According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a fire department is dispatched to a fire in the United States every 24 seconds.
Home fires were responsible for more than 11,000 civilian injuries in 2018. The Hoosier state averaged 82 fire deaths per year between 2013-2017, and Indiana’s fire death rate of 12.4 per 1 million population each year is higher than the national average of 9.9 during that span. The U.S. Fire Administration’s latest Fire in the United States report shows that while overall fires and fire-related injuries have gone down over the past decade, 10-year trends for fire-related deaths and dollar loss have actually increased — with $14.7 billion in direct property loss occurring each year.
No fire should be underestimated. It can take fewer than 30 seconds for a small flame to grow into a major fire and mere moments more for thick black smoke to fill a home.
Understanding how to prevent house fires, and what to do to stay safe in the event of a fire, are thoughts every property owner should consider. Here are some tips for keeping you and your family safe and protected.
Form a fire escape plan
Every family should create and practice a fire escape plan tailored to their home. Collaborate and assign individuals to help with any pets, young children or elderly family members, and determine at least two possible exits from each room of the house.
For second-story rooms, fire escape ladders can be placed near windows and all family members should know how to securely attach them to the windowsill.
Establish an outside meeting place (mailbox, light post, neighbor’s porch, etc.) that is a safe distance away from your home where your family can gather after escaping. Teach your children, “Don’t hide, go outside!”
During a fire, try to stay low to the ground and leave your home immediately. Place your hand on all doors and doorknobs before opening them — if warm, there may be fire on the other side. Find another exit, if possible.
As you move from one room to another, close any doors behind you to slow the spread of flames. If your clothing catches fire, running will only spread the fire faster. The tried and true “stop, drop and roll” strategy is best.
Once your family reaches its predetermined meeting place, do not go back inside your home until the fire is out and you’re given permission by your local fire marshal.
Install and test smoke alarms
Every home’s fire safety plan should include the installation and monthly testing of smoke alarms.
Every room and hallway should have at least one smoke alarm, while larger areas like open living spaces should have multiple. Don’t paint over any smoke alarms or install them in humid, dusty areas or anywhere where temperature extremes are common, such as unfinished attics or garages.
Some alarms are designed to detect different types of fires under different conditions. Ionization smoke alarms are better at detecting fast-moving flames, while photoelectric alarms often more quickly identify smoldering fires. Installing combination smoke alarms that utilize both types of detection will provide comprehensive protection to your home.
Know your home
Realizing the most likely areas for a fire to occur in your home can help keep your entire family safe.
Throughout any home, electrical outlets, appliances and cords can lead to household fires. Warning signs to look out for can include flickering or dimming lights, a hissing sound coming from fixtures when they’re turned on, or switches and outlets feeling hot while in use.
Damaged cords are one of the most common causes of electrical fires. Check all cords periodically for damage and don’t use any that are frayed, brittle or cracked. Don’t overload surge protectors and power strips with too many devices, and never plug in multiple heat-producing appliances into one wall outlet at a time.
According to the NFPA, cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires and injuries.
Don’t wear excessively loose clothing, remain in the kitchen and don’t leave anything unattended while cooking. Keep a non-expired fire extinguisher in an easily accessible area of the kitchen.
When cooking with oil or grease, smoke is a sign it’s becoming too hot and approaching its flash point. Covering the pan with a lid will smother and extinguish any small fire. In the event of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Periodically inspecting and cleaning your oven to remove old food and grease can help keep it operating safely.
- Laundry Room
Your home’s laundry room combines combustible materials like clothing lint and natural gas with heat and electricity, making these areas natural fire hazards. The majority of laundry room house fires are caused by dryers. Keeping your lint filter clean, following all clothing care instructions and not leaving your dryer running while away or sleeping are some of the best practices for avoiding a laundry room fire.
Water heaters are also often stored in these areas and can become a fire hazard if not properly maintained. Keep the space surrounding your water heater well ventilated and free of flammable materials, especially near the pilot light.
Every fireplace and chimney should be professionally cleaned and inspected at least once annually. If you use your fireplace frequently, your local professionals may recommend more regular cleanings and inspections.
Creosote, a byproduct of smoke, is a sticky and highly flammable substance that can build up in your chimney. Creosote production can be kept to a minimum, however, by burning only well-seasoned wood. Well-seasoned logs are relatively lightweight considering their size with hints of dark yellow or silver coloration. The ends might be cracked, and they’ll make a hollow, clunking noise when hit together. Seasoned wood produces high, hot flames and very little smoke, making it best for indoor fireplace burning.
Never leave a fire burning unattended, keep children away from the fire at all times and allow the ashes plenty of time to cool before you remove them in an ash bucket.
House fires can be damaging, devastating and potentially deadly, especially if your family and home aren’t prepared. Your home is likely filled with more fire hazards than you realize, but familiarizing yourself with the likely culprits and prevention methods and having a plan in place in case disaster strikes could save lives and minimize costly damage.
Recovering from a fire can be an involved, lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be painful. It’s important you work with a team compassionate to your situation and experienced in dealing with insurance companies. At Josh Smalling Roofing and Restoration, we’ve helped countless families piece their lives and their homes back together following house fires, guiding them through the claims process to repair and rebuild from fire, smoke and water damage. Contact our team today to begin your recovery.