Have you ever had that reoccurring nightmare where your family home burns down with you and your family in it? No? Just us? Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but house fires are very real and can happen to anyone. According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, there are over 350,000 home fires per year across the United States, and combined, the cost adds up to over $7 billion in property damage. Before we dive into where house fires tend to start and how you can prevent them and be better equipped to handle accidental fires in your home, we have a quick PSA:
Use your smoke detectors. If they are unplugged or missing batteries, reconnect your smoke detectors ASAP, change their batteries annually and test them regularly as well. Please do not senselessly put your loved ones in the way of danger as it is easily avoidable.
Now let’s get into how to keep your home and your family safe!
Cooking in the Kitchen
This one is probably a no-brainer, but the most common place for fires to start in a home is in the kitchen. While there are many ways fires start in kitchens, unattended cooking is by far the biggest culprit with nearly 50% of all residential fires starting due to cooking negligence as a result. One of the more common ways unattended cooking can cause fires is because of grease build-up. Grease is highly flammable and can combust at 600 degrees Fahrenheit. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, ask someone in your household to temporarily step in for you.
A few safety tips:
- Clean all pots, pans and oven dishes thoroughly to prevent grease buildup.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but be sure to put it somewhere that is easily accessible.
- If you are alone, cooking food and must step away, turn off the appliance until you return.
- Be aware and careful with loose or baggy clothing or change prior to using high heat appliances.
- Remove everything from flammable surfaces except for the pots or pans you are using.
- Make a habit of double checking that you have turned off your appliances. As a rule of thumb, we like to check a second time after eating the meal we made.
- Bonus: Toasters can cause house fires if the mechanism that browns your bread does not turn off. Unplug your toaster when it is not in use and clean the crumbs from the bottom regularly. Also, if your toaster begins to spark, toss it.
Drying Your Clothes
After contacting our local fire department, we were as shocked as you may be right now, but it’s true — dryers are a leading cause of house fires. Dryers may seem fairly non-threatening, but nearly 3,000 avoidable fires occur every year due to neglected dryer maintenance. So what about dryers cause fires? The build-up of lint. 27% of all dryer related fires are caused by lint while 25% are caused by the clothes themselves.
A few safety tips:
- Clean your lint-traps after every dryer cycle. While this may seem like overkill, it’s better to create this habit of maintenance after every use than the alternative which is to forget to remove lint from the dryer over and over until it becomes a safely hazard.
- Do not leave the dryer running if you are not home. If you can, pay special attention to the dryer while it runs. Check in whenever you get a chance.
We may not realize it, but there are many devices we use regularly that use heat as a part of their functionality. Many home products fall under this category — electric blankets, hair dryers, straightening or curling irons, space heaters, etc. When using heating equipment, check to make sure that all wiring is in tact without any scuffs or tears throughout the cord, but also be mindful to keep heating devices away from flammable goods. Another point to keep in mind is that carbon monoxide is a regular byproduct of fuel-based devices. If you have any fuel-based goods in your home, placing a few carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home is recommended.
A few safety tips:
- Unplug your heating devices before you leave the room, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- After use, unplug things like hair straighteners, irons, etc. Saying that you unplugged these devices out loud can help you remember that you took care of them. It can also be beneficial to let a family member in the household know that you’ve unplugged a heating device so in case you forget, they will remember.
- Heating devices tend to use a lot of power, which can overload your outlet. When using a space heater or an iron, consider unplugging other devices to limit the load on the outlet.
While these machines scattered around our homes are meant to make for a more convenient home life, we still need to be responsible and mindfully use these everyday tools while maintaining them regularly. Do you know someone that could benefit from some of these tips? Be sure to share this article with them!
Be safe out there!