Home Fire Prevention
Fire is the most devastating thing that can happen to your home. You can minimize the risk of fire by using the following tips. Use the information to build a plan of escape to keep you and your loved ones safe if a fire does occur.
Prevention Around the House
- Check your wiring, especially if your house is an older one. Older
wiring may crack, exposing the live wires and causing shorts, which can ignite
building materials. If you have mice or squirrels, they may chew the wiring.
Have an exterminator get rid of them, then check the wiring for damage.
- Evaluate the electrical load in your home. Modern homes use many
more electrical appliances than in the past and your wiring may not be able
to handle the larger load. This can cause wires to overheat, creating a fire
hazard in the walls. A qualified electrician can tell you about your wiring
capacity. Have him check the circuits at the same time, to be sure there are
enough of them of the proper size to handle appliances such as dryers and
window air conditioners.
- Inspect gas appliances yearly. Natural gas appliances such as furnaces
and water heaters require proper venting to allow fumes to escape safely.
You should have furnaces checked yearly to assure they are burning cleanly
and correctly. Have gas water heaters checked regularly for leaks or bad burners.
- Keep flammable objects away from heat sources. Everybody stores things
like boxes, packing materials, and papers, as well as flammable liquids and
aerosols. These should be kept in a well-ventilated area, away from any heat
sources like pilot lights or light bulbs. Ideally, do not keep such items
in the basement. Remember, fires tend to move up, so a fire in the basement
is a greater danger than one in the attic.
Prevention in the Kitchen
- Get a fire extinguisher. Be sure you get one that is rated for the
kinds of fires you may encounter in the kitchen. One labeled ABC will handle
all fires, including electrical, so it is a good one for the kitchen. Be sure
it is large enough to handle a moderate fire but be careful not to get one
too heavy for easy use. And be sure everyone knows how to use it! An extinguisher
that no one can use won't help. Keep it out in plain view and service it regularly.
The instruction book will give information as to how often it should be inspected.
- Be prepared for fires on and in the stove. Grease fires can happen
very suddenly and be very frightening. Cutting off air to the fire is the
way to put it out. Keep a large box of BAKING SODA near the stove and use
it to smother the flames. Other substances like flour may burn or explode,
making the fire much worse. Turn off the burner to remove it as a heat source.
A large lid can be placed on top of a pan of burning grease. If the fire is
in the oven, turn it off, as well as any vent to the oven, and leave the door
shut until the fire stops. This will prevent extra air from entering to fan
- Use common sense when working around any heat source. Don't wear
clothing which can dangle and catch fire or become entangled in pot handles.
Always use protection when picking up utensils or pans on the stove. Assume
everything is hot! Be careful not to leave pot holders, cook books, etc.,
close to stove burners where they might catch fire.
- Buy them and use them. Since studies show that most fatal fires occur
at night, it is imperative that you have smoke detectors to wake you and your
family in time to reach safety. Buy smoke detectors that are approved by independent
agencies. At a minimum, get one for each floor of your home as well as the
basement. One should also be placed outside each bedroom. Keep them away from
doors, windows, and vents since drafts can keep them from working properly.
- Keep them working properly. The best smoke detector you can buy will
only be able to save you if it is operating properly. Change the batteries
twice a year. Write it into your daily planner to remind yourself. A good
memory aid is to put in new batteries each time Daylight Savings Time changes.
Test the detectors regularly, once a month. Replace any faulty detector immediately.
Never paint your detectors and keep the covers clean. Covers filled with dust
cannot function properly. Replace detectors after 10 years since the sensor
can lose their effectiveness.
- Don't forget about carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is
a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted in any fire, including fireplaces
and gas furnaces. Detectors constantly monitor the air and will signal when
a build-up of the deadly gas is occurring, long before you are aware of the
symptoms of fatigue, headache, and nausea. Since the gas can travel through
heating ducts, place one near or in each bedroom.
The Hazards of Smoking
Smoking causes thousands of house fires every year. Cigarettes which fall
into furniture can cause fabric to smolder for hours, even after the cigarette
is removed. The smoldering will eventually flame and the piece of furniture
can be engulfed in fire in a matter of seconds. A few common-sense rules can
keep you and your family safe from such a disaster.
- Never smoke in bed. It is amazing how many people ignore this simple
basic rule. If you fall asleep before the cigarette is extinguished it will
fall into the bedclothes or onto the carpet. Such fabrics emit smoke which
will cause unconsciousness before flames ever begin.
- Never smoke near anything flammable. Smoking around trash, papers,
or boxes can allow hot ash to fall and ignite such objects. And flammable
liquids emit fumes which will ignite readily. Never ever smoke near gasoline
or any other volatile flammable fluid.
- Be sure the cigarette is out when you discard it. A lighted cigarette
thrown into the garbage may smolder for hours, then ignite into a large fire.
Be sure you use ashtrays and never empty them unless the contents are completely
Robert Boyd and Associates serves the entire state of Mississippi,
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