Your home is a sanctuary of warmth and comfort, where cherished memories are made with family. However, with this comforting glow comes the responsibility to ensure the home remains secure from fire threats. A house fire is every homeowner’s worst nightmare, and the aftermath is devastating, especially if you lose all your valuable possessions.
Having an insurance policy is crucial to help prevent the financial losses associated with house fires, but it is far better to deter the incidents that cause fires in the first place. To help you with that, we’ve created this guide on “how to prevent fires at home” so you can save lives and property.
Keep reading for more clarity on this subject of discussion.
What Are the Major Causes of Fires at Home?
Fire is among the most fearsome calamities that can strike a home. House fires endanger everyone at home, and even small fires that can be extinguished easily often lead to thousands of dollars of damage. House fires can be started in many ways, some of which I have discussed below.
- Cooking-Related Fires
Cooking fires are common in many homes, accounting for approximately 50 percent of all residential fires. They are usually triggered by grease overheating on a stove or other cooking appliances.
Grease is highly flammable when it reaches a high enough temperature (approximately 600 degrees Fahrenheit on average). It can combust spontaneously with or without direct flame contact if it gets hot enough. When grease ignites, it’s tough to put out the flames.
Portable cooking appliances like electric griddles pose a potential fire hazard. Avoid leaving portable appliances unsupervised and ensure they cool to the touch before storing them.
Unattended barbecue grills on a wooden deck are also a source of fire during the outdoor cooking season. A heated grill close to a wooden fence may trigger a fire, and rumors have it that grills are common culprits for igniting the exterior walls of a home if placed too close.
Small grease fires can be put out easily by turning off the heat and smothering the fire using a metal lid. You can also sprinkle a reasonable amount of baking soda or salt on the fire to extinguish it. A Class B or K fire extinguisher will also do the trick, but the chemicals may create a notable cleanup issue.
With serious fires, don’t try to fight the fire. It would help to contact the fire department immediately before things escalate. Under no circumstances should you sprinkle water over grease fires, as this may trigger the hot grease to explode and hurl burning grease over the immediate area.
- Heating Appliances
Home space heaters and baseboard heaters can start a fire when fabrics and other flammable items are placed too close to them. Heaters that run on fuel like kerosene are hazardous because they can ignite if improperly watched.
Electrical heaters can start a fire if the electrical wiring is defective or if draperies or other fabrics overheat when they come into contact with the coils. It’s always good to comply with the guidelines on any heating device at home and inspect it occasionally to check that it’s in good working order.
- Electrical Fires
Recent research shows that different types of electrical faults in home wiring cause at least 50,000 fires annually. Electrical fires happen due to short circuits or loose connections causing sparks that ignite building materials or from overloaded circuits, causing wires to overheat.
Hire a certified electrician to inspect your wiring, particularly if you live in an older home. Also, don’t do your own electrical repairs or upgrades unless you have prior experience in doing such work.
Smoking is dangerous to your health in multiple ways, including the risk of igniting fires from cigarette butts dropped on combustible materials like furniture. Such fires frequently occur when a resident falls asleep.
It would be better not to smoke in bed at all costs. It only takes a single stray ash to ignite a blanket, carpet, cloth, or mattress. If you must smoke, do it in an open area outdoors or smoke over a sink using an ashtray to collect the ashes.
Candles are another leading cause of house fires. While they add a wonderful touch to family dinners and holiday celebrations, they can be devastating if left unattended. Keep candles at least 13 inches from any flammable materials.
Consider other alternatives for decorative lighting effects instead of candles. Some excellent battery-operated flameless luminaries are incredibly realistic, right down to flickering like candles do. If you must use candles, place them in a sturdy holder on a level surface.
- Chemical Fires
While chemical fires are more common in industrial and commercial settings, they are also a leading cause of house fires. Residential chemical fires occur when volatile vapors from petroleum liquids reach a flash-point temperature. They can also happen when the fumes come into contact with an open flame.
The other popular type of chemical fire is spontaneous combustion, which occurs when chemicals react with oxygen in the air, producing sufficient heat to reach a flash point and ignite in flame. You can avoid chemical fires by storing fuels and other chemicals in appropriate containers and keeping them from heat.
- Christmas Trees
Christmas trees remain a holiday tradition for most families, but they have some risks. A spark can quickly set the tree aflame. Such fires spread quickly, engulfing a room in no time.
Keep Christmas trees at a safe distance from heat sources, including furnace ducts and fireplaces. Examine decorative lights before putting them on the tree, and throw away any frayed lights.
How Do You Prevent Fires from Starting at Home?
