This year, 1,497 people have died because of a residential fire. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates 372,900 fires occur each year causing over $7 billion dollars in damages and over 13,125 injuries. We don’t want you to become a statistic to a preventable threat like home fires. Make sure your fire safety plan will help you and your family prevent fires as well as including it in your emergency preparedness plan so you all can react quickly and safely should fire occur.
Preventing fire in your home starts in your kitchen. Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and injuries. Here are some important tips to help prevent a cooking fire.
1. Cook With a Clear Head
Don’t start cooking when you’re tired or have been drinking. Exhaustion and alcohol both slow down your response time and affect coordination – not a good combo when we’re dealing with heat and flames.
2. Make Time Before You Make Food
It’s very easy to get distracted – whether it’s the TV, helping the kids with homework or something else. When it’s time to cook, focus on the food. Other chores can wait. Whether you’re frying, baking or even just simmering, stay in your kitchen while you’re cooking. And use a timer to remind you as well.
3. Keep Your Kitchen Clean & In Order
Make sure anything that could catch fire is kept away from the stove, including oven mitts, food packaging, dish towels. In many homes, the kitchen is a central gathering place – which can lead to it becoming a collection zone for papers, mail, magazines and more. All that clutter of highly flammable materials is welcome fuel should a fire start. Your kitchen is for cooking and preparing food – anything else should be put away somewhere else.
4. Be Careful When Cooking with Oil
Oil is a key ingredient in much of our daily cooking, so it shouldn’t be surprising that over 40% of the fires that occur on the stove involved oil. Heat the oil in your pan slowly to the target temperature and add food gently – you want to prevent hot oil from popping and splattering. Pay close attention to how hot the oil is – if you see wisps of smoke, immediately turn the burner off or carefully remove the pan.
Major appliances and heating systems are also major contributors to home fires (over 20%). electronic devices in the home are also a major contributor to home fires.
5. Keep Them Clean
The leading cause of dryer and washer fires is failure to clean. Every time you use your dryer, make sure you check and clean your lint filter – and put it back in place. Do not use your dryer without the filter. Clean the vent pipe and make sure it is unobstructed. You should plan to do this at least once a year (or whenever it starts to take longer than normal to dry clothes.)
6. Keeping Current on Your Electricity
Check your outlets and make sure they aren’t overloaded. Ideally, you should only have one high-wattage appliance plugged in. Check the cords for your electrical appliances and replace any damaged or frayed cords. If you need to use an extension cord, do not run them across doorways or under carpets. Place lamps on level surfaces and away from things that can burn.
7. Keep Your Home Warm and Safe
More than half of fires caused by heating equipment occur in the winter. The rule of thumb is a three foot ‘safety zone’ around your furnace, fireplace, stove or portable heater — nothing that can burn should be in this zone – including children. Have your equipment and chimney inspected by a qualified professional before the cold weather starts. If you have a fireplace, make sure you have a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from escaping. And when you remove ashes, make sure they are cool before putting them in a metal container far away from your home.
If you or someone in your home is a smoker, you need to practice good safety. Fires caused by smokers are the leading cause of fire deaths in the U.S.
8. Do It Outside
If you or a guest is going to smoke, do it outside. Not only will it keep your house smelling better, but it lowers the risk of an accidental fire.
9. Watch Your Butt
Make sure there’s an ashtray that’s won’t easily tip over or spill and make sure the cigarette is completely extinguished by dousing it in water or sand.
10. Protect the Flame
Keep any and all matches and lighters out of the sight – and the reach – of children.
If you do have children, make sure they practice good fire safety prevention, too.
While it’s natural for children to develop an interest and curiosity about fire, it can also lead to experimenting with fire – which, often, can lead to accidental fires leading to damage, injury – even death. It’s important to educate your children when they start to express interest. Teach your child that starting a fire is a tool – not a toy – and should only be handled by adults. Your child should understand that they are not allowed to touch matches or lighters – and that if they ever come across them, they should tell you or another adult right away.
Once you’ve made sure your home and family are fire safe, you still need to be prepared in case there is a fire.
11. Install Detectors
Smoke detectors should be installed inside and outside each bedroom and on every level of the home – including the basement. You should place them on the ceiling or high up on the wall. Place one outside the kitchen to minimize the chance of false alarms. There are three types of smoke alarms, ionization, photoelectric and dual sensor.
12. Check Them Regularly
Check that all the smoke detectors in your home are working properly, replacing the batteries when necessary.
13. Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers should be stored out of the way, but easily accessible on each level of the home. So you can reach them quickly should a fire occur. Be sure you know how to properly use your fire extinguisher BEFORE you have an emergency.
14. Create an Escape Plan
Create a plan for your entire family to safely escape the home should a fire occur. Look for two ways to get out of each room (if the primary escape is blocked by smoke or fire, you will need another way out.) If you have bedrooms on the second floor, you may need to purchase collapsible ladders to allow for a secondary exit route.
15. Practice the Plan
At least twice a year, you and your family should have a practice fire drill and verify the exit routes are OK. Make sure that no windows are stuck or blocked and screens can be removed easily – you should also practice your escape routes in the dark or with eyes closed to replicate excessive smoke.
No home can be 100% risk-free from fire, but following these tips will greatly reduce the chance of a fire starting in your home. To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself, your home and your family from fire, we recommend visiting the National Fire Protection Association to learn more.