A house fire can change your life in a matter of minutes. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to prevent home fires. Most house fires are the result of cooking and smoking accidents or malfunctioning heating equipment. Fortunately, a few common-sense steps can limit fire damage and even prevent home fires all-together. We look at how to prevent home fires and keep your family safe.
How to Prevent Home Fires
- Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms – Install smoke alarms in all major rooms, all bedrooms, and on every floor. Replace the batteries every 6 months.
- Have a Fire Extinguisher on Every Floor – Install a fire extinguisher on each floor. Review the instructions at least once a year and replace the unit as indicated by the manufacturer.
- Create a Fire Evacuation Plan – Create an evacuation plan and review it with your entire family. Have a home fire drill at least twice a year to ensure everyone knows what to do.
- Cook With Caution – Avoid leaving food unattended on both the stovetop and the oven to prevent home fires. Keep a fire extinguisher within reach as well.
- Use Space Heaters Properly – Use caution when running space heater and keep then at least 3 feet away from other objects. Avoid running them overnight, especially in bedrooms.
- Avoid Smoking When Tired – Smoking is the number one cause of home fires. Never smoke if you are tired, laying down, or in your bed.
- Keep Matches Out of Reach of Children – Store matches, lighters, and other sources of ignition away from young children. Teach older children the importance of fire safety.
- Check Electrical Cords – Damaged electrical cords can start a home fire. Check electrical cords, especially on holiday lights and other items that you use infrequently before plugging them in.
- Burn Candles Safely – Avoid leaving candles unattended when lit and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Always use a candle holder and never burn a candle completely to the end.
- Clean Dryer Lint Traps – Clean the lint trap in your dryer after every use. Inspect the exhaust duct for lint buildup at least once a year.
- Properly Store Flammable Materials – From gasoline to charcoal, store all flammable materials in a cool, dry space away from heat, flames, and sparks to prevent home fires.
What Causes Home Fires
Fire requires three elements: oxygen, an ignition source, and fuel. Oxygen is all around us and your home contains plenty of items that can serve as either an ignition source or fuel. Areas like the kitchen, the garage, and storage rooms can all contain a house fire waiting to happen.
In addition to areas in your home, think about your daily habits. Do you regularly leave the kitchen when you have a gas burner on? Do you smoke in your living or bedroom? When it is cold outside, do you use a space heater or electric blanket? Take the time to consider your personal habits and living area and those few moments to plan might make a huge difference in preventing home fires.
11 Steps to Preventing Home Fires
1. Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms
Help prevent house fires by installing smoke alarms in all major rooms and bedrooms. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor, as well as in your garage. Make sure everyone knows what the alarm sounds like and test them once a month. Change the batteries every 6 months and replace any alarm that is more than 10 years old.
2. Have a Fire Extinguisher on Every Floor
In order to prevent home fires from spreading, you should have at least one fire extinguisher on every floor. Fire extinguishers should be easily accessible, so avoid storing them in cabinets or closets. Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, preferably close to your stove. In addition to the kitchen, consider having a fire extinguisher next to your dryer, in the garage, and in the hallway nearest to your bedrooms.
3. Create a Fire Evacuation Plan
Have a written fire escape plan in the event of a house fire. Review the fire evacuation plan with everyone in your home. Hold fire drills at least twice each year to ensure everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire. Your evacuation plan should have at least 2 exits as well as mark the location of all fire extinguishers.
4. Cook with Caution
Careful cooking is one of the best ways to prevent house fires. Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended. If you need to leave the room even for a minute, remove the pan from the heat source or shut off your oven. Completely remove the food from the stovetop or oven if you need to leave your home for any reason. Avoid cooking when sleepy, drowsy, or fatigued. Make sure that stoves and ovens are completely turned off when not in use.
5. Use Space Heaters Properly
To prevent house fires when using space heaters, keep them at least 3 feet away from other objects. This includes drapes, curtains, clothing, and furniture. Avoid running a space heater while sleeping and do not leave them unattended. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take note of the maximum operating time. Unplug space heaters when not in use to prevent them from accidentally getting switched on. Supervise children and pets when using space heaters to prevent accidents.
6. Avoid Smoking When Tired
Smoking-related incidents are a major cause of house fires. Avoid smoking while you are in bed, laying down, in a recliner, or if you are intoxicated or tired. Always extinguish cigarettes and smoking materials in a large ashtray. Empty the ashtray frequently to prevent home fires. Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before dumping them in a garbage can.
7. Keep Matches Out of Reach of Children
Keep matches, lighters, and other sources of ignition in a high place, out of reach of children. Do not allow children to play with matches or lighters and teach them about fire safety. Likewise, do not allow children to play with gas-powered burners or other flammable items.
8. Check Electrical Cords
Damaged electrical cords and wiring may short-out or start a home fire. In order to prevent house fires, keep electrical cords out of well-traveled walking areas. Avoid pinching, crimping, or stretching electrical cords, as this can cause cracks or damage in the protective coating. Do not run electrical cords underneath carpeting or place heavy furniture on top of cords. You should never daisy-chain extension cords or max out electrical sockets as well. Check cords for damage before plugging them in and replace frayed or damaged cords immediately.
9. Burn Candles Safely
When using candles, keep them away from any other flammable materials. Put candles out when you leave the room and under no circumstances should they be left burning overnight. Use a stable candle holder that will not tip over or catch on fire. Supervise children and pets while burning candles and avoid burning them completely to the end.
10. Clean Dryer Lint Traps
Clean the lint trap on your dryer after every load to prevent home fires. Check the exhaust ductwork on your dryer every year for lint buildup and replace it as necessary. Avoid crushing or crimping accordion-style dryer ductwork, as this can prevent exhaust from flowing and result in a house fire.
11. Properly Store Flammable Materials
Store flammable materials away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks. This includes fuels, oil, lubricants, and oil-based paints and stains. Ideally, you should store flammable items in airtight containers.
What To Do After a House Fire
Use common sense if you have a home fire. For smaller fires, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. If the fire is larger, immediately call your local fire department. Use a fire extinguisher to block the flames while you evacuate your home. If the fire department responded to a fire in your home, wait until either they or a licensed fire inspector clears you to reenter your home.
Take photos of the damage for your insurance claim. Document the cause of the fire, steps you took to put the fire out, a list of your smoke alarm and fire extinguisher locations, and whether the fire department was caused. In most cases, fire damage cleanup is covered by your insurance. Review your insurance policy or contact your agent for more information.
Begin fire damage cleanup as quickly as possible after a house fire to prevent permanent smoke and soot stains. When possible, begin fire damage cleanup within 24 to 48 hours of a home fire to limit the extent of the smoke and soot damage. Additionally, try to complete your fire cleanup within a few days of the fire. The longer you take to clean up the damage, the less likely you’ll completely remove the damage.
Get Fire Restoration Services After a Home Fire
If you have fire damage or smoke stains after a house fire, Restoration Local will connect you with a fire damage restoration company near you. As the nation’s #1 director of restoration contractors, we have listings for both independent fire damage companies as well as the most popular brands like DKI Restoration and Restoration 1. If you need immediate service, call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with our on-call fire damage contractor in your area. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour emergency service and free, no-obligation estimates on fire damage cleanup.