Prevention is better than cure, and the same applies to house fires. Preventing fires at home ensures the safety of your loved ones and eliminates the cost of replacing your priced items. Check below to discover how to prevent fires at home:
- Install a Smoke Detector
You need at least one fire alarm on every floor of your home to alert you to the presence of fire. Smoke detectors come in different types and are either hardwired or battery-powered. You’ll come across special alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers for heavy sleepers.
Test your smoke detector regularly to ensure it works as expected. While each detector brand is different, most share a similar testing method.
They come with a test button, which you should press for a few seconds until you hear an audible siren. Refer to the user manual for guidelines on your particular model.
- Prevent Cooking Fires
Kitchens are filled with numerous fire hazards, such as appliances with faulty wiring, unattended pans, and hot cooking oil. Prevent cooking fires by staying in the kitchen when grilling, frying, or boiling food.
Always wear close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when in the kitchen, and resist the urge to cook if you’re sleepy, drunk, or have consumed drugs that make you drowsy. Lastly, keep kids far from active cooking areas.
- Avoid Smoking in the House
Research shows that smoking is the major cause of home fire deaths in most states. Always smoke outside and remember to thoroughly extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray when done.
Soak cigarette butts in water before throwing them to avoid accidental fires. Smoking must also not be allowed in homes with medical oxygen due to its explosive properties.
- Keep Heating Equipment Safe
Portable space heaters are the main culprit for fires triggered by home heating equipment. It is best to use space heaters only in well-ventilated spaces and place them at least 3 feet away from combustible objects. Make sure your heaters have a functional thermostat control.
- Keep Fireplaces Safe
Fireplaces and wood stoves are also culprits of home fires. Install a spark screen or glass fire door in front of the firebox to keep embers from popping out of the fireplace.
Remove unscorched wood and ash only when embers are absent in the firebox. Have your chimney inspected yearly to ensure that creosote has not accumulated.
- Follow Safe Practises with Appliance Cords
Since frayed or faulty wires can start a fire, adhering to safety practices with your appliance cords is crucial. Consider replacing all worn cords immediately.
Avoid overloading extension cords or wall sockets, and don’t put cords beneath rugs or furniture. Equally important is to avoid forcing a three-slot plug to enter into a two-slot outlet.
- Be Careful with Candles
Candles bring ambiance to your house but are also a leading cause of house fires. Mitigate catastrophe by monitoring lit candles and extinguishing the naked flame when you evacuate the immediate area.
Do not put a lit candle near combustible items like bedsheets, which can be engulfed in flame if they come into contact with a small fire.
Tip: Consider other alternatives for decorative lighting effects, including flameless, battery-powered candles with LEDs.
- Store Flammable Liquids Safely
Flammable liquids like kerosene should be kept outside in their original containers. When storing your lawn equipment for the season, empty the gasoline tank and dispose of the fuel.
Kerosene and propane heaters with a steady open flame must be stored in an isolated area and used only with the appropriate fuel.
- Follow Proper Safety Protocols for Grills and Fire Pits
Nothing matches a backyard barbecue, but if you overlook the safety protocols, you may end up with a backyard fire instead. When cooking outdoors, place your grill or fire pit a few feet away from the house, deck railings, and other structures.
Additionally, regularly clean the grill using soapy water and examine signs of rust and corrosion. Lastly, have a fire extinguisher at your disposal whenever you’re handling open flames outdoors.
- Install Lamps and Lighting Correctly
Most electrical fires stem from inadequately installed light fixtures and lamps. Check that all hanging lights are insulated from wood paneling or ceiling joists and that portable lamps sit on a firm base that won’t easily be knocked over.
Use bulbs with the right wattage and not above the maximum limit. Also, consider well-fitting lampshades. It would also help to upgrade to LED bulbs that emit less heat than halogen varieties.
- Keep Lighters Out of Children’s Reach
Give an inquisitive kid a lighter or match, and disaster is bound to happen. To prevent kids from accidentally starting a fire, lock away matches and lighters. Also, never leave a child unattended with fireplaces, candles, or other flame-emitting objects.
How Do You Prevent Fires from Spreading at Home?
There are many ways to prevent fires from spreading. These are categorized into active and passive ways. Active prevention is typically manually operated, like a fire extinguisher, whereas passive has much to do with a building’s structure. Passive fire protection includes fire doors, fire and smoke curtains, cavity barriers, and so on.
Here’s more information about preventing fire from spreading at home:
- Close Doors: Closing doors during a fire outbreak can help slow the spread of flames to nearby rooms. Doing so buys valuable time for evacuation and assists with containing the fire within a specific area.
