Home fires are serious, and they’re seriously scary. In 2017, US fire departments responded to nearly 500,000 structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). with more than half of them being house fires. While some of these fires were small and didn’t cause any major damage, others were devastating total losses.
The good news is that many home fires can be prevented, as many fires that start are due to human activity. Here are five home fire prevention tips you can implement to reduce your risk of a home fire.
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking introduces open flames and smoldering materials (cigarette butts) into your home. The old adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” rings true: cigarette butts contacting flammable materials (like bedding or cloth-upholstered furniture) can lead to a fire.
So, how dangerous is smoking? Quite. The NFPA reports in a 2012-2016 survey that one out of every 20 home structure fires reported was started by smoking materials. “Smoking fires” were the most deadly form of a house fire, too, likely because smoking frequently occurs in sleeping areas.
The best solution for your home and your health is to quit smoking. If you must smoke, do it only outside, and always properly extinguish your cigarette.
2. Clean Your Dryer Vent
Cleaning your dryer vent thoroughly is a great way to reduce your risk of a home fire. The lint produced by your clothes dryer is highly flammable, and it will accumulate over time in your dryer vent. At least once a year, remove and clean the dryer vent tubing using a flexible, extendable brush, which you’ll run through the length of the dryer vent tubing.
We can’t stress the importance of this oft-neglected task. The NFPA reports that between 2010 and 2014 fire departments were called to almost 16,000 home fires caused by dryers or washing machines each year, with92% of those fires caused by dryers, and at least 27% of those due to excess dust, fiber, or lint.
3. Don’t Leave High-Risk Devices Unattended
It’s common sense that any device that gets hot is a fire risk (think hair dryers, curling irons, clothes irons, and space heaters). Because of this, it is important to follow some common-sense rules with these high-risk devices. Always unplug them when you are not using them; when you are, keep them away from flammable items. Additionally, it is good practice to use the “Out-of-Sight” rule: never leave a heat-producing device plugged in when it’s out of your sight.
Many of these devices now come with auto-off features which can be helpful. Still, the only guarantee that you will avoid these devices overheating and potentially causing a fire in your home is to turn off and unplug.
4. Say No to Kerosene Heaters and Lamps
Unless you live in the frozen north or the power is out, just say no to kerosene heaters and lamps. Any heater that can be tipped over and that has a liquid fuel source has an extra layer of danger built-in. You may know to be careful around it, but your kids or your dogs may not.
Unless you're in a situation where a kerosene heater is your only useful choice, use something safer, like an electric space heater. With no fuel inside, an electric heater is less of a fire risk.
5. Buy a Fire Extinguisher (or Two!)
This isn’t so much about preventing a fire as it is about stopping one. Think for a moment: what would you do if you did have a small fire in your home? Do you have any tools (besides a bucket and a hose) to prevent a small fire from turning into a room-wide or even whole-home blaze? Fire extinguishers for home use are fairly inexpensive and easily accessible. A recommendation would be to keep one in the kitchen and each bedroom of your home.
Home fires are scary business. If you ever encounter a house fire, everyone in your family must have an escape plan. The number one priority is getting out quickly. But, even better is avoiding a fire in the first place. By following these five fire safety tips, you’ll greatly reduce your risk of experiencing a home fire, keeping you and your family safe.