If the thought of losing your home to a fire is keeping you up at night, you’ll be happy to know that there are a ton of proactive steps you can take to protect your home and prevent house fires before they start!
As National Fire Prevention Week approaches, we’ve rounded up 10 simple ways that you and your family can do to help prevent house fires.
Take some time to review these fire prevention basics with your family to ensure that everyone in your home knows how to prevent a fire from breaking out.
Prevent House Fires #1: Test Your Smoke Alarms Regularly
One of the best and easiest ways to prevent house fires is by installing smoke alarms and keeping them in good working order.
For this, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends testing your smoke alarm once a month, changing the batteries twice a year, and replacing the alarm itself every 10 years.
Never tested a smoke alarm before? It’s really easy to do!
Most smoke alarms have a light that indicates the unit is receiving power. However, you can (and should) still use the test button to ensure that the alarm will sound properly.
Press and hold the test button on the smoke alarm. It might take a few seconds, but a loud, ear-piercing alarm should sound.
If the sound is weak or nonexistent, you may need to replace the batteries or smoke alarm itself.
But what if you’re at work or on vacation when your smoke alarm goes off?
If you’re looking for that extra bit of peace of mind, you should also consider placing a Notion Sensor by your smoke alarm so even while you're away, you'll know if your smoke alarm is sounding.
As soon as our wireless sensor hears when your smoke alarm going off, you’ll get an alert sent to your smartphone so you can take action.
Prevent House Fires #2: Frequently Inspect Your Heating Equipment
Booking an annual furnace inspection and tune-up won’t just prolong the life of your furnace – it can also help prevent house fires!
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment (including space heaters, fireplaces, and central heating systems) is the leading cause of fires in U.S. homes.
As a result, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent house fires from heating equipment, such as remembering to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed, never using your oven to heat your home, and having heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
Also, keep in mind that when heating systems aren’t working properly, they can release carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas that can cause severe illness and death.
As a precaution, we recommend installing a Notion Sensor next to your CO alarms. This will notify you when your CO alarm goes off, giving time for you and your pets to evacuate safely.
Prevent House Fires #3: Keep Fire Extinguishers Handy
Having a fire extinguisher in your home might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of families go without one!
It’s unfortunate because fire extinguishers are your best defense against small, contained fires that have just started to burn.
For those who live in a smaller home, the best place to have a fire extinguisher is in the kitchen where fires are most likely to breakout.
But for larger homes or those who want to take extra precaution, it’s a good idea to store multiple fire extinguishers around your house – especially in other high-risk locations such as the garage or near fireplaces.
Note: Wherever you choose to store your fire extinguishers, make sure that they’re easily accessible to everyone in your home.
Keep in mind that fire extinguishers are completely useless if you and your family don’t know how to use them!
That’s why it’s really important to make sure that everyone in your family is familiar with how to operate a fire extinguisher.
For those with younger children, it could be helpful to print out and post the P.A.S.S. acronym near the fire extinguisher:
P = Pull
A = Aim
S = Squeeze
S = Sweep
Looking to get a fire extinguisher for your home? They can be purchased at your local hardware store for as little as $19 USD. Don't forget to check which fire extinguisher classification is best for your home or property.
Prevent House Fires #4: Practice Fire Safety in the Kitchen
We’ve all been there. You’re simmering pasta sauce when the phone rings or one of your kids calls for you. You leave the stove unattended for a few minutes and, by the time you realize, your pasta sauce has turned into a scorching mess.
According to the NFPA, cooking fires are one of the biggest causes of home fires and home injuries in the U.S.
The leading cause of these fires? Unattended or distracted cooking.
Here’s the good news: Following a few simple kitchen safety tips is all you need to protect you and your family from a potentially devastating home fire!
Firstly, never leave food that is cooking unattended – this is especially true if you’re frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
If you’re simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, stay in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
If for some reason you need to leave the kitchen while cooking, turn the oven and stovetop off and slide the pan onto a cold burner.
It’s also a good idea to keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stovetop, and to keep your oven and stove area clean and grease-free.
You should also regularly check your stove vent hood to make sure it’s clear and unobstructed. If the vent is connected to an exterior vent, make sure that it’s free of any insects or a bird nest that could impede airflow.
Prevent House Fires #5: Maintain All Your Electrical Cords
Electrical fires are also a top cause of house fires in the U.S., but luckily, this is another area where following a few simple safety tips can make all the difference!
So what are the biggest causes of electrical fires?
First of all, something many of us are guilty of: plugging too many appliances into a single outlet.
It may seem innocuous, but when too many appliances are plugged into an outlet, you risk overloading the circuit which can cause the outlet to overheat.
