This week is Fire Prevention Week. While its origins are based in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, it’s also used as a time to promote fire safety with the goal of reducing future injuries and preventable fire accidents. One of the most likely places you’ll encounter a fire is in your own home. Fortunately, reducing the risks of fire hazards in the home is easy – and we can help you get started!
Read on to learn about the most common fire hazards in the home to help you better avoid these risks!
Broken/Dead Smoke Detectors
There is nothing more important to preventing fire hazards in the home than your smoke detector. No matter where you are in your home, a smoke detector’s loud signal can alert you to problems you may have missed until it was too late.
People often neglect the necessary maintenance of checking the batteries. Smoke detectors can’t protect your home if they aren’t being powered.
“But they beep when they need new batteries!” This common argument is true – but it ignores the possibility of smoke detectors going bad when you aren’t home. The warning sound can trigger when you’re on vacation or otherwise away. If this happens, you’ll never know it’s dead until you try to test it yourself.
The solution: test your smoke detectors every month. An even better solution is to invest in a fire alarm system integrated into your home security system. Not only will you be able to rely on your alarms, Habitec’s Central Station can alert the fire department even if you weren’t home to hear the alarm being triggered!
While non-working smoke detectors are one of the hazards putting you most at risk of injury or loss due to fire, cooking is statistically the most likely direct cause of household fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, cooking accounts for over 50 percent of residential fires.
What makes cooking such a major fire hazard in the home?
Making dinner isn’t always quick. A significant amount of cooking time is waiting. Waiting for the oven to pre-heat, for the water to boil or any other long but non-interactive parts of cooking.
Expert home cooks have done it a thousand times and step away. Whether you go to watch a movie upstairs or just sneak away for five minutes sitting on the couch, it only takes a second for a fire to start. It may be boring, but it’s critical to stay in the kitchen when cooking and regularly check on food in the oven.
Children and adults know water is the primary weapon against fire. As soon as you douse a flame, it’s typically done. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the all-to-common grease fire in the kitchen.
The instinctive response to throw water on a fire is a major risk factor in exacerbating small home grease fires. Unlike burning tinder, water on a grease fire will cause a roaring flame which can instantly spread to nearby flammable surfaces like wood cabinets or flooring.
The proper way to deal with a grease fire is to slide a lid, carefully, from one end until it completely covers the pan. If you can’t do this safely, a fire extinguisher can also help. If neither of these options is available, focus on escaping your home and call the fire department immediately.
DIY or Faulty Wiring
Like DIY security, trying to be a “DIY electrician” can spell disaster in the home. Electrical malfunctions account for around 6.5 percent of home fires.
Homeowners often choose to make their own adjustments to wiring and older homes often lack the volume of outlets needed for modern electronics. But improper wiring can be one of the most dangerous fire hazards in the home.
Fires may start within the walls, giving you little opportunity to notice them until they begin to spread. Likewise, continuous use of electronics like televisions, Christmas trees or other devices can all cause a wiring issue to spark into a fire while you aren’t home.
Even if you didn’t make modifications to your wiring, you’ll want to consider hiring an electrician whenever you move into a new home. You never know what previous owners may have done, and an experienced electrician can look for signs of DIY alterations putting you at risk.
Smoking is another common fire hazard in the home, on par with the number of fires caused by faulty wiring. It should come as no surprise, walking around your home with a lit flame poses a risk itself. Some common stories surrounding smoking-related fires are:
- Leaving cigarettes burning in ashtrays where they fall and ignite the carpet or furniture
- Smoking in bed or when relaxing and potentially falling asleep
- Dumping smoldering ashes into trash cans and igniting the contents
- Accidentally dropping a lit cigarette into a hard-to-reach place where it ignites other objects
The best solution is to either stop smoking or look for ways to keep your smoking outdoors. Outside, on concrete or other fire-resistant surfaces, your chances of accidentally causing a fire decrease – though the risk still exists.
Nobody can argue the beloved conveniences of modern home appliances. Everything from laundry to cooking to even cleaning up your dishes have been made easier thanks to these tools. Unfortunately, like any electronic device, they’re prone to design flaws and malfunctions.
Even if you do everything right, any home appliance can be a fire hazard in your home. The biggest culprits, of course, are ones actively working with heat, such as your oven, stove, dryer, or clothes iron. In addition to the risk of electrical faults, the heat produced by these devices can directly spark a fire.
Avoid these risks with proper maintenance. Always clear your lint trap, keep your stove clean of oils and keep flammable items a safe distance away. The better care you take of your appliances, the more you can control potential fire hazards.
Be vigilant! Your direct attention when using appliances helps prevent a fire from spreading out of control before you can react. As mentioned above, your best line of defense is to ensure your smoke detectors are working, in case a distraction pulls you away. It only takes a few seconds for a fire to become too much for household fire extinguishers!
Between the years of 2012 to 2016, over 8,000 home fires were started due to candles. While this number is significantly less than some other fire hazards in the home, it’s still notable for being a completely preventable source of property damage and loss of life.
The main source of candle fires are candles being placed too close to other objects or left on overnight. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using candles, and they’re often used for several reasons:
- Loss of electricity
- Religious activities
- Enjoying candle fragrances
Stay alert and aware when a candle is lit. Despite being a tiny flame, it’s still an open flame in your home!
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