Home Fire Safety Guide
Fire is one of the most common disasters that can happen in a home. In this blog post, we will be discussing fire safety – from what to do during a house fire, to how to prevent fires from happening in the first place.
Home fire fatalities and statistics
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are an estimated 360,000 house fires every year in the United States alone. This leads to over 3,500 deaths and $11 billion in property damage.
This is not surprising considering the devastating effects of a house fire. With just a blink of an eye, your life can change, and not for the better. You can even lose everything you worked hard to get throughout your life.
The good news is that many of these fires could have been prevented if people had taken some simple precautions.
Leading cause of house fires
Home fires make up quite a portion of reported fires in the United States. There are just many scenarios at home that can make it happen and the most common ones are listed below.
Cooking was determined by the National Fire Protection Association as the leading cause of house fires in the United States. This just makes sense since when cooking, you usually deal with an actual fire that when mishandled, can easily get out of hand. This is a common occurrence that accounts for more than $1 billion in property damage and causes more than 400 deaths annually.
It is not uncommon that there are individuals who forget that they are cooking while doing some other errands. There is also overlooking putting highly flammable kitchen items within reach of the fire as they cook their dinner. Moreover, there is the build-up of grease that when not cleaned regularly, can fuel home fires.
If a cooking fire does start in your home, the best thing to do is to try to smother it with a lid or baking soda. Do not use water to try to put out the fire as this will only make it worse. Even if the fire is small and you are able to put it out, it is still recommended that you still call the fire department afterwards to have them inspect your stove and make sure it is safe to use. If the fire is large and you cannot control it, get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911.
Smoking is another leading cause of house fires. This is particularly when done carelessly and when not put out properly. It can light up your home in seconds and by the time you realize what’s happening, it can be too late.
Electrical problems can also cause house fires. This includes faulty wiring and overloaded outlets. Old appliances that are not regularly maintained can pose potential fire hazards as well.
The above three may be determined as the most common causes of house fires, but the list does not stop there. House fires can also be caused by candles, space heaters, and even children playing with matches.
It is important to be aware of all the potential hazards in your home and take steps to prevent them.
How to prevent house fires from happening?
It is not as easy to control house fires when they have escalated already and have become too big for you to control. However, you can still do something. There are still preventive measures you can take to decrease the likelihood of a fire erupting in your home.
Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended
This is a very important rule to remember when cooking. A stovetop fire can easily become out of control, so it is best to stay in the kitchen when cooking. If you have to leave the kitchen for any reason, turn off the burner and make sure the stove is cool to the touch before leaving.
It is also important to ensure that cooking mittens and wooden utensils are kept out of reach of the fire. These are made up of materials that can easily catch fire and fuel it to get out of hand.
Since grease accumulation in the stove and ovens can instigate fire, it will be best for these appliances to be cleaned thoroughly after use. There are effective cleaning aids out there that can help you with the task.
Don’t overload electrical outlets with too many appliances
It’s important not to overload electrical outlets with too many appliances – extension cords included. This can cause the outlet to overheat and start a fire. If you have too many appliances plugged into one outlet, try using a power strip. A power strip has multiple outlets and can handle more than one appliance.
It is also best to have a qualified electrician check your home’s wiring and make sure it is up to code. If an appliance starts to spark or smoke, unplug it immediately and do not use it again until it has been checked by a professional.
Be careful with candles
While candles are a great source of light during a power outage, it is still best to opt for flashlights that are battery-operated. These are less likely to cause house fires.
Nevertheless, if it is inevitable to use candles, make sure to blow them out before leaving the room. Never leave a candle burning unattended. Candles should also be placed away from anything that can catch fire, like curtains or furniture.
Never smoke in bed
Your bed is made up of highly flammable materials. Because of this, you may want to restrain yourself from smoking in bed.
When you smoke in bed, the cigarette can easily fall onto the bedding and start a fire. It can also be blown away by the wind when you are not paying attention and spark flames on other flammable things in your room.
