For as long as humans have been cooking with open flames inside of a shelter, we have been trying to mitigate the risk of fire in our homes. A residential fire is a homeowner’s worst nightmare—damage to property is often total, and the safety of loved ones and pets can be in jeopardy. Each year, fires are responsible for over 2,500 deaths and $7 billion in property damage.1
Fortunately, most fires in the home are preventable. In this article, we’ll discuss several tips to keep your family safe and avoid potential fire hazards in your home.
1. Test your smoke detectors
About half of all residential fire deaths occur between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep in bed.2 Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke from a fire and alert the home to the danger, but they’re only effective if they work! Make sure that you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, and that they’re positioned close to the bedrooms so that the noise from the alarm will wake you out of a deep sleep. Remember to test all of your smoke detectors once per month and change the batteries if necessary.
2. Don’t leave open flames unattended
The tranquil glow of an open flame is mesmerizing—but it can also be deadly if you don’t keep an eye on it! In fact, an estimated 8,200 home fires are started by candles each year, and experts estimate that around 85% of these fires could be prevented by following these basic guidelines:3
Don’t leave candles unattended or fires burning overnight
Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire
Always make sure the mantle and area around your fireplace is clear
Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets
3. Be mindful in the kitchen
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of residential fires. In fact, an estimated 164,500 cooking fires occur in American homes every year.4 In order to minimize the risk of fire in your kitchen, never leave anything unattended that’s cooking on the stove. Instead, be mindful and turn off the heat source every time you leave the room. If you’re cooking in the oven, make sure to set a timer and check on it regularly so that nothing starts to burn. You’ll also want to make sure that your stovetop area is clear of clutter and debris, especially around exposed burners.
4. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected
When you start running your heater for the season, remember to replace the filter in your furnace. Last year’s filter will likely be dirty, and a dirty filter can be a potential fire hazard. The same is true for your dryer vent, fireplace, and chimney. It’s a good idea to call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney once every year or two. Fireplaces that are used regularly should have an annual cleaning at the beginning of the season to prevent dangerous chimney fires.
RELATED READING: 4 Simple Ways to “Winterize” Your Home
5. Replace faulty wiring and electrical outlets
Loose connections, damaged electrical outlets, and faulty wiring can become serious fire hazards if they go overlooked. It’s not uncommon to have outdated electrical work in your home, but if damaged, it can cause electricity to arc and spark, leading to a potentially devastating fire. You’ll want to check the main fuse box and make sure it’s up to code and in working order and keep an eye out for any exposed wiring or overloaded outlets. Avoid running electrical cords under rugs, and when possible, make sure electronics are unplugged when not in use. Lastly, remember that large electronic items like televisions and computers can overheat, so they need space from anything flammable.
6. Be careful with heating appliances
Heating equipment, like space heaters, are involved in one of every six home fires. Furthermore, one in every five home fire deaths and half of all fires caused by home heating occur between December and February.5 When you’re trying to stay warm this winter, stay mindful of the potential fire hazards that heating appliances can cause. Make sure you place all space heaters at least three feet away from flammable materials. Turn off space heaters and electric blankets whenever you leave the room, and never plug more than one heating appliance into an outlet.
7. Review your homeowners insurance policy
Homeowners insurance helps protect your home (and pocketbook) against damage or loss from fire. There are ways to save money on your homeowners insurance, such as bundling multiple policies with one company to cover your home, car, and life insurance. Consider talking to your insurance agent about other ways to lower your rate.