Have you ever imagined that there are hidden fire hazards around house? Well, here’s what you need to know!
House fires can be both terrifying and disastrous. They can spark quickly, spread uncontrollably in seconds, and cause massive destruction of property and life in their wake. While having a home insurance policy can help ease the financial burden of recovery, there are some losses that no money can compensate for.
Fortunately, most house fires can be averted with proper education on the hidden fire hazards around the house and how to practice fire safety. Identifying the hidden fire hazards within your home and removing potential sources of stoking and spreading flames can help minimize the likelihood of a house fire.
Fire hazards around the house include faulty smoke detectors, a dirty stove, unattended candles, and frayed electrical cords. Preparedness is key because accidents do happen. Therefore, it’s always good to have a fire escape plan in an emergency.
Keep your family and property safe by considering the following hidden fire hazards in your house.
Hidden Fire Dangers In Your Home
Avoiding simple mistakes in critical areas like the laundry room, garage, and kitchen is crucial in deterring severe consequences. Here’s everything you should know regarding fire hazards around your home:
- Space Heaters
Space heaters will keep you warm, but they are not without risk. During the fall heating season, most homeowners resort to supplemental heating sources to keep the chill at bay. Space heaters are a popular way for homeowners and renters to raise the temperature.
However, what most people don’t realize is that these devices must be placed at least three feet away from combustible materials, like bedding and furniture, to avoid starting a fire.
Cooking is by far the leading cause of house fires. The kitchen contains many flammable elements that must always be supervised while cooking. When a fire starts, it is extremely dangerous and challenging to put out.
Greases, whether from food or cooking oil, are highly combustible and can ignite even when not in direct contact with the flames. We recommend cleaning your oven, stove, and cookware off grease and debris to mitigate spontaneous combustion.
If a grease fire does break out, don’t attempt to extinguish it with water, as this might trigger the hot grease to explode in all directions.
Small grease fires can be smothered by turning off the heat, covering the pan with a metal lid, or sprinkling baking soda on the flames. You can also use a fire extinguisher to obtain the same objective, though the cleanup of chemicals will be extensive.
Outdoor cooking with barbecues, grills, and grease fryers can also be a source of house fires. It’s best to place these tools far from the side of your home and nowhere near a highly flammable material. Also, please do not leave them unsupervised when they’re actively producing flames or heat.
Electrical distribution and lighting equipment can trigger home structure fires due to insufficient, loose, or faulty electrical connections. Short circuits, sparking connections, overheated wires, and lighting fixtures that are inappropriately matched to the current are all potential hazards that the untrained eye might easily miss.
Hire a certified electrician to do a routine annual inspection of your home’s electrical grid, safely perform necessary repairs and upgrades, and recommend the latest safety devices and protection.
Too much electricity is a potential fire hazard, so avoid this by unplugging electrical items when not in use, using surge protectors to keep your electronics from sudden electrical spikes, and replacing damaged cords.
- Smoke Detector
A faulty smoke detector won’t sound an alarm during a fire. So check your unit regularly to ensure it is in good working order. Smoke detectors feature a test button for testing the unit’s functionality.
Press the test button for a few seconds until you hear an audible beep, indicating that the device works as expected. Replace the batteries per the manufacturer’s recommendations and the detector itself if it’s aging or malfunctioning.
Chemical Fires in homes often occur in two ways: when chemicals come into contact with an open flame or heat source or when chemicals mix with oxygen to generate enough heat to ignite.
Most household chemicals, like gasoline, are highly flammable if used with improper caution. Such chemicals should be kept in their original containers (with the proper use labels and warning still attached) and sealed adequately.
Keep chemicals far from heat, furnaces, electrical sources, and other elements with which they could spark a fire.
- Intentional Fire Setting
Candles, fireworks, matches, decorative lighting on Christmas trees, and lighters are all risk factors that can easily trigger fire accidents in and around your home without due diligence.
Similar to open flames or flammable heat sources, these should always be supervised. Place candles on non-flammable surfaces, away from playful children, and at least 12 inches away from combustible materials.
- Gas Water Heater Fire
Recent research shows that the biggest culprits in appliance fires are combustibles near gas water heaters and lint in clothes dryers. If you pile clothes near a gas water heater, they will ignite when you turn on the water heater, even more so if the protective doors for the gas burners are missing.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that your home’s chimney be swept annually by a professional. This fire safety measure aims to keep the chimney free of soot and debris, which can become a fire hazard.
When using the fireplace, keep combustible items like rugs away. Also, create boundaries to prevent kids from playing near a working fireplace.
Sawdust ignites easily and should not be left lying around the garage. There are many components, such as electrical wiring, a short spark from metal objects colliding, and chemicals during woodworking projects that can easily ignite a pile of sawdust. Ensure you clean up this fire risk periodically.
The aged wiring of antique appliances poses a safety risk because it dries and becomes brittle, potentially fueling a fire. Those who fancy buying vintage light fixtures should know how old the wiring is, whether it has been replaced, and so on.
