Friday, March 25, 2016

"How can I prevent a house fire?" 20 Suggestions to Limit the Risk of Fires


Most house fires are preventable.  I spent many years handling insurance claims and coordinating fire restoration projects at homes that had burned or were damaged by heat and smoke, and the majority of those fires could have been prevented.  The following are some simple tips to prevent fires in your own home:

1.   Reduce clutter - clutter affects fire safety because it limits the ability to view or prevent potential fire risks, promotes the spread of flames, and makes it difficult to extinguish a fire once it starts. 

2.      Don't overload electrical outlets.  Avoid using power strips or extension cords.

3.      Extinguish cigarettes properly (or just don't smoke).

4.      Never leave a candle unattended; if burning candles do not place candleholders or jars on a wooden surface without protection (if a candle burns to the bottom of the base or jar the heat can burn the wood surface below), and make sure there aren't any combustibles nearby.

5.      Don't leave an oven or stove unattended when in use.  Don't store items inside the oven.

6.      Use extreme caution when burning in a fireplace or wood stove.  Understand the components of the system (fire box, damper, flue, flue cap, etc.), how it works, and potential risks.  Don't let fires burn too hot.  Keep the flue clean and clear of creosote (this should be checked regularly when in use).  Don't burn wet or sappy wood in fireplaces or wood stoves because it will cause creosote buildup in the flue / chimney.

7.      Keep dryer vents clean and clear.

8.      Do not allow children to play with lighters or matches; keep fire starting tools and ignition sources out of reach.

9.      No heat lamps.

10.  Do not keep combustibles near heat sources such as stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, space heaters or water heaters.

11.  No gnawing pets (rabbits, gerbils, domesticated rats, etc.) because if they are loose they chew on electrical cords and wiring.

12.  Eliminate mice (mice chew on wiring and get in power boxes causing electrical shorts).

13.  Don't keep chemical soaked rags indoors, and don't launder rags or other cloth material that's soaked in any flammable chemical / solvent.

14.  Keep combustibles such as gasoline in a separate building or storage shed if possible.

15.  Do not use glues or solvents designed for outdoor use indoors.

16.  Don't bring grills indoors after use and dispose of used charcoal properly.

17.  Don't ignite fireworks near structures.

18.  Unplug devices when not in use, such as phone chargers.

19.  Have a working smoke detector at each level of the home, especially near bedrooms, and have a working carbon monoxide detector in the home.

20.  Have a fire extinguisher in the home.

Some fires aren't preventable, such as fires caused by lightning or an unpredictable event such as an electronic device combusting spontaneously.  However, if you follow the above guidelines you will reduce the risk of fire your residence significantly, or at least limit the potential for damage from a fire greatly.









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