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How to Reduce the Risk of Fire in Your Home

Everyone hears about fires consuming homes, damaging property, and threatening lives. Often the causes of fires are literally right under our noses! Whether it’s the lighting on a Christmas tree, leaving a flammable item too close to the heater, misplacing a piece of paper allowing it to blow into a candle, or frayed wires ready to ignite at any moment, there are numerous situations in many homes that create the potential for disaster.

House Fire and how to prevent

Hazards and Statistics

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in the year 2006, 3,245 civilians were killed as the result of a fire, 81% of which occurred in residences. 16,400 more civilians were injured, and 106 firefighters lost their lives while on duty. Fire killed more Americans than all natural disasters combined. 1.6 millions fires were reported, causing more than $11 billion in direct property damage alone.1

The majority of deaths caused by fires is due to smoke inhalation rather than actual burns received. Thus, even though someone may escape from flames, it may be too late for survival once the carbon monoxide has intoxicated the lungs.

Fire risks are heightened significantly during holiday seasons. Dried-out Christmas trees, increased use of candles, electrical decorations, and frequent cooking and baking attribute factors for this increase.2

Fire Safety Tips

The National Safety Council has identified several tips to help prevent fire injuries, death and damage in the home3:

  • Each home should be fortified with a smoke detector on every floor. All members of the household should be trained to recognize the sound of the alarm. Alarms should be checked monthly, and the batteries should be replaced twice a year regardless of their working ability.
  • An escape plan should be prepared and practiced so no one is left panicking for a way of escape in the event of a fire.
  • Matches, lighters, and candles should be stored out of the reach of children.
  • Regular wire inspection aids expedient identification of frayed or exposed wires. Of course, upon their discovery, discontinue their use.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not being used.
  • All flammable objects should be a safe distance from heat sources.
  • Since many fires begin in chimneys, they should be inspected and cleaned regularly.
  • Each room should have two avenues of escape.
  • Equip your home with a sprinkler system.
  • Train children to respond properly to smoke by crawling beneath it. Make sure they recognize and respond properly to firefighters who are trying to rescue them. Ensure that they know to call 911 and are able to clearly dictate their street address.3

Fire extinguishers should be readily available throughout the home, particularly in areas most prone to starting fires, and everyone should be able to use it. “The NFPA says to remember the word PASS when operating an extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin. Release the lock with the nozzle pointing away from you.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.”4

Reducing the Risk

A typical fire hazard in the home occurs when drapery or other furnishings come into contact or close proximity with electrical appliances such as lights or heaters. The continuous radiation of heat can cause these items to burst into flames. Such hazards can be prevented simply by keeping electrical appliances a sufficient distance from flammable objects and turning off or unplugging them when not in use.

For homes that depend on a wood stove as a heat source, a screen, preferably without perforations, should enclose the area so sparks or pieces of coal cannot exit the fireplace. Sparks that land on a carpet, rug, or other objects can easily ignite into an unwanted fire in the home.

Further steps to flame proof your home can be taken by using fire-retardant spray. This retardant can be applied to curtains, carpets, bedding, paper and wood products, decorations, and many other in-home objects that create fire hazards. Fire gels can also be applied to buildings and property. Areas surrounded by a lot of brush possess a greater likelihood for fire damage, and gels can help protect these areas from spreading fires. Though such products cannot create an invincibility to fire, they greatly reduce the ability to ignite.

After a fire, it can be quite a hassle to remove the remaining soot from a house and to do so within legal ramifications. Often a police marshal must be consulted to fully rid the home of the destruction. Obviously it is much better to channel efforts into fire prevention so restoration is never an issue. Limiting the opportunity for fire damage is a more worthy cause than waiting until it is too late. While it is wise to equip your home with supplies such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems, every possible means of preventing a fire should be of primary concern.

A little effort now to inspect your home for fire risk can greatly reduce the chance of the tragedy and painful loss caused by fire. Do it now!

Paul Galla, President