Strategies for Preventing House Fires
Of the thousands of people who perish each year in fires, the overwhelming majority – 84 percent – succumb in their own homes. House fires can flare for many reasons, including electrical problems, outdoor fires, and unattended candles. The most common cause of death from house fires, however, is from cigarettes that have been left carelessly lit.
Keeping Your Home Safe From Fire
Many house fires start because of carelessness and can be prevented by taking simple fire safety measures to protect your home. Follow these fire safety tips to reduce the risk of house fires:
- Be careful in the kitchen. Fire safety and prevention is especially important in the kitchen, so keep kitchen appliances unplugged when you’re not using them (of course, that goes for appliances elsewhere in the house, too). Never leave the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop, and keep flammable items away from the stovetop.
- Use heaters wisely. Have your furnace or heating system inspected annually, and avoid potentially dangerous causes of fire like kerosene heaters. Always use a screen in front of an indoor fireplace to keep flames away from furniture and drapes, and be cautious when using space heaters — follow all directions to the letter.
- Be vigilant about cigarettes. If you or a guest in your home is a smoker, watch those butts. Always use a deep, sturdy ashtray. For fire safety, never smoke cigarettes in bed. And before bed or heading out the door, do a quick scan around and under the furniture and linens to make sure there are no still-lit cigarette butts.
- Clear up the clutter. Don’t let highly flammable materials clutter up your home. Regularly clean out old newspapers, magazines, and other things likely to quickly catch and spread a fire.
- Go easy on electrical outlets. Never plug too many appliances into one outlet, and don’t use extension cords permanently. Don’t use light bulbs that are too powerful for the lamp or fixture.
- Blow out the candles. Only light candles in a room where you can keep an eye on them, and never leave a room with a candle burning. Blow out all candles before bed or leaving the house, and use candles with a sturdy base that aren’t likely to fall over.
Preventing Outdoor Fires
Fires that happen outside the home can quickly become house fires if you don’t take care to stop the spread and protect your home:
- Practice safe grilling:
- Always keep a fire extinguisher or a hose near the grill.
- Never grill indoors, not even in your garage.
- Don’t use gasoline to get a fire going.
- Always store and use a barbeque grill at least 15 feet away from your home, car, garage, trees, and shrubs.
- Keep propane gas tanks away from the home.
- Never spray lighter fluid onto an existing fire.
- Practice fire-safe landscaping:
- Keep the landscaping around your home thin to prevent fueling any fires.
- Don’t store firewood near your home.
- Landscape with fire-resistant shrubs and plants.
- Avoid small shrubs and trees beneath or near larger trees.
- Clear any dead trees, shrubs, leaves, and plants away from your home.
- Keep grass and trees near your home watered, especially if you live in a dry area.
- In addition to all these tips, take extra precautions if you live in an area prone to wildfires; get in touch with your local fire department for specific advice.
Fire Extinguishers and Other Fire Safety Equipment
Protecting yourself by being prepared for a fire emergency in your home is one of the best fire prevention steps you can take. Stock up on this basic fire safety equipment to protect yourself in the event of a fire:
- Working smoke detectors on every level of your house and in crucial areas, like the kitchen and near bedrooms
- Fire extinguishers throughout the house (always one in the kitchen)
- A safety ladder to help your family get out of the house from floors above ground level
- A sprinkler system installed in your home
- Easy-to-open windows and screens
You can’t always prevent house fires, but so many of the tragedies that occur each year could have been prevented with a little care and preparation. Protect your home, your life, and your family by being fire-safety savvy and reducing your risk of house fires.