It is still best to smoke outside away from the house. If you must smoke inside, make sure to use a deep ashtray that cannot tip over easily, and never smoke in bed.
It also pays to double-check that all cigarettes are extinguished before leaving them behind. Never throw lit cigarettes out the window as they could easily start a fire.
Ensure that the chimney is clean and free of obstructions when you have a fireplace
Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected at least once a year to make sure they are free of obstructions. If there is any buildup in the chimney, it can easily start a fire.
As a rule, make sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional every year.
Keep your home clean
A messy home is a fire hazard. Clutter can easily catch fire and spread throughout your home. Keep your home clean and free of clutter to help reduce the risk of a fire.
It is important to keep flammable materials like paper, curtains, and furniture away from heat sources like stoves and fireplaces. The same goes for aerosols which are also fire hazards. Such will help reduce the chances of a fire starting in your home.
Invest in fire protection supplies
There are also many fire protection products you can invest in at home. These will help mitigate house fires and prevent them from spreading. Some of them can also help protect your valuables in case of fire.
- Smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are one of the best ways to prevent a house fire from happening. They can give you early warning if there is a fire in your home, allowing you to get out safely.
All homes should have a working smoke alarm on every level, including the attic and basement. All of the smoke alarms should be checked regularly to ensure that they are working properly. Change the batteries whenever needed. If you do not have any smoke alarms, now is a good time to get them.
- Fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers are easy to use and can help put out small fires before they have a chance to spread. All homes should have at least one fire extinguisher. It is a good idea to have one in the kitchen and one near the front door.
- Fire blankets. A fire blanket is a piece of equipment that can be used to smother small fires. They are easy to use and can be stored in a kitchen drawer or under the sink. All homes should have at least one fire blanket.
- Sprinklers. Sprinklers are a great way to prevent a house fire from spreading. They can be installed in your home and will automatically turn on when they detect heat or smoke. Sprinklers can help keep a small fire from becoming a big one, and they could potentially save your life.
- Fire Escapes. A fire escape is a safe way to exit a building in the event of a fire. All homes should have at least two ways to exit, and all windows and doors should be able to be used as an exit. Fire escapes should be clear of any obstructions and easy to use.
- Fireproof safe. A fireproof safe is a great way to protect your important documents and belongings from a fire. Fireproof safes are designed to withstand high temperatures, and they can help keep your valuables safe. Among the things normally hidden in a fireproof safe include passport, social security card, insurance documents, bank statements, property deeds, birth certificates, etc.
When you have at least one fireproof safe in your house, you can guarantee that your important documents will not turn into ashes during incidents of fire.
Have a Fire Safety Plan
It is also important to have a fire safety plan in place so that everyone in your family knows what to do if there is a fire. Your plan should include all the escape routes from every room in your home and a designated meeting place outside.
Practice your fire drill regularly so that everyone knows what to do and is not panicked if a fire does occur.
What to do during a house fire?
When a house fire starts, it is important to know what to do in order to stay safe. The last thing you’ll want is to panic and cause more problems that can be detrimental to you and your family.
Step One: Get Out of the Burning Property Immediately
When a fire erupts in your home, it is understandable that you’ll want to attempt to put out the fire first. But this cannot be more wrong especially when the fire has gotten out of control already and is fast spreading. You may be causing more bad than good in staying.
Your number one priority is to get yourself out of the burning property immediately. Don’t attempt to go around and collect valuables. Leave them behind. Once you are out, stay out. Do not try to go back inside for any reason.
Step Two: Stay Low to the Ground
When there is a fire, smoke will rise to the ceiling. This can make it difficult to breathe. To help you stay safe, stay low to the ground where the air is cleaner and easier to breathe as you navigate to the exit.
Do not hide under beds or in closets when there is a fire. These areas can fill up with smoke quickly and make it difficult to breathe.
Do not use an elevator if you have one in the building. The elevator can easily become stuck or fill up with smoke which can be dangerous. Use the stairs instead.
If you have a wet cloth, use it to cover your mouth and nose. This will help you filter out the smoke and make it easier to breathe.
