We’ve all heard the phrase “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” at least once in our lives. Most of the time, that smoke is the only unfortunate warning we get before we realize something’s wrong. It’s easy to go through your home and make sure matches and lighters are put away and clothes aren’t near a space heater and then call it a day, but it takes a bit more diligence and work to protect your home from fires.
1. Check Your Cords: Remember the episode of Friends when Rachel left her hair straightener plugged in and accidentally burned down Phoebe’s apartment? It’s true that leaving your electronics plugged in for a while can start a fire, but the same is true for faulty or deteriorating cords for those electronics. If the plastic covering on a cord is broken and the wires underneath are exposed, it could send sparks flying and start a fire. Make it a habit to check all of your electrical cords; if they’re frayed or broken, consider buying a new item to replace the potential danger. You can also use electrical tape (if the break is not extremely bad) as a temporary solution until you’re able to replace the cord. Also make it a habit to check your outlets to make sure they’re not overloaded. If you have to use an outlet for more than two plugs, use a power strip or surge protector.
2. Clean the Oven: Almost every movie and TV show we’ve seen shows fires always starting in the kitchen. Ovens, toasters, microwaves, and even the refrigerator can be potential sources for a fire. Keeping everything clean and free of debris will lessen the risk of starting a fire. If you use pot holders, towels, or paper towels in the kitchen, keep them clear of the oven burners so they don’t catch fire. Cleaning your stovetop and oven to prevent or get rid of the grease buildup also makes it harder to fires to start spontaneously. Lastly, always check the kitchen appliances before you go to bed: make sure all burners are switched off and unplug toasters and toaster ovens if you won’t be using them. Make sure that you also have an unexpired fire extinguisher near the kitchen, preferably one that is designed to put out grease fires.
3. Keep an Eye on Your Candles: Candles are some of the most useful home accessories: They can light a dark area, fill a room with delicious fragrance, and even serve as a prop for telling spooky stories. At the same time, candles are some of the most dangerous home accessories. You should never leave a candle unattended, especially when there are children around. Don’t leave candles burning around loose fabrics like curtains or clothes, and always extinguish the candles when you’re finished with them. Rest candles on a sturdy surface that won’t fall over. If you absolutely have to leave a candle (maybe you need to step into another room, for example), move the candle to a tall and safe space where it won’t be at risk of falling or being bothered.
4. Avoid Smoking in the House: As tempting as it may be, it’s really a good idea to take your cigarettes outside if you must smoke. You’ve no doubt heard stories about people falling asleep with lit cigarettes, which is obviously very dangerous. On a related note, you don’t want to leave cigarettes, matches, and lighters around the house where kids can get to them.
5. Stack Your Firewood Correctly: A wood-burning fireplace can be quite cozy in the winter time, but if you aren’t careful, it can also be dangerous. You’ll want to avoid embers flying out onto your carpet, which can be done by stacking wood correctly. If you stack your wood as you would a bonfire, you can reduce your chances of embers popping out into your living room. Also, if you burn pine, hemlock, or other evergreen wood species, have your chimney cleaned regularly. These wood types contain more tar, which can result in a creosote buildup in your chimney. Never operate a fireplace without a screen, and never leave a fire unattended.
6. Clear the Flammable Debris: Wildfires are just as dangerous as a kitchen fire, depending on where you live. Dry brush and sweltering heat is just enough to cause a massive outdoor blaze. You can protect your home by clearing out dead branches and leaves from around the outside perimeters and composting them instead of burning them. If you have trees around your home, trim any branches that look dead and are hanging over the house to prevent a flame from dropping onto your roof. If you have firewood by your back door, consider moving the piles away from house once the hotter months start coming back. Firewood piles can easily catch a spark and go up in flames, and a pile of lit firewood by your home can mean disaster or the need for major restorations.
7. Get the Proper Smoke Detectors and Replace Them Every 10 Years: It goes without saying that you should have smoke detectors in your home, but many people assume that they’re all basically the same. Smoke detectors with photoelectric sensors are faster to respond to smoldering fires and are recommended by the International Association of Fire Fighters. Ionization detectors are better suited for flash fires; however, they’re more likely to alarm for non-life-threatening situations such as burnt toast. This can be a disadvantage of the dual-sensor detectors as well. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing both ionization and photoelectric alarms in your home for the best overall protection from both sudden and smoldering fires. If you’ve decided to replace your ionization detector for a photoelectric model, don’t discard a working smoke detector until you have and are ready to install its replacement. Having a working detector is more important than having a specific variety.
While we’re talking about smoke detectors, the best protection comes from having a smoke detector with a 10-year battery, and from replacing that smoke detector after 10 years. It’s may seem inconvenient, but it’s worth it to keep your family safe.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to keep your home safe from fires. You just need to be aware of the dangers and take the appropriate precautions.
Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics at PublicHealthCorps.org. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.
Photo by tpsdave via Pixabay.