Reducing risk: 7 important fire safety and prevention tips

Home fires are a significant threat to life and property.  According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, there were 365,500 house fires across the U.S. in the year 2015, causing an estimated $7 billion in total damage. More troubling still is the fact that around 2,650 people as a consequence of house fires in the same year. While the figures are concerning, house fires are easily preventable, and there are a number of strategies that you can implement to protect your family from injury or even death in a house fire. Read on to learn more:

Common causes of house fires
Before an examination of prevention and safety tips, it is helpful to take a closer look at the kinds of things that can cause house fires. According to Reader's Digest, they include:

  • Heaters 
    Space heaters present a notable risk of fire if they are left on to overheat or if they come into close contact with items that could catch alight – think curtains or clothes. Furthermore, faulty furnaces can increase fire risk. Be sure to keep space heaters away from other items and run them in a well ventilated room.
  • Electronics
    Basically anything that uses electricity poses a risk of fire in the home. For example, items such as microwaves or toasters pose a threat if the wiring in the cord is damaged and frayed. Overusing extensive cords with multiple cords can also increase fire risk. If you observe any of these issues, take steps to remedy them.
  • Candles
    Candles can become a threat if they are left unattended and near flammable objects – curtains, for example. 
  • Poor wiring
    Home wiring that has become faulty or ineffective is a common problem in older abodes. This presents a risk not only for fire, but also electric shocks. If you suspect that your home has a wiring problem – maybe your sockets have issues working – be sure to contact a professional.
  • Cigarettes
    Unattended cigarettes and other smoking materials are a major cause of house fires nationwide. Fire can occur, for example, if a homeowner falls asleep and drops their cigarette on a flammable surface, or disposes of a lit cigarette in a trash can filled with flammable items.
Installing smoke alarms throughout your home is an important fire safety strategy.Installing smoke alarms throughout your home is an important fire safety strategy.

Effective fire safety and prevention tips
The list above is by no means exhaustive. House fires can be caused by any number of things. So what are the most effective ways to reduce your risk of a fire at home and stay safe? Some of the best approaches include:

1. Develop an evacuation plan
It is important to have a plan of action in place, should a fire occur, HGTV explained. An evacuation plan will take into account all viable exits from the home, and will include safe (or safe as possible) ways to escape from each part of the house. It's not effective, however, to have just one escape plan – for example, jumping from the second floor window. An effective evacuation plan will take into account how to exit the building safely in various scenarios. The evacuation plan should also incorporate common sense measures, such as dialing 911 and leaving property behind. 

2. Hold regular drills
Having a fire drill with your family can help to ensure that you and your family are as well-versed as possible on how to respond to a fire emergency. The American Red Cross advised that the drill should be conducted every year, at least two times. 

3. Test smoke alarms regularly
The American Red Cross advised fitting as many smoke alarms as possible, particularly in areas vulnerable to fire such as the kitchen, as well as in bedrooms. Indeed fire alarms are perhaps the most effective tool available when it comes to saving lives in house fires. Certainly, the National Safety Council reported that, thanks to working smoke alarms, your risk of perishing in a house fire can be reduced significantly – by as much as 50 percent. 

"Working fire alarms can reduce risk of death by as much as 50%."

Ensuring that you have smoke alarms is just the first step, however. It is important to ensure that the smoke alarms are in working order. This means conducting routine smoke alarm tests. The source noted that this should be done at least once every month, although it can't hurt to check more than that. When it comes to safety, it is worth the small amount of effort. Most fire alarms cease working when they run out of battery power. If changing the batteries doesn't help, then it's time to buy new smoke alarms.

4. Invest in fire extinguishers
Another line of defense against fire are extinguishers. HGTV noted that it's wise to have more than one fire extinguisher, keeping multiple throughout your home, in places such as bedrooms and hallways. They are especially vital in the kitchen. The source elaborated that, as with smoke alarms, fire extinguishers need to be inspected routinely to ensure that they are in working order. 

5. Don't leave flammable items unattended
As detailed above, house fires are often caused by flammable items, such as candles or cigarettes, being left unattended. If you do opt to burn a candle inside, for example, ensure that you keep an eye on it at all times, keep it on a level surface and away from flammable object and blow it out if you leave the house, Reader's Digest advised. When it comes to smoking, it is better for your safety, and the health of your family, to do so outside. If you must smoke inside, however, it is important to take sensible precautions such as using ashtrays and keeping your cigarettes away from flammable items and surfaces, such as the furniture, Reader's Digest explained.

Consider Alban Inspections
Alban Inspections provide an array of services, including general home inspections, radon testing, home energy efficiency inspections and more. If you're looking to learn more about the safety of your home or are looking to get more information about your property before moving, contact Alban Inspections today. To learn more, click here