To prevent this, try getting in the habit of unplugging appliances when they aren’t being used. This will help improve your fire safety at home (and maybe even your electricity bill!).
Keep in mind that pulling on a cord can wear it out over time – and cords that are worn or frayed can increase the risk of a short circuit, an electrical shock, and even a fire.
To avoid this, try unplugging appliances by grabbing the plug's head rather than by pulling the cord. If you notice any damages to your cords, replace them immediately.
It’s also important to be careful around extension cords that are used for extended periods of time. They can easily be damaged from overuse which also increases the risk of fire.
Finally, never break off the third prong on a plug to plug it into a two-pronged outlet. The third prong (also known as the ground connector) acts as an emergency path for electricity to travel through if a short circuit or other fault develops inside the electrical device. So it’s best to keep it intact!
Prevent House Fires #6: Check Your Dryer for Proper Air Flow
For many of us, using a dryer is part of our daily or weekly routine.
But did you know that dryers cause more than 20,000 house fires every year, causing millions of dollars in damage?
Thankfully, regular cleaning and maintenance are all you need to protect your family and your home from dryer fires!
Start by getting in the habit of removing the lint trap from your dryer filter after every use.
When lint accumulates inside a dryer, it can clog airflow and cause heat to build up (along with mildew and mold!). And because lint is flammable, if it makes its way into the thermostats, motors, or heating elements, it can quickly catch fire.
Lint can also build up in your dryer vent, so don’t forget to clean that area out as well!
Keep in mind, that some dryers will have internal ductwork that when clogged, may require professional servicing. So if you find that your dryer is operating poorly, it’s best to have it checked out immediately.
Prevent House Fires #7: Store Flammable Products Responsibly
While leaving household items like nail polish and hair spray around the house may seem harmless, when exposed to heat or an open flame, these products can become highly dangerous.
In fact, according to the NFPA, flammable or combustible liquids cause more than 43,000 home fires each year!
Chances are, if you're an average homeowner (or renter), you have a wide variety of flammable liquids under your roof. That’s why it’s so important to carefully read product labels, keep an eye out for any warnings, and store accordingly.
For example, aerosol products such as hairspray and shaving cream should be stored in a cool, dry space away from any heat sources.
Other products such as gasoline, paint thinners, and other flammable liquids should be stored away from pilot light equipped appliances and other heat sources. It’s also a good idea to keep these products in a space place either outdoors or in a separate shed.
Prevent House Fires #8: Use Your Fireplace Safely
A fireplace can provide a ton of warmth and ambiance on a relaxing night at home (especially in fall and winter!), but they can become dangerous if they aren’t used and maintained properly.
Here are a few tips:
First off, never leave an active fire unattended. A few rogue sparks can quickly get out of hand, so it’s important to always have someone keeping an eye on the fire.
To reduce the risk of spark and embers igniting your home, it’s also a good idea to install a screen or door between your fireplace and flooring.
And when you’re putting the fire out, make sure that the embers (and not just the flames) are out as well. You should also give the ashes plenty of time to cool down before disposing of them (some recommend waiting as long as 24 hours before removing ashes from your fireplace).
Finally, it’s really important to have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. Blocked or defective chimneys from built-up tar and soot can cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, so it's a good idea to hire a professional chimney cleaner.
Prevent House Fires #9: Be Careful When Using Candles
Who doesn’t love a good scented candle? They’re perfect for creating a cozy and serene ambiance in your home. But if left unattended, they can also be a huge fire hazard!
If you use candles regularly, it’s so important to put them out before leaving the room.
You should also keep them far away from any blankets, carpets, or other flammable objects that they could come into contact with.
If you have small children or pets, it’s also a good idea to keep lit candles on a higher surface and out of reach!
Prevent House Fires #10: Prevent Outdoor Fires
We covered fire safety tips in the home, but what about your outdoor spaces?
In backyards, fires can be triggered by using BBQs or fire pits irresponsibility, or simply having a messy backyard!
First things first, make sure to clean up any lawn clippings or dry leaves that can create heat and potentially start fires. Keep this debris far away from the house and dispose of it as soon as possible.
If you have a fire pit, keep stacks of firewood away from the home as it could catch fire in the case of a grass fire. And when putting a campfire out, make sure that it’s completely out before you head in for the night.
Thanks for reading! In honor of National Fire Prevention Week, which runs from October 6-12th, we hope you and your family take these extra precautions and practice fire safety at home.
Pro tip: for those with young children, or those who just want to extra reminders around the house, print out these fantastic tip sheets made by the Nation Fire Prevention Association.