The best way to determine if the wiring is safe is by searching for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label somewhere on the wiring.
- Exposed Light Bulbs
Closet lights without an enclosure around them present a fire risk in your home. Under normal conditions, a 60-watt light bulb won’t get hotter than 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, under extreme conditions, it can reach temperatures of 290-500 degrees, hot enough to ignite items such as table tennis balls.
Paper is a leading cause of house fires, yet most people don’t pay close attention to their location. Newspaper in the garage near a lawnmower’s gas tank is a common ignition source. Find a good hiding place for your papers in your home, away from ignition sources.
What to Do When Fire Breaks Out In the House
You always hope that you’ll never be the victim of a fire. Regardless of your efforts, a fire risk will always exist, so you should plan and know what to do when a fire breaks out in your house. It will keep you calm if it does ever happen to you.
Here’s how to respond when a fire breaks out in the house:
- React as Soon as the Smoke Alarm Goes Off
When your smoke alarm goes off, your priority will be evacuating your family members as safely as possible. Don’t attempt to grab your valuable possessions. You only have a few minutes to escape safely, so disregard all secondary concerns that have nothing to do with being alive.
Once you’re out of the house, contact the emergency services and provide them with your home address so they can quickly arrive before the whole place is engulfed in flames. After that, keep the line open to see if they need more information.
- Extinguish the Fire If It’s Just Getting Started
If the fire has just sparked, grab your fire extinguisher and extinguish it immediately. To operate the fire extinguisher, Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher to break the tamper seal, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the extinguisher handle to release the dousing agent, and Sweep the nozzle from side to side to suffocate the fire. Ensure the fire is completely out to avoid reigniting.
One caution, though, is that the fire extinguisher you use must be rated to extinguish the flames you’re fighting. For instance, if the fire results from ordinary combustibles, you’ll need a Class A fire extinguisher.
Class B extinguishers are effective against oil and gas fires; Class C is best for electrical fires, Class K is for kitchen fires, and Class D is for combustible metals.
- Crawl Beneath the Smoke to Escape
Fire emits smoke and poisonous gases that, if inhaled, can trigger lightheadedness or loss of consciousness, which can be problematic when attempting to flee a burning house. To flee a fire and its fumes, crawl to the nearest exit. Staying low to the floor protects you from breathing toxic gases and smoke.
- Stop, Drop, and Roll If Your Clothes Catch Fire
Should your clothes ignite, halt your activities instantly, drop to the ground, and roll around until the flames are smothered. Shield your face with your hands while rolling to protect yourself.
- Check Doors and Door Knobs for Heat
If you must pass through a door to reach safety, check its temperature before opening. A warm door indicates that there’s fire on the opposite side. In this case, you’ll need to find an alternative exit.
If this doesn’t work, ward off the smoke while waiting for help. To achieve this, close the door and seal all vents and cracks with tape or cloth. Doing so keeps the smoke out for as long as possible.
If you are trapped in a second-story room, take a brightly colored cloth and hang it out of the window to seek help from bypassers.
How to Prevent House Fire
There truly is no place like home. It’s where you create beautiful memories with your family, adding an extra layer of anxiety at the mere thought of a home fire.
Why take those chances? While you can’t control everything, there are multiple precautions you can take to reduce the risk of a house fire. Let’s jump in!
Check the House
Check the condition of your home’s electrical system. Wear your rubber sandals and remove any metallic accessories you might be wearing because they can conduct electricity.
- Examine inadequately grounded receptacles. Most modern appliances need a “three pronged” (grounded) receptacle, but people sometimes use an adapter or break a ground prong off an appliance cord for convenience. However, retrofitting circuits to provide grounding is best entrusted to a certified electrician.
- Examine the attic and crawl spaces for wiring that pests or insects might have damaged. Some old wiring is insulated with material vulnerable to insect consumption, while rodents, like squirrels, will chew the thermoplastic insulation off of contemporary nonmetallic cables (Romex).
- Look for overloaded panel boxes, fuse boxes, or circuit breakers. Check for breakers or fuses with “piggy-backed” circuits. These are rated for single circuit protection, though sometimes, in undersized panel boxes, people put two wires in the terminal of one breaker or fuse.
- Pay attention to flickering lights or intermittent power surges. Outside influences trigger these conditions, but if they happen frequently, they may signal a bad connection.
Check the natural gas system:
You’ll need to look for loose fittings, defective pilot lights, leaking valves, and debris or inadequately stored combustible items in areas near these appliances.
- Examine the vent stacks on gas water heaters, furnaces, and dryers.
- Inspect the automatic ignition systems on these fixtures and look for lint or dust accumulation in the immediate area around them.
- Have the gas plumbing, valves, and other components inspected by a professional whenever you smell gas leaks.
- Never switch anything on if you suspect a gas leak, as this could spark a fire. Ensure proper ventilation so the gas goes out safely.
Check the air conditioning and heating unit in your house:
These systems function with electric motors and air-moving equipment, necessitating regular maintenance. Always hire a professional engineer to address any issues with your electrical systems, particularly air conditioners.
