It’s Fire Prevention Week and there’s a lot we all can do to observe, including congratulating and thanking firefighters for their brave work, learning and teaching others about fire safety, and updating our own fire prevention plans. Perhaps the most important fire safety planning revolves around our own homes. We want to share some important tips regarding home fire prevention that you can implement this week to help protect yourself, your family, and even your home itself from the threat of fire. This is in no way a comprehensive guide but a start into what you can do as a homeowner, or future homeowner to be safe a protected.
First, a few points about fire to be aware of – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) outlines truths about fires:
- Fire burns fast – A small flame can become a raging fire in as fast as 30 seconds. In only two minutes from igniting, a home can be completely overcome by flames.
- Fire burns hot – Heat can often pose a greater threat than the fire’s flames. A burning home fire can cause temperatures to rise to 100 degrees at floor level and 600 degrees at eye level.
- Fires are dark – You might expect home fires to burn bright. They begin that way, but fire quickly produces thick black smoke that can cause complete darkness.
- Fires are lethal – In addition to high heat and burning flames, smoke and toxic gases can kill. Fire produces poisonous gases that can make victims disoriented and drowsy, they can even cause asphyxiation.
It’s important to create and practice a plan that will minimize the chances of a fire starting in your home and maximize your ability to escape in case one does start.
Homeowners should prepare their homes with fire safety equipment that could go a long way to protect the loved ones living inside.
- Smoke Detectors – These are the number one life savers when it comes to home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, two-thirds of all deaths caused by fire occur in properties without a working smoke alarm. Ensure working fire alarms installed on every level of your home, including the basement, both inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test the units monthly and replace their batteries yearly. Replace each device at least every 10 years. And be sure that the device you have works for everyone in your household (strobe lights for the hard of hearing) and that each one understands what to do when it does go off.
- Escape Ladders – These are recommended in every room above or below the ground level. Basements with rooms that have window wells need ladders to get up and out with; upper level rooms require collapsible or rope ladders that can be stored in the room and used in a moments’ notice.
- Fire Extinguishers – It is also good practice to keep regularly inspected fire extinguishers on hand near high hazard areas like the kitchen, laundry room, and garage. Make sure they are always up to code and that everyone knows where they are and how to use them.
Some of the most common in-home fire threats are very avoidable if you know what they are and how dangerous they can be.
- Cooking – All methods of in-home cooking can pose a threat. That shouldn’t scare you away from cooking for your family, but you should be aware that leaving a hot stove unsupervised for a moment can cause an accident. And that’s the most common factor in kitchen fires – unattended cooking. Please be cautious!
- Heaters – Fireplaces, furnaces, space heaters, and radiators can be potential fire hazards. If they’re left on and unattended accidents can happen. Be sure to keep flammable materials away from your home heating devices, have them inspected regularly, change any filters often and keep them clean. Most of all, do not leave them on and unattended.
- Electrical Equipment – Electric appliances, lighting, outlets, and wiring can all cause fires at home. Have a look at your appliances’ wires often and be sure they’re not frayed or damaged. Be aware of the wattage of your devices as to not overload any single electrical outlet. Use extension cords only temporarily and do not hide them under rugs as damages may go unnoticed and ignite the rug as the cord gets warmer from use. Also, be sure to use light bulbs with wattage corresponding to recommendation listed for the lamp or fixture.
- Smoking accidents – Be aware that smoking in the home can be a fire hazard. If smoking indoors, be sure to use a deep and sturdy ashtray and that ashes are completely extinguished – preferably under water – before leaving unattended. Never smoke where supplemental oxygen is being used.
American Red Cross’s Senior Director of Community Preparedness, Kevin Kelley shared with Offerpad the results from a Red Cross survey last year. It highlights that today’s home fires burn faster than ever often leaving people with as little as two minutes to escape a burning home. Unfortunately, many mistakenly believe they have more time. The American Red Cross explains how to prepare for a home fire in seven steps:
- Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
- Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.
- Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
- Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire” to alert everyone that they must get out.
- Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
- Teach household members to STOP, DROP, and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.
The list of things we can do to be better protected from home fires goes on and on. Hopefully, this brief outline will help you as you implement the best safety practices in your home. Please seek additional information from emergency preparedness agencies like FEMA, American Red Cross, and the National Fire Protection Association to learn more about being fire ready. Through their resources you can learn regularly updated information and even plan for fire prevention, create a home escape plan, and develop a full emergency plan specific to your needs.
It’s Fire Prevention Week now, but the principles highlighted this week should be top of mind all year round. Finding, buying and moving into your home with ease is important to us at Offerpad but so is your safety. Before we ever list a home for sale on the market we are sure to inspect it and ensure that it complies with fire codes safety regulations to protect the future owner and their loved ones. Enjoy your home, be safe, and remember the old adage, “Fire Feeds on Careless Deeds.”
- April 28, 2018. Wilmington, North Carolina. Smoke alarm installations at the Sound the Alarm event. Adam Jennings/American Red Cross