Fire Safety Checklist: Preventing Fires and Keeping Your Family Safe
Fire Damage

Fire Safety Preparation: Preventing Home Fires and Smoke Damage (Updated for 2018)

To celebrate National Fire Prevention Week, which runs Sunday, October 7th through Saturday, October 13th, we’re sharing our fire safety prevention guide to help prevent residential fires. The theme for this year’s Fire Prevention Week is Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware – fire can happen anywhere. ™

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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is promoting these three easy to remember tips to reduce the risk of home fires and keep your family safe:

  • Look for places fire can start
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
  • Learn two ways out of each room

A recent study by the NFPA concluded that residential fire-related deaths are 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980. While the message of Fire Prevention Week applies to businesses as well, the NFPA is focusing their message on residential fire safety for this reason.

“While we’ve made significant progress in preventing home fires from happening, these statistics show that there’s still much more work to do when it comes to teaching people how to protect themselves in the event of one, and why advance planning is so critically important,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, in a press release.

How to Prevent Fires In Your Home

Following along with the NFPA’s message of look, listen, learn, our fire prevention checklist will help you reduce the risk of home fires and help keep your family safe.

Many homes now have smoke detectors thanks to extensive fire prevention and awareness programs, but it’s all too easy to forget to test them and replace batteries regularly. While smoke detectors are a good defense, it’s important to have and know how to use a fire extinguisher as well.

Avoid burning candles longer than an hour at a time and never burn a candle down to the end. Never leave food unattended on the stove. Try to limit clutter that can act as an accelerant and properly dispose of trash. Always store flammable materials like gasoline, oil, charcoal in airtight containers away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks.

Review our entire fire safety checklist to help prevent fires:

Preventing Fires Throughout Your Home

  • Install smoke alarms in your kitchen, every bedroom, and other common rooms and test monthly, and replace batteries every six months
  • Install and maintain at least one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home
  • Avoid leaving open flames and heat sources unattended, including candles, fires, kitchen cooking surfaces, space heaters, or electric blankets
  • Never use any electrical device if the cord is frayed, cracked, or shows signs of damage or deterioration
  • Do not run electrical cords under carpets
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets or extension cords
  • Do not use extension cords with electric blanks or space heaters
  • Check that light bulbs are the recommended wattage for each fixture
  • Electric blankets and space heaters should be approved by an independent testing laboratory
  • Space heaters should be at least three feet from flammable materials, including furniture, bedding, and curtains
  • Store matches and lighters in a secure location that is out of the reach of children
  • Keep all areas clear of excess clutter and trash
  • Store all flammable materials, including fuels, oil and lubricants, and oil-based paints and stains, in airtight containers away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks

Preventing Fires In Your Kitchen

  • Have a fire extinguisher in easy reach while cooking
  • Clean cooking surfaces regularly to avoid a buildup of food and grease
  • Avoid leaving pots and cooking items unattended
  • Never place foil or metals in the microwave
  • Smother a grease or oil fire with a lid or use your fire extinguisher
  • Never use water on an oil fire, use salt or a heavy lid to smooth the flames instead

Preventing Fires In Your Laundry Room

  • Clean the lint trap after every use
  • Thoroughly vacuum the lint trap at least once a year
  • Check exhaust ducting at least once a year and clean or replace as necessary
  • Keep the area surrounding the dryer and the exhaust ducting clean and free of lint and other debris
  • Upgrade plastic or foil accordion-style exhaust duct material with rigid or semi-rigid metal ductwork

Preventing Fires In Your Basement

  • Have furnace cleaned and inspected by professionals every year
  • Keep the area around your furnace, water heater, and any other equipment that generates heat or has a flame clear of flammable materials
  • Keep the burner-access door on your water heater closed
  • Look for loose wires or signs of deterioration inside your breaker box
  • Have arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) installed by a professional electrician
  • Keep basement clear of excess clutter and trash
  • Store all flammable materials, including fuels, oil and lubricants, and oil-based paints and stains, in airtight containers away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks

Preventing Fires In Your Garage

  • Upgrade to a solid door between garage and house and install a threshold and weather stripping to prevent the fire from moving into your home
  • Clear your garage of excess clutter and trash
  • Store all flammable materials, including fuels, oil and lubricants, and oil-based paints and stains, in airtight containers away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks

Preventing Fires Around Your Fireplace

  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected by professionals every year
  • Install a fireplace screen
  • Keep the area surrounding your fireplace clean and clear of debris and obstructions

The Most Common Causes of Smoke and Fire Damage in the Home

Kitchen Fires

One of the most common causes of residential fires is from cooking food left unattended in the kitchen. Overheating oil can produce thick, black smoke in less than a minute. Microwaving metals are likely to produce sparks and may start fires in just seconds. While cooking-related fires are unlikely to result in structure fires, they can produce significant smoke damage and spread soot throughout your home.

Heating System Fires

Heating systems are another major cause of fires. Properly maintain your heating systems and keep the areas around them clean to prevent fires from flame rollouts. When using space heaters, avoid using extension cords and keep units a safe distance from curtains, bedding, and other flammable materials.

Smoking Fires

Smoking can also cause fires in the home, especially when smoking in bed. Make sure all smoking materials are properly extinguished to prevent residential fires and smoke damage. Empty ashtrays regularly and avoid smoking while laying in bed or when drowsy.

Dryer Fires

Another common cause of smoke and soot damage is poorly maintained dryers. Make sure to clean the lint trap after every use and vacuum out the trap at least once a year. You should also check the exhaust ductwork on your dryer too, as it can become blocked by lint. Clean or replace the ductwork if necessary.

Candle Fires

Candles are another common cause of fires in the home. Avoid burning candles for an extended period and never leave them burning while you are not home or asleep.

Fires Started by Children

Children are naturally inquisitive, so teach them about the dangers of playing with fire at an early age. Keep lighters and matches stored safely out of reach and avoid burning candles or incense around young children. Warn young kids of the dangers of playing around ovens and stovetops and work with older children to develop safe cooking habits.

About the NFPA Fire Prevention Week

The National Fire Protection Association was founded in 1896 to raise awareness about the dangers of fires and eliminate death, injury, property and economic loss related to fires and fire hazards.

Observed annually during the week of October 9th, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire that killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. The fire began on October 8, 1871, destroying more than 2,000 acres over three days.

Fire Prevention Week is the longest-running public health awareness event, dating back to 1922. President Calvin Coolidge made the event an official national event in 1925. For more fire safety tips and information about the NFPA Fire Prevention Week 2018, visit

Professional Fire Damage and Smoke and Soot Restoration Services

No matter how big or small, a fire is a very stressful event. Fire damage is destructive if not cleaned quickly. Due to the acidic nature of soot, it can quickly stain and even corrode. Prolonged exposure increases the chances of more severe damage.

As the largest network of restoration professionals, Restoration Local will connect you with a trained fire damage cleanup company to restore your home or business. Find a fire damage removal company near your now or call 1-888-443-3110 to schedule a free estimate with our on-call fire cleanup technician nearest you.

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