace. Finally, a dirty fireplace can lead to a fire, as buildup in the chimney and flue can attract flames
and ignite. To avoid this, have them cleaned at least once a year to remove ash, soot, and debris.
Fire Prevention for Children
Young minds are curious and this curiosity can (and does) lead to household fires. Talk to your children about the hazards of fire and the dangers of playing with matches, lighters, and candles. Leave these items out of reach of young children, storing them in high spaces. You may even want to consider putting a lock on your storage space. Train your kids to bring any flammable items to you if they find them.
Finally, develop a fire escape plan, including escape routes, and make sure your children understand it. Post your plan in a place they can find, that is at eye level for them. Include important numbers for them to call in the event of a fire (such as 9-1-1 and immediate family members). Educate them about fire safety and what they should do in the event of a fire.
General Fire Prevention Tips
Below is a list of some general fire prevention tips to help protect your home from fire, fire damage, smoke damage, and water damage (as a result of rescue efforts).
- Never Smoke in Bed.
- Never use light bulbs that exceed the maximum wattage for a light socket.
- Never leave candles unattended or leave them lit when you leave the home.
- Keep all flammable liquids far away from heated areas.
- Clean lint filters in drying machines between every load.
Resources and Information for Fire Safety and Prevention
The following resources provide further information for fire safety and fire prevention, as well as information on recovering and mitigating fire damage, smoke and soot damage, and water damage.
Fire Prevention and Safety Education and Advice
Disaster.com is an excellent resource for Disaster-related information, including information on wildfires, home fires, severe storms, and more. Includes a comprehensive forum where users can ask questions and seek advice for preventing and recovering from catastrophic events.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) page for Fire Safety Tip Sheets
American Red Cross Home Fire Safety guide
Safe Kids Fire Safety Tips for Children
Fire Damage and Fire Disaster Recovery Services
Fire Departments by State