Hottest Tips on Preparing for House Fires

Posted May 29th, 2012
by Isabell Davila (no comments)

The American Red Cross states that the single most common disaster they respond to is home fires. Furthermore, they say that house fires are the most preventable disaster. If you know how house fires occur, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent significant damage and possible danger to household residents.


How They Happen

  • Cooking – According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking was involved in 44% of reported home fires in 2010. This includes accidents caused by unattended cooking, clothing items lighting up, frying, and the ignition of food and other cooking materials. The NFPA also notes that the peak of cooking fires occur around Thanksgiving.
  • Smoking – Although not the primary cause of home fires, smoking is the single greatest cause of deaths by home fires. Those who smoke indoors do not always pay close attention to how close their cigarette is to furniture and clothing, both of which tend to catch on fire and often result in the death of the individual. When a cigarette or cigar is not properly extinguished before being disposed, it can light paper in wastebaskets on fire and get out of hand before anyone notices.
  • Electrical – The two most common reasons electrical fires start are lights and home electrical systems. People don’t always check the maximum wattage requirement for lamps and other lighting fixtures and when they use bulbs that generate too much heat, it can cause a house fire. Placing things on top of lamps and lights will also result in the object potentially igniting.
  • Heating – In the winter months, heating results in numerous house fires. Contrary to what you might assume, furnaces are not the primary cause of heating-related fires. Space heaters pose the biggest problem as they are often placed too close to the wall or flammable materials. Another common mistake people make with space heaters is hanging socks and shoes on them to dry. After a while, however, they forget about the clothing items, which eventually catch on fire.
  • Christmas trees – In December, that gorgeous evergreen is covered in lights and plastic tinsel. Old strings of lights can have faulty bulbs or exposed wires. The slightest contact with a drying pine-needle or synthetic material on the tree can quickly cause the whole tree to go up in flames. Although lights look prettiest at night, it is vitally important to turn off the lights before bed.
  • Children playing with fire – Keep all matches and lighters out of reach of small children. Kids who don’t know how to properly handle fire are responsible for many house fires each year. Proper education on this subject can prevent children from mishandling flammable materials. A field trip to the local fire station can be a fun way to teach them about fire safety.


How to Prevent

Prior to dealing with a blaze in the home, there are some basic preparations you can make that will prevent accidents like the ones listed above from happening.

For starters, identify two escape routes from every room in the house and make sure all members of the household are aware of them. About twice a year, hold drills to refresh the route in everybody’s mind. Locate all ladders and hoses around the outside of the home and check that they are all in working order in case it becomes necessary to use either one.

Additionally, replace all fire alarm batteries at least once a year. Windows often become stuck over time so periodically it’s wise to ensure they open smoothly.

Always supervise cooking and have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen. For space heaters and all other electronic devices, read the warnings and instructions to avoid accidental ignition of objects in the immediate vicinity.


How to Respond

The Red Cross lists multiple response tips in case a fire does occur. If possible, they recommend you use whatever escape plan you have practiced and set in place. In case doors or passageways are blocked by flames or excessive smoke, stay in the safety of the room you’re in at the moment. Close the door and block the empty space under it with a towel or some other cloth.

If there is a window in the room that can be opened, do so if you are certain of a hasty escape. Leaving the door open for a prolonged period of time supplies more oxygen to the nearby flames and can increase the speed that it approaches your location. If a window-exit does not seem possible, flash any available light through the window to get anybody’s attention who might be outside.

If there is any way to contact the fire department, do so immediately. After you have escaped from the house, do not reenter for any reason. Keep a first aid kit outside somewhere safe in case of injuries that need attention after escaping.

Categories: Home Safety Tips

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