- Install Fire Doors: Fire resistant doors can tolerate extreme temperatures and prevent the rapid spread of fire at home. Installing fire doors, primarily in kitchens where fire may originate, adds an extra protection layer.
- Seal Gaps and Cracks: If your wall or ceiling has gaps and cracks, flames and smoke can quickly travel from one section of the house to another. Sealing such openings helps restrict fire movement, potentially saving lives and property during a fire outbreak.
- Window Safety: Consider investing in tempered glass and fire-resistant window treatments to minimize the penetration of flames and smoke through windows. This is instrumental in preventing the fire from escaping through windows.
- Fire-Resistant Materials: Consider fire-resistant building materials as they are a proactive measure of deterring the rapid spread of fire. Such materials effectively tolerate high temperatures, offering a protective barrier for your home.
- Maintain a Defensible Space: This entails clearing away dry vegetation and maintaining a reasonable distance between your house and potential fuel sources. This practice especially applies to those residing in wildfire-prone areas as it minimizes the possibility of an approaching fire engulfing your premises.
- Install Firebreaks: Those in wildfire-prone areas should think of creating firebreaks to restrict a fire’s progress.
- Keep Fire Extinguishers Nearby: Mount fire extinguishers in easily accessible areas throughout your home so that you can respond quickly to small fires that are just getting started. Make sure everyone in your household knows how to use a fire extinguisher.
What Are the 10 Fire Safety Tips?
Whether a homeowner or a renter, you must know fire safety tips to create a safer living environment. Here are the 10 fire safety tips:
- Have an Escape Plan
House fires spread rapidly and can engulf your home in seconds. Sit down with your family and develop an emergency fire escape plan. Make sure all occupants know at least two unobscured exits from every room. If you stay in an apartment building, don’t incorporate elevators in your escape plan.
- Check Smoke Alarm
Install smoke alarms throughout your home, including hallways, outside sleeping areas, bedrooms, and the rest. Consider interconnected smoke alarms so that when one unit activates, the rest follow suit. Test your alarm monthly to check that it’s in good condition.
- Know How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Fire extinguishers are available in different types. Choose a multi-purpose model that is huge enough to extinguish a small fire and light enough for convenient handling. To use, master the word “PASS.” Pull the pin, aim the hose low, squeeze the lever, and sweep the nozzle from side to side.
- Put Out Grease Fires Correctly
Home fires and injuries are mainly caused by cooking equipment. If a grease fire begins in your kitchen, do not sprinkle water or any other liquid, as it will create steam explosions, which could worsen the fire.
Another tip is to never swat the flames with a rag or towel. If the fire is contained to a pot or pan, spread baking soda or salt over it, not the side. You can also cover the pan with a baking sheet to attain the same objective.
- Monitor Smokers
Provide smokers with non-tip ashtrays and soak butts in water before discarding them. Also, advise all household members to avoid smoking in bed or when drowsy, as this might ignite the bedsheets, blankets, or mattresses.
- Use Caution with Candles
Do not leave lit candles unattended, especially if kids are around. Extinguish all candles whenever you go to bed, and keep burning candles at least 12 inches away from combustible materials. Remember to use sturdy candle holders that won’t tip over easily.
- Practice Electrical Safety
Always have extensive electrical projects done by a certified electrician. Huge appliances like stoves and refrigerators should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, not an extension cord.
Never run electrical cords under carpets or furniture because these combustible items can spread fire quickly throughout your home in case of an electrical fire.
- Fireplace Safety
Have your chimney swept annually to remove soot and debris, which can become a fire hazard. When using the fireplace, keep the area free of combustible objects like rugs and blankets, and never leave kids unattended near an active fireplace.
- Use Space Heaters Safely
Inspect the cords for cracks when using a space heater and ensure the unit is a few feet away from flammable items, like curtains. Plug your space heater directly into the outlet, and always turn off the heater when you leave the area.
- Stop, Drop, and Roll
Remember to stop, drop, and roll if your clothes begin to burn. Stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face, then roll back and forth to smother the flames. Use water to cool burned skin for nearly five minutes, then contact the fire department for fire safety medical attention.
How to Prevent Fires at Home
Losing your valuable belongings to a house fire is quite frustrating, considering the amount of time, money, and effort you put into making your home comfortable.
Recovering the intangibles once they’re gone is challenging, so learning how to prevent fires at home is essential.
You can prevent house fires by storing flammable products correctly, installing and testing smoke detectors, cleaning your dryer vent, and keeping kids away from potential sources of fire, among others.