Whether you hang holiday lights in winter or barbecue in summer, every season of the year presents opportunities to improve the fire safety practices that can mitigate or prevent fire damage. As public adjusters, we’ve seen the heartbreak families go through after a fire. While accidents can always happen, taking these steps will make them less likely.
Plan to protect the irreplaceable things
1. Nothing is more irreplaceable than the living people in your home. Create a safety plan and review it with all members of the household periodically. Everyone who is old enough should know how to get out of a room even if the door is blocked by fire. In multistory houses, that might require keeping emergency ladders in bedrooms. Have a place where everyone knows to meet after the home is evacuated. Get out quickly first, and call the fire department from a safe location outside the home.
2. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the risk of fire-related deaths is reduced by 55 percent in homes with working smoke alarms. Be sure every bedroom, every hallway, and every floor of your home has a smoke detector, and test them regularly. Replace batteries at least once a year, and change the unit every ten years.
Respect fire sources and teach others to do so
3. Nearly 50 percent of house fires start in the kitchen. The two biggest dangers: unattended cooking equipment and frying. Stay in the kitchen when using high heat to cook and set timers to remind yourself to check food that is baking or simmering. When frying, heat oil slowly and have a lid nearby to slide over a pan that has ignited. Never throw water on an oil fire.
4. Candles, lighters, matches, cigarettes, and space heaters are all common causes of home fires. Keep these items out of the reach of children, avoid leaving them unattended, and keep them at a distance from anything that may catch fire: examples include clothing, curtains, bedding, upholstery, aerosol cans, nail polish, hand sanitizer, and even surprising items like flour or non-dairy creamer.
5. As the number of electronics in our homes increases, so does the risk of fire. When a video game console, TV, computer, and lighting are plugged into a single extension cord, that circuit may not be able to handle the load. Similarly, light bulbs that exceed the prescribed wattage for a lighting device can generate enough heat to start a fire. If your home is older, it may be time to look at updating or adding to your electrical outlets or replacing old wiring. Extension cords should be treated as a temporary solution.
6. Jack o’lanterns, Christmas trees, menorahs, and fireworks are popular ways to celebrate big events every year. In addition to following the suggestions above, take care to look over the holiday decor you use every year and replace any frayed cords and burnt-out bulbs. If a fresh-cut Christmas tree is part of your traditions, buy a variety known to retain moisture longer, like fir or cedar, and re-cut the trunk after you buy it so the tree can absorb more moisture. Water the tree regularly and dispose of it once the needles are drying.
7. Never use illegal or homemade fireworks: the majority of fire accidents on Independence Day are caused by DIY explosives. If your state allows consumer fireworks, use them in a clear, open area. Many people lack adequate room on their property, and grass is a dangerous surface for any size yard—better to enjoy a public fireworks display than start a grass fire that could spread to several properties. If you have a safe location and use fireworks legal for your locality, have a water supply nearby, thoroughly douse them with water before disposing of them, and never dispose of them indoors.
What about fire extinguishers?
7.5. Sometimes people question the usefulness of a fire extinguisher, since the first tip for fire safety is to get away from a fire. The US Fire Administration recommends using a fire extinguisher only when the answer to all of these questions is yes:
- Have I alerted others in the building that there’s a fire?
- Has someone called the fire department?
- Am I physically able to use a fire extinguisher?
- Is the fire small and contained in a single object (like a pan or a wastebasket)?
- Am I safe from the fire’s toxic smoke?
- Do I have a clear escape route?
Most experts suggest keeping a home fire extinguisher handy for this situation, especially in the kitchen. Be sure that everyone allowed to use the fire extinguisher knows how to use it properly—including knowing which types of fires it will work for. While a safe exit is your priority, in certain circumstances a fire extinguisher can mitigate property damage.
If you experience a house fire or other disaster, calling a public adjuster right away is the best way to be sure you get the settlement you deserve and recover from your losses. Grenier Public Adjusters has helped homeowners like you assess total damages, document lost possessions, and navigate the claims process for the best possible result while you focus on the demands of day-to-day life.