Each year, there are nearly 360,000 home structure fires nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), resulting in about $6 billion in property damage. U.S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 86 seconds, and tragically, on average seven people die each day from house fires.
With the start of the new year, this is an opportune time to inspect your home to prevent fires from occurring. Keep in mind that many house fires are cooking or electrical-related:
Here are 6 fire safety tips:
1) Unattended cooking
The leading cause of house fires is cooking – usually leaving pots or pans unattended on the stove while you go to another room for “just a minute.”
If you’re frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unsupervised – always stay in the kitchen. Turn off the stove, even if you’re leaving the area for only a short period. Anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, and towels – should be kept away from the range, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen generating heat.
2) Extension cords
Be very careful in any situation where an extension cord is used for extended periods of time. Inspect extension cords to make sure they are working properly. Often, foot traffic, moving furniture, and simple wear and tear can fray and damage these cords, causing a fire hazard. Holiday decorations are often lit for weeks with extension cords, so be sure check that they’re in good working condition.
3) Electronics and other appliances
Portable battery chargers for mobile phones and other electronic devices have become more popular. When these chargers are fully charged and not in use, unplug them so they don’t overheat. Also, remember to unplug clothes irons, curling irons and other similar appliances after use. Don’t just switch the device itself off; unplug it. Also, periodically inspect the power cords of these devices to check for fraying.
If you own a dryer, made sure to regularly clean out the internal lint catchment. If lint builds up in the exhaust vent or inside and around the dryer, it can block the airflow inside the dryer. This can cause the appliance to overheat and potentially cause the lint material to catch fire.
5) Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers
In the event a house fire does occur, these are two devices that can quickly alert you to a fire and bring it under control. For smoke detectors, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends testing them every year, replacing the batteries at least once a year, and replacing the entire device every 10 years. Fire extinguishers should also be stored in convenient locations for easy access, particularly in the kitchen.
6) Create a family escape plan
If you haven’t done so yet, gather your family to create a fire escape route from each room. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. If you have children living with you, consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Then, have your family practice their evacuation routes so they know exactly what to do when a fire happens.
If a house fire becomes large and out of control, DON’T be a hero and attempt to put out the fire! Get yourself and your loved ones out of the house to safety and let the firefighters handle the situation.
Remember that your first priority during a fire is always the safety of you and your loved ones!