- Clean your interior air conditioner coils and frequently replace your return air filters. Doing so keeps the fan motor from overworking. Never use extension cords for window air conditioners.
- Clean and service the resistance coils or furnace burners at the start of the heating season because debris can build up there while the system is not in use during the summer.
Checking and Safe Use of Household Items
Check your appliances:
- Clean your stove and oven to get rid of grease accumulation. Also, examine stove vent hoods, clean the filter periodically, and ensure that if it’s outfitted with an exterior vent, birds do not establish nests or hinder the airflow through it.
- Inspect your appliance power cords. Check for missing grounding prongs on the plugs and damaged insulation, and replace or repair any defects.
- Clean the lint trap and outside vent in your clothes dryer. Some dryers come with internal ductwork that can be clogged and demand servicing, so check the dryer to see if it is functioning poorly.
Be careful with space heaters:
- Keep combustible items away from portable heaters (usually 3 feet).
- Place your space heater far from a high-traffic area in the room.
- Use heaters only on firm surfaces. You should never place them on chairs or anywhere they can fall easily. You may also want to upgrade to advanced space heaters, which automatically turn off if tipped over.
- Avoid covering lamps with fabric to dim them. Instead, purchase a lower wattage bulb or turn off the lamp.
Maintain your fireplace appropriately:
- Examine the firebox for cracks, damaged sheet metal, and other hazards.
- Install glass fire doors or a wire mesh to keep embers from flying out of the fireplace.
- Burn dry, seasoned wood to deter creosote accumulation in the chimney. Be cautious with certain woods, like cedar, which pop excessively when burned. Such woods are not suitable for open fireplaces.
- Remove ash only when there are no embers in the firebox. Put the ash in a metal bucket and place it outside, away from flammable materials.
- Consider annual chimney inspection and cleaning to ensure the safe operation of your fireplace.
Keep combustible liquids far from ignition sources:
- Store highly flammable liquids such as gasoline and paint thinners in containers approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and out of the house.
Be careful when using an extension cord for prolonged periods:
Often, moving furniture, foot traffic, and other hidden hazards damage extension cords, causing a fire. During the holiday season, decorations are usually lit for extended periods using these cords. If you’re using extension cords, choose high-quality ones with a sufficient rating for the intended purpose.
Stay in the kitchen when cooking:
Whether going to the basement to pick onions or running out to check your deliveries, you should turn off all the burners. After all, you’re only leaving for a concise period, so you can instantly turn the cooking appliances back on when you return. This safety measure helps prevent kitchen fires.
What’s more? Have a metal lid or cookie sheet nearby when cooking with oil so that when flames appear, you suffocate them instantly.
Don’t use water to extinguish grease fires because heated water will explode into steam and cause serious burns. Also, oil will splash and spread the fire.
Taking Care in Daily Activities
Never lie down when smoking:
Standing up while smoking prevents one from falling asleep. If you’re too tired, extinguish the cigarette in an ashtray or water-damp sink before sleeping.
Don’t be tempted to smoke in bed, as you might accidentally drop your cigarette on bedding or other flammable materials, causing a fire.
Be careful with open flame illumination:
Open flames such as candles or oil lamps should be covered with a wire cage to avoid anything from falling or blowing onto the flame. This safety measure also keeps kids and pets from coming into contact with the flame.
Close the house doors before going to bed:
While closing interior and exterior doors blocks sound from your kids and alarm systems, it helps restrict the movement of smoke and heat in the event of a fire. This keeps your room from bursting into flames, with the door taking all the thermal damage on the opposite side.
Be careful when using a grill outdoors:
If using a grill on a deck, put non-flammable pads under the grill because decks are combustible. It’s best to have a fire extinguisher nearby to combat flames before they get out of control. Additionally, don’t leave the grill unattended while cooking, as doing so can result in a fire.
Install Fire Prevention Tools
Install smoke detectors:
Install smoke detectors in critical areas throughout your home. This is critical for the early detection of a fire and could mean the difference between life and death. Fire can occur in different ways, but no matter where or how, investing in a smoke alarm is the first step toward your family’s safety.
Install a fire sprinkler system:
Fire sprinkler systems are renowned for putting out fires when you’re away and at home. Since they are automatic, fire sprinkler systems respond quickly to a fire, helping to contain it before it escalates.
Hidden Fire Hazards Around House
Your home is your haven and your refuge. But when that tranquility is torn apart by fire, it’s distressing. Home fires cause massive property destruction yearly, but you can prevent them by first understanding the hidden fire hazards around the house and taking precautions.
Fire hazards around the home include frayed or damaged electrical cords, malfunctioning appliances, clutter around cooking areas, unattended candles, faulty wiring, and flammable liquids, among others.
Avoid catastrophic consequences of a fire by installing and maintaining smoke detectors, being careful with lit candles, scheduling professional chimney sweeps annually, and other measures previously discussed in this guide.