Fire damage is one of the leading accidental causes of deaths, injuries, and loss of property around the world. According to a study conducted by the Center of Fire Statistics, fires accounted for over 70,000 deaths and up to 800,000 injuries internationally each year starting in 2001. Furthermore, the study also revealed that the number one place where reported fires originated from was in the sanctuary of people’s homes.
Fire damage is one of the worst disasters than can happen to any homeowner. Although no home is ever 100% safe from fires, thankfully, there are many ways to prevent fires from starting at home. Taking a few small cautionary steps can go a long way in minimizing a home’s risk of fire damage. Fireproofing a home can not only save millions of dollars worth of property, but more importantly, also save people’s lives.
Fireproofing a home can begin in the place where it is most likely to occur: the kitchen. The combination of heat, oil, grease, and electrical appliances present in the perimeter of most kitchens makes it the most fire hazardous place inside a home. Cooking fires have also been found to be a leading cause of home fire damage, so extra safety measures are essential and must be taken inside the kitchen.
The following are fundamental ways of how homeowners can prevent fire damage from cooking equipment fires:
· Ensure that all equipment (stoves, ovens, microwaves, toasters, and etc.) being used in the kitchen have been tested and have passed safety regulatory standards.
· Check all the electrical wirings and cords of kitchen appliances. Discard or replace anything that has frayed or tattered connections.
· Check the hose on propane gas tanks connected to stoves or grills. The vapors from a leaking gas hose can not only trigger a fire inside a home, but can also cause gas poisoning to the people living in it.
· Always unplug kitchen appliances that are not in use. Appliances plugged in electrical sockets continually conduct electrical current even when they are not turned on.
· Don’t use extension cords for appliances such as refrigerators and freezers. These kitchen appliances are meant to be plugged in 24/7 and an extension cord is not designed to handle nonstop electric current.
· Clean kitchen appliances routinely, especially items such as fryers, grills, and ovens. A buildup of oil, grease, and other residue on these appliances can easily catch fire.
The homeowners’ habits and everyday routine also have great impact on minimizing fire damage to his or her home. Practicing these seemingly simple steps can further prevent kitchen fires and injuries:
· Never leave anything cooking unattended. Always keep an eye on food that is frying, boiling, or baking. Always check at regular intervals as it only takes a very short amount of time for hot food to boil, overspill, and burn.
· If leaving the kitchen is unavoidable, turn off all heat sources and appliances. Again, never leave anything cooking without anyone watching it. Unattended kitchen equipment is the top cause of cooking fires in homes.
· Wear close-fitting clothing while in the kitchen. Roll up sleeves and leave clothes such as neckties and scarves in the dresser drawer. These types of clothing can dangle over a heat source and catch fire.
· Keep aprons, pot holders, oven mitts, and other similar items away from stoves, ovens, and other heat sources. Do not hang rags on oven door handles.
· Keep pets and small children out of the kitchen as they can easily knock something over and cause a fire or injury to themselves.
Bedrooms are another area that should be given special attention to when fireproofing a home. Statistics show that majority of home fires happen during the nighttime when people are asleep. Here are ways of preventing fire damage in a home’s sleeping quarters:
· Unplug all appliances that do not need to be switched on at night.
· Never use candles as a nightlight. If in case of a power outage when candles have to be used, put them in fire retardant candleholders and place them away from anything flammable. Never go to sleep without putting candles out first.
· Leave adequate space around heaters and radiators and keep linens, bed sheets, clothes, and similar items away from them. Do not hang things to dry and most certainly do not fall asleep next to heaters and radiators.
· Electric blankets are useful for keeping warm during cold winters. Make sure to turn off electric blankets before going to sleep. Use electric blankets with temperature controls to prevent them from overheating and causing fires and injuries to the user.
· Closed bedroom doors will hold back fire and smoke from entering the room. This allows for more time to escape in the event of a fire emergency. Keep bedroom fire exits free from obstructions.
The living room is usually the part of the house where a fireplace is located and obviously, fireplaces are a major fire damage hazard.
When lighting a fire in a fireplace, use only proper burning materials. Don’t use a fireplace as a garbage incinerator. Never overload the fireplace with too many logs and place these in the back of the fireplace when lighting. Cover the fireplace with a protective screen to prevent hot sparks, ashes, and embers from jumping out of the fire and into your living room. Remove items such as rugs, curtains, carpets, and etc. from the vicinity of a burning fireplace. Keep chimneys clean so that smoke from a fireplace flows safely out of the house. Store firewood outside of the house to prevent fire damage and keep them stacked, shielded, and covered.
Other fire hazards to be mindful of inside living rooms are:
· Sockets. Never overload an electrical socket with too many appliances plugged in at once.
· Furniture. Check if living room furniture pieces are made of fire retardant materials.
· Electronic devices. Never arrange TVs, radios, computers, and other electronic devices in such a way that their air vents are constricted. These items need air circulation to prevent them from overheating and causing fire damage.
· Electrical cables and cords. Never place a rug or a carpet over electrical wirings and do not loop them tightly behind walls or furniture.
· Cigarettes. Smoking in the living room is arguably less hazardous than smoking in the bedroom, but don’t neglect to use ashtrays and to fully extinguish cigarettes before vacating the living room.
Storage places such as basements and attics contain a lot of items that can easily catch fire. These places often have piles of paper, stacks of cardboard boxes, old newspapers, books, and other materials that are highly combustible. One small spark in these home areas can cause major fire damage. Things stored in attics and basements should be kept away from all electrical outlets and heat sources. Conduct a regular cleaning of these places to rid homes of unwanted fire hazards.
The bathroom is the last place that comes to mind when fires are mentioned. However, bathrooms also contain potential hazards that can cause fire damage to a home. Never overlook the bathroom when fireproofing and conducting a fire safety inspection of the house.
Firstly, make sure that electrical outlets and cords are placed far from bathroom water sources. An uncovered outlet or cord can easily ignite and cause injury especially when accidentally used near running water. Always check that all bathroom appliances such as electric toothbrushes and blow dryers are unplugged and safely put away before leaving the bathroom.
Clothes, towels, and wash cloths are highly combustible items. Put these fire damage causing items away in a safe place in the bathroom.
Candles are soothing and relaxing while soaking in a bath, but exercise caution when using candles in the bathroom. Use candles with proper candleholders that are not flammable. As much as possible, avoid using candles altogether.
Minimizing fire damage to a home is not complete without fireproofing the outside areas of the house. Make sure that the building materials used for constructing the house are fire resistant. Choose materials such as tiles and shingles for the roofing of the house. Home fires commonly spread by leaping onto the roof of an adjacent house, so the chances of your own house catching on fire are minimized when fire resistant materials are used.
Gardens are typically designed purely for aesthetic purposes but they can also become safety measures against fire damage. Placing a tree near home structures will protect them from the sun’s direct heat. Choose hardwood trees as these do not catch fire as quickly as other types of trees. Plants with leaves and branches that contain a lot of moisture are also a great addition to any home. Aside from lending their beauty, they also prevent fire from spreading and causing further damage.
Well-placed fire detectors, especially in fire-sensitive areas such as the kitchen, will greatly minimize a house’s potential for fire damage. Fire extinguishers that are maintained and regularly tested are a worthwhile investment. Homeowners who are interested in protecting their properties and families from fire damage will find that these two things are basic necessities in any home.