Imagine this nightmare: you’re woken in the middle of the night by screeching smoke detectors, and realize that your house is filled with smoke and flames. Do you realize that, according to the US Red Cross, you could have as little as two minutes to get yourself and your family to safety?
Of course, we all hope that this will never happen. But, according to the US Fire Prevention Association, every 24 seconds a fire department across the country will be called to respond to a fire situation.
Isn’t it better to think in advance about the precautions you need to take to protect yourself, your home, and your loved ones? To help, we’ve listed some of the most important measures which will help to ensure you and your family are never at risk of injury or loss due to a fire in your home.
Check smoke alarms
The most important fire safety precaution is a smoke alarm Make sure you have them installed in every room of the house, so smoke will be detected before it has a chance to spread. Many fires start in the kitchen, so don’t be tempted to disable the alarm if it tends to be activated by mistake.
As these alarms are battery-operated, schedule a check every three months to ensure they are still operating and your home is still protected.
It’s also sensible to make sure that your kids recognize the sound the alarms make so that if they ever hear it, especially at night, they’ll understand what’s happening and what they need to do.
Check your electrics
Electrical wiring can last up to 60 years, but as it does deteriorate with age, it’s recommended to check your installation every five years as a maximum.
A qualified contractor will not only check the wiring for signs of damage, he or she will also look at electrical outlets to ensure there are no exposed wires, and confirm that cables are run safely- not placed under carpets in high-traffic areas, for example.
And, importantly, as fires can easily start when outlets are overloaded, a check and replacement of circuit-breakers with those which meet the latest quality and performance standards (such as Federal Pacific breakers), will give you peace of mind.
A final word of advice – when buying new electrical appliances, look for those with a label confirming that they’ve been tested by an independent body and approved as safe. Don’t just go for the cheapest option, which may not adhere to the most stringent safety standards, and beware of second-hand ‘bargains’.
Check your appliances
In terms of appliances, some are safer than others. Did you realize that are washing machines and clothes dryers are a major contributor to house fires? In just four years, US fire departments responded to almost 16,000 of these types of fires each year – with an average of 13 deaths, 444 injuries, and a massive $238 million in damage to property.
In most cases, dryer fires were responsible, with dust, fibers, or lint being ignited, so it’s essential to clean the machine regularly, paying special attention to ensure that the filters are not clogged.
Care in the kitchen
Given the combination of naked flames, boiling fats, and the heavy electrical load required by ovens and other appliances, it’s no surprise that many home fires start in the kitchen.
The golden rules are: never to leave the room unattended when you’re cooking, just in case something catches fire while your back is turned.
Also, remember to turn off appliances when you’ve finished cooking – this won’t only prevent fires, it will prevent you from wasting money.
Beware naked flames
Naked flames are an obvious danger. A sensible precaution is to make the interior of your home a “no smoking” zone, so kids are less likely to find matches and lighters lying around.
If you love scented candles, keep them where kids and pets can’t reach them. Cats can knock candles over with their tails when they pass close by, and start a major fire.
Know how to use fire-fighting equipment
Keeping one or more fire extinguishers in a safe, easily accessible place is a sensible precaution that can help prevent a small fire, if caught early, from spreading.
But, at the moment when you need to use it, it’s too late to start reading the instructions! When you purchase an extinguisher, familiarize yourself with and, best of all, actually practice to see how it feels in use.
Keep in mind that you should only try to use a fire extinguisher on a small blaze – if the fire has already taken hold and spread – it’s time to get yourself and your family to safety, and call the fire department to deal with it.
Protect against wildfires
Shockingly, the fireworks at a gender reveal party were blamed for starting the California El Dorado wildfires which resulted in 10,000 acres of land being engulfed in flames and countless homes being destroyed.
If you live in a drought-prone area, take some simple precautions to help protect your property.
First, ensure your roof is constructed of fire-resistant materials. If you’re not sure, ask a contractor to check its fire-rating.
Next, create an exclusion zone of at least 5 feet around your home – there should be no combustible materials used or items (such as a wooden boat or sports equipment) lying on it at any time.
Clear out any vegetation and debris under your decking.
Finally, ensure that metal window, door, and vent screens are clean and undamaged as this will stop sparks and embers from entering.
Devise an escape plan
Ensure that everyone understands what they should do in a fire. Identify alternative escape routes, and schedule a fire drill twice a year. Don’t forget about pets – they’ll also have to be evacuated within the 2-minute window. If you invest in fire ladders (a great precaution for higher floors) practise using them so everyone can reach safety without delay.
We hope that by taking these practical steps, you’ll enjoy greater peace of mind and ensure the safety of everyone in your home.