Let’s face it; nobody wants to have a fire happen anywhere, but it’s especially devastating if it occurs in your home. Fires can wreak havoc to your property, but most importantly, they can cause serious injury to those who are within the premises. Doing everything you can to prevent a fire from occurring can save you money, hassle, and even your life!
We’ve listed a few tips below that will help you prevent fires from occurring or minimize the damage if they do.
1. Install Smoke Alarms.
Installing smoke alarms throughout your home is an inexpensive way to warn you of smoke or fire. It is recommended to install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and outside of bedrooms. If your bedroom doors are closed, you may want to install an alarm inside of the room as well. The alarm should be placed on the ceiling, away from drafts coming from windows or air vents. Most smoke detectors will cover approximately 900 square feet, so you may need more than one on each level if if the area is larger than that.
There are several types of smoke alarms available, all with different features and capabilities. Here is a summary of each:
Ionization smoke alarms will generally respond quicker to fires that feed on combustible materials, like paper, grease and other fast-spreading fires.
Photoelectric alarms will detect smoke patterns before the fire ignites.
Battery-operated alarms usually run on 9-volt batteries, but you can find some that use a long-life lithium battery that lasts 10 years. Battery alarms will work even if the power goes out, which is why they are preferred by some people over the electric ones. The key is to make sure to change the battery regularly.
Hard-wired alarms are connected to the home’s electrical system and interconnected with each other. That means that if one alarm senses smoke or flames, every alarm will activate. Some come with a battery backup in case of a power outage.
2. Have Your HVAC System Checked Regularly.
Your home furnace and air conditioner should be properly and regularly maintained to ensure they are working properly and don’t pose a safety hazard. There are some things you can do yourself, like checking the filters monthly and replacing them when they get dirty. This also keeps the motor from running more than necessary, thus saving on electric bills.
It’s a good idea to have a professional inspect your furnace in the fall before the cold weather sets in. If it needs cleaning or repair, it’s better to do it while you still don’t need to use it. Because it doesn’t get used much in the warm weather, your furnace could accumulate debris that can interfere with its operation and can be a fire hazard.
The same goes for your air conditioning unit. Keeping the coils clean and oiled regularly can help the motor run more efficiently. Keep the area surrounding the unit open and clear of debris. And if you you use a window air conditioner, never use an extension cord!
3. Keep Appliances in Good Working Order.
Since most appliances use gas or electricity, they are prone to be a fire hazard if they aren’t kept in good repair.
Clothes dryer. Always clean your dryer’s lint filter after every load. Check around the dryer for any clothes or debris that could have fallen behind or beneath it. Don’t forget to clean the dryer vent; make sure it’s clear and connected properly.
Water heater. Periodically check the pilot light or automatic ignition system to make sure it’s working properly. Keep the area around the appliance clean of debris and dust.
If you have gas appliances, be alert to gas leaks. If you smell anything suspicious, call your local gas utility company immediately.
4. Be Careful Using Alternate Heating Sources.
During the cold winter months, many people supplement their main heating source with alternatives, like space heaters, stoves or fireplaces.
If you choose to use a space heater, make sure it has adequate safety features and is UL Listed. Keep it clear of furniture, drapes or other flammable materials. Never leave a space heater unattended; make sure to turn it off when you leave the premises.
Wood or pellet-burning stoves are other alternative heating sources. Before considering installing one, make sure it is installed correctly. If you are unsure, hire a professional. The peace of mind that it is properly installed and doesn’t pose a fire hazard will more than outweigh the cost of installation.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, get your chimney cleaned regularly by a professional. Creosote build-up can easily catch fire. Only use dry, seasoned wood on your fires, and never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace—these can all spark chimney fires.
5. Check Your Electrical Cords and Outlets.
Electrical wiring should be in top-notch condition. If you see any electrical cords that are frayed, replace them immediately. Don’t run electrical cords underneath a rug or in a closed-in area where there is little air circulation. They generate heat, so the close quarters can spark a fire.
When you need to plug in multiple devices, it’s safer to use a power strip or surge protector than extension cords. The difference between them is that only the surge protector can protect electronic devices from a power spike.
If your appliance has a three-pronged plug, never try to force it into a two-slotted outlet. If a light switch or electrical outlet feels hot or looks discolored, it should be replaced. (Make sure you shut off the power source first!)
6. Practice Kitchen Safety.
Your kitchen is where you cook and bake. There are many appliances and heat sources used in that room that could be potential fire hazards. Some safe practices that can reduce the risk of fires and injuries include:
Never leave a pot or pan on the stove unattended.
Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Clean your stove, oven, range hood and air vent when needed. Splatters and spills can ignite.
Small kitchen appliances, like toasters, microwaves, coffeemakers, etc., should be plugged directly into an outlet. Don’t use extension cords.
If a grease fire does ignite on your stove, turn off the burner and cover the pan with a lid. You can also dump baking soda to put out the fire. Never pour water on the fire; it will cause the grease to splatter and spread the fire. Don’t try to pick up the pan either--it will be very hot and could even ignite your clothes.
7. Use Caution with Candles.
Candles provide ambience, pleasant fragrances and a cozy feeling. They can also cause a fire if not used properly. Keep lit candles away from flammable materials. Always extinguish them if you leave the area. Place the candles on a firm surface to prevent them from tipping over.
If you have smaller children or pets, it’s important to keep a close eye on them around candles. A safer alternative could be the flameless, battery-operated candles. They may not have exactly the same effect as flame-burning candles, but they can prevent a devastating catastrophe.
8. If You Smoke, Do It Outdoors.
If you or anyone smokes inside the home, there is an increased risk of fire occurring. Careless smoking is a leading cause of death from fires. If a cigarette or burning ash falls on furniture, the material can easily catch fire and become out of control quickly. It’s a better idea to smoke outdoors, extinguishing the butts completely in a fire-resistant container. Extinguishing them in water is even better at preventing them from re-igniting.
9. Properly Store Flammable Products.
There are some products that are obviously very flammable and should be stored far away from heating sources. Gasoline, paint thinners, and other highly flammable liquids or materials should be kept in UL approved containers and out of the house. Even a pilot light could ignite these materials, so extreme caution is recommended.
There are other materials that are flammable that you may not realize. Household cleaners and common cosmetic items like hairspray and shaving cream can be hazardous. If they are exposed to a large heat source, they can combust. Keep them away from fire sources like space heaters, and store them safely in a cool area.
10. Unplug Small Appliances.
It’s a good idea to unplug some electronic devices when not in use. These include kitchen appliances, like toasters, coffeemakers, blenders, microwaves and the like. Hair dryers, curling irons and clothes irons should be left unconnected unless they are being used. Even phone chargers can cause a fire, so unplug the cord when not charging.
So What Do You Do if You Do Have a Fire?
Following these tips can definitely help prevent a fire from breaking out in your home. If you are unfortunate enough to experience a house fire that causes damage from not only flames, but smoke and water, you will need a professional to remediate the situation.
St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration has been doing fire restoration for decades. We offer 24/7 emergency services to ensure you receive the immediate service you need. We’ll promptly dispatch professional technicians to your property to survey the damage and get to work restoring it to its original state.