The National Fire Prevention Association estimates that seven people die each day in home fires across the U.S. According to the American Red Cross, house fires cause more than $7 billion a year in property damage. A fire can happen any time, but the House Manager team believes chance favors the prepared homeowner.
So, here are seven steps you can take to minimize the risk of fire in your home.
Let’s review the two biggest and most obvious steps first.
- Having a fully functional smoke detector more than doubles your chances of survival. Make sure the smoke detectors in your home are in good working order. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) suggests replacing the batteries once every year and replacing the entire unit once every 10 years.
- Keeping fire extinguishers handy isn’t simply a best practice, it can be a genuine life saver. In one recent study, the National Fire Protection Association reviewed 2,100 separate fire incidents and found that 80% were put out by fire extinguishers. In the majority of those cases, no visit from the fire department was required. Experts suggest keeping one extinguisher in the kitchen, others near high risk areas like the fireplace, and taking the time to review the instructions to ensure you know how to use it properly.
There are plenty of reasons to ban smoking in your house. Here’s one more: The NFPA reported that between 2012 and 2016, an estimated 18,100 fires caused an average of 590 deaths and $476 million in property damage each year. This makes smoking the leading cause of civilian fire deaths.
According to the NFPA, cooking equipment is another leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries. We have to eat, so what can we do? The organization recommends keeping order in the kitchen to reduce the number of items that can catch fire. Don’t leave anything flammable near the stove or oven and most importantly, stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking. Never leave a hot surface unattended.
In firefighter parlance, fuel is defined as anything that helps a fire burn. As any firefighter will tell you, most homes have plenty of indoor fuel. Tidiness is more than a virtue — it may be the key to preventing a house fire from spreading once it breaks out. While you’re tidying up, experts suggest keeping an eye out for frays on your electrical cords. They also recommend carefully inspecting space heaters before and after each use and keeping them at least three feet clear of anything combustible.
Your yard contains plenty of fuel as well. Keeping the grass cut and removing dry vegetation are two steps you can take to reduce yard fuel. (Bonus: Your yard will look better, too!)
Prepare a fire escape plan and rehearse it with your family twice a year. The Red Cross offers tips for creating an effective home fire escape plan. People who have suffered a house fire of their own also recommend buying a fireproof box to hold the deed to your home, emergency cash and other essentials that may come in handy in case of fire.
Fire insurance is more than a policy to be purchased at the start of your turn in the Game of Life. It’s a real-life asset that is best to understand before an actual fire strikes. When it comes to fire insurance, most policies have separate buckets of coverage for living expenses, structural repairs and personal properties. Review your insurance policy carefully. If it has limitations, you’ll want to know about them before you need them.
Let’s face it: Nobody used to think much about experiencing a fire in their home. Years of increasingly deadly California wildfires have caused many of us to reconsider. U.S. fire departments respond, on average, to one home fire every 88 seconds. Like wildfires, house fires can start easily. Unlike their outdoor counterparts, we have more control over preventing them from breaking out in the first place. Don’t rely on luck. Follow the seven steps outlined in this article and be prepared, instead.