House fires are devastating. You could lose everything you own, and in the worst-case scenario, even your life. Luckily, there are things that you can do to protect your home and help ensure the safety of your family, pets, and belongings.
The National Fire Protection Association is an excellent resource for all things about home fire safety. It is the best place to discover the top risks of home fires, which include cooking equipment, candles, smoking, heating, and electrical issues. Knowing these top causes of home fires will help you make your home more fire safe—we’ve broken down the essentials for you here.
Keep a Clear Path to Exits
If your house starts to burn, do you have an escape route?
You should have a plan for wherever in your home the fire starts, whether it means crawling out of a window or getting out of one of your doors.
If you have a lot of clutter, work on getting organized. Keep space clear so that you can get to all of the windows in your home, as well as other exits. Don’t keep a lot of stuff packed up in boxes (which will be like added kindling to a house fire).
Install (and Maintain) Smoke Alarms
All homes need smoke alarms. They save lives: fires don’t always happen when you’re awake and aware of them. Sometimes they happen when you and your family are fast asleep.
Picking a smoke detector isn’t as easy nowadays as it once was. There are tons of options out there, from cheap to pricey. This guide from How-To Geek has everything you need to know about the different types of smoke alarms, and Review Geek has even put together a list of the best smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for your home.
Where should you put your smoke alarms? There should be one in each bedroom and one on each floor of your home (including your basement and attic). Keep one outside each bedroom area, too. Hang them high, within 12 inches of the ceiling (smoke rises). If your smoke alarms use batteries, change them every year and test them monthly.
Store Batteries Properly
Improperly stored batteries can spark and cause a fire. Make sure unused and old batteries are stored away from metal items and flammables. Your best bet is to keep all batteries in their original packages, especially 9-volt batteries (these are most prone to fires since the positive and negative terminals are both on one side).
When disposing of old batteries, it’s safer to keep them in the empty box they came from. Then, contact a place that takes dead batteries for proper disposal since they aren’t recyclable.
Invest in a Fire Extinguisher
All homes should have at least one fire extinguisher. There are different types of extinguishers, but for the home, you can go to your home store and purchase a fire extinguisher or two. They’ll probably have a general purpose dry chemical extinguisher and a kitchen-specific option (which will help put out grease fires). If you have a garage you often work in, you may want to invest in one that puts out fires with chemical combustibles, too.
Keep your kitchen clean, and keep flammable items away from the kitchen. Don’t stack stuff around the stove. Always check inside your oven before you turn it on to preheat.
If you don’t have outlets with emergency breakers on them, get them installed. These are important in kitchens and bathrooms.
Keep Your Home’s Heating System Maintained
When it comes to heating your home, you should keep a few things in mind to prevent house fires. Not only should you make sure to upkeep your furnace yearly, but you should also avoid stacking a bunch of stuff around it.
If you’re using space heaters, follow the instructions. Turn them off when you’re not in the room. Keep them three feet away from furniture, clothing, and other stuff.
If you lose power, make sure your generator is outdoors. Fire isn’t the only risk you face when improperly using a generator: they can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have Your Electrical System Checked or Updated
Electrical fires can start from nowhere. The electric in your home runs through the walls. Mice chew on wires, older wires wear down and fray, and leaks in your roof and windows can cause water to get into outlets and into the wires in your walls. All of these things pose a threat.
Save yourself trouble and money by updating old wiring, having wiring and outlets checked in areas where water has leaked, and keeping rodents under control.
Practice Candle Safety
Burning candles can help warm a room, both physically and aesthetically. It’s a great way to add a delightful scent or mood lighting to your home. However, improperly used candles are a significant fire hazard.
Always use heat-resistant containers that are made for use with candles. Don’t try to move a hot candle holder (even after you’ve blown the candle out); let it cool first. Never leave a candle lit when no one is in the room to watch it. Don’t burn candles close to curtains.
Smoking is terrible for your health in many ways. Not only does it increase your risk of cancer, but smoking also increases your risk of a house fire.
It’s common for people to fall asleep with a lit cigarette, which can quickly lead to flames. You might also not put your cigarette out entirely, or leave it lit in an ashtray and forget it when you get busy.
If quitting smoking isn’t in the cards for you, be very mindful of your smoking habits to keep your home safe. Those smoke detectors could save your life. Although no one can completely prevent house fires, following all of these tips will significantly reduce your risk.