Since 1922, October has been nationally observed as Fire Prevention Month. It commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although we have come a long way since this tragedy, there are many Americans who are still unclear on how to fully protect their homes.
Understanding the most common causes of fire around the home and what you can do to protect yourself is a good place to start.
Common Causes of Fire
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) lists these as some of the most common causes of home fires:
Candles. Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve are the three top days for home candle fires. Why not try a safer alternative – LED candles glow just like the real thing and you can even find products that look like a real flickering flame..
Smoking. It’s the leading cause of fire deaths in the U.S.
Cooking. Keep a watchful eye on what you’re cooking. Follow instructions by the book for electric and gas appliances and turkey fryers, grills, and smokers. And take precautions to prevent scalds from overheated beverages, steam, and hot oil.
Portable generators and fireplaces. Fuel, electrical shock, open flame, or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are some of the dangers associated with careless use of these devices.
Electrical. Overloaded circuits, shorts, and unsafe wiring can put everything and everyone in your home at risk.
Heating. Not surprisingly, most home heating fires happen in December, January, and February.
Dryers and washing machines. Lint build-up can ignite in the venting and start a fire.
Flammables. Store gasoline, kerosene, and paints in proper containers keep them tightly sealed, and store them away from heat and flame. Never store any of those items near a furnace or hot water heater.
Fire Prevention and Protection Basics
Install Smoke and CO Alarms Properly. You need at least one on each floor where they can be clearly heard in an emergency. Pay special attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations on where to place them. Humidity in laundry rooms or bathrooms is just one thing that can affect their operation. Test them once a month and keep the batteries fresh. Replace smoke alarms every 8-10 years and CO alarms about every 5 years..
Have your Heating Equipment Checked. Have your furnace serviced by a reputable inspector. When operating portable or fixed space heaters, be conscious to keep them away from items that could ignite, including drapes and articles of clothing.
Keep Fire Extinguishers Handy. Keep them on every floor to create an escape route if needed. Keeping an extinguisher rated for grease and electrical fires in the kitchen and garage is a good idea. Replace them about every 3 years, or if the dial indicates they need replacing. When your extinguisher expires, instead of throwing it out, use it to practice using one so you’re ready if an emergency happens.
Practice an Escape Plan. Map out a plan, practice it, and tweak it if your run-through doesn’t work. You can find detailed information at www.nfpa.org.