It’s National Fire Prevention Week, which is the perfect time to take a few minutes to make sure you are doing the right things to prevent a house fire.
This topic is near and dear to me. Before I became a Redfin agent and started helping people buy homes, I helped people protect their homes from fire. I served as a volunteer firefighter for several years and unfortunately responded to many house fires that could have been avoided with proper prevention. I also worked at the Congressional Fire Services Institute in Washington, D.C. where I educated members of Congress about fire safety issues.
House fires can be absolutely devastating for homeowners and families and many of these tragedies could be avoided. Take the following steps to protect your home from fire and keep your loved ones safe:
- Test your smoke detector regularly. This is the single most important piece of advice I can offer. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of five house fire fatalities involve homes without working smoke detectors. Experts recommend checking your detectors once every month and replacing batteries twice each year. Put a monthly reminder on your calendar if you have trouble remembering. I responded to many fires that could have been much less severe if the homeowners had working smoke detectors.
- Never leave the kitchen stove unattended while in use. According to the NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. If you are using the oven, check it regularly and make sure you set a timer. If you have a kitchen grease fire, do not put water on it. This will only spread the fire further.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it. Make sure you understand what types of fires a fire extinguisher can be used for and read the operating instructions. An extinguisher is not much use to you if you can’t deploy it quickly in the event of a fire.
- When you purchase a home, have an inspector or electrician look at your electrical system and panel. While they cannot identify wiring issues that are hidden behind walls, they can make sure the electrical panel is up to code. An inspector can also test the voltage of your outlets to see if there are any dangerous outlets that could cause a fire concern.
- Have your heating equipment and chimneys serviced each year. Failure to clean and maintain chimneys is a leading cause of heating-related house fires, according to NFPA. During National Fire Prevention Week, take some time to check your heating equipment and schedule maintenance.
- Don’t use candles or other flammable objects near furniture, especially in the bedroom. Don’t leave candles unattended. People are often surprised by how quickly a mattress or couch can catch fire and escalate into a large blaze.
- Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from anything that omits heat, such as a stove, space heater, barbecue grill or fire pit.
- Have a plan. Talk with your family to prepare a plan in a fire emergency. Make sure children understand how to escape in the event of a fire and pick a safe meeting place outside the home.
- Finally, in the event of a fire, get out of the home and don’t delay in calling 9-1-1. You can lose precious minutes attempting to put out a fire yourself. Emergency responders have the training and equipment to properly and safely handle the situation.
On a related note, this is a good time of year to check your carbon monoxide detector and make sure it is in working order. Carbon monoxide detectors should be hung on the wall and not at ceiling height to best detect dangerous fumes as soon as possible. If your detector goes off, leave the home immediately and call 9-1-1.
Visit NFPA’s website for more information and tips about fire prevention and safety.
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