Step Three: Stop, Drop, and Roll
In cases where the fire is widespread already in your home, it is inevitable that the clothes you wear can catch on fire. Do not run when this happens. This will only make the fire spread. Instead, stop where you are, drop to the ground, and roll around until the fire is extinguished.
Refrain yourself from checking the damage until you are safely out of danger. This will just hold you back and cause you to be in a more dangerous situation.
Step Four: Call the Fire Department
Once you are out of the burning house, stay a decent distance away and call the fire department or 911. Do not linger at the doorsteps or nearby a burning property as there may be explosions that can result in injuries or even fatalities. This is common for house fires since there are always highly combustible materials inside such as gas tanks and the like. It is also possible for the building to collapse.
Do not even try to put out the fire yourself. Leave that to the professionals.
However, it is also a must that you let these professionals know in case someone got left behind in the burning house including your pets. Let them know where you last saw them or where they are likely located so they can rescue them immediately. Advise them where you are injured as well so medical assistance can be provided.
The aftermath of a house fire – what to do and where to go?
To be a victim of fire is not an easy feat. As mentioned in the beginning, it can be life-changing. It might render you confused and helpless on what to do next. But if you need guidance, then below are great ways to start the recovery process.
Note that these are recommended after you have guaranteed the health and well-being of yourself and your family.
1. Call your insurance company.
After a house fire, it is understandable that you’ll want to file a claim right away. Who’d be better to help you on the task than your insurance agent? They will be able to guide you throughout the process since they know the extent of your policy coverage. They will even assist you in securing your damaged home and in finding the right company that will be most qualified in restoring it. They will make the recovery process a lot easier for you.
There are instances when you need to cover some immediate expense before your insurance company can do this for you. If this happens, it is recommended that you keep track of every penny spent. List them down and keep the receipt. Record them diligently to support your claim.
2. Assess the extent of the damage.
This should only be done after the Fire Department provides the clearance that the house is safe to enter. Even though the fire is out, there can still be dangers inside the house.
Take a look around and see what is salvageable and what has been damaged by the fire. If possible, take pictures of the damage for your insurance company. Be sure to capture every detail of the things you want to highlight. If possible, it helps if you can also make an inventory. Secure also a fire report.
This is also the time to determine the salvageable things. You may need to thoroughly clean them to ensure the removal of contaminants. If necessary, hire professional help to do this for you.
For electrical equipment and other appliances, do not plug and switch them on until they are checked by professionals. They may look alright on the outside but there is no telling if they pose no harm. It is possible that they can be water damaged or can cause another fire when switched on.
3. Safekeep your home
The last thing you want to happen is to cause further damage to your property after an incident of a house fire. This can be caused by curious trespassers who just want to look around or looters wanting to take advantage of the situation. As such, it is a must that you secure it as soon as you are allowed to.
While it is easy to board up all possible points of entry to your property using basic home tools, you’ll want to leave this job to the experts. Fire often weakens the home structure even if it doesn’t totally consume it. You will not want to get caught in a collapsing property in case the structure of your home is already compromised.
Securing your property also helps prevent further accidents from happening.
4. Get in touch with a professional fire restoration company
Getting in touch with a professional fire restoration company is a guaranteed way to jumpstart rebuilding your life. These companies can help you clean up your home and get it back to normal.
Admittedly, cleaning after a house fire is a daunting job. There are just so many things you need to go through including the need to ensure that no soot or toxic substances from the fire are left behind. After the trauma brought about by the house fire, this is the last thing you’d likely want to deal with. Thus, having the help of these professionals will be a relief.
5. Secure a safe place to stay
After an incident of fire, it can take some time before your home becomes liveable again. While others seek shelter from their loved ones and friends, it is not at all times that house fire victims have a place to stay after the disaster.
If this is the case for you, a good alternative is to contact your local Red Cross or Salvation Army. These organizations can provide you with temporary housing, food, and other necessities.
A house fire is a devastating event. But by following these steps, you can make the process a little bit easier. With time, your home will be as good as new.