A house is a uniquely valuable possession. Not only is it a financially significant investment, but also it holds the people, memories, and things families hold most dear. A house fire is always a tragedy, because it uproots a family while destroying many sentimental objects, or worse, injuring the occupants. There are, however, a few things a homeowner can do to protect his investment from becoming the victim of a fire-related emergency, and to plan ahead for the safety of his family should a fire occur.
Never Underestimate Smoke Detectors
When a smoke detector is low on battery, it often makes a shrill, constant beeping sound that many find annoying. It is not uncommon for a person to simply take the batteries out of it to make it stop beeping, and never remember to replace the low batteries with fresh ones. However, these devices are normally the first to indicate when a fire has started. Be sure to have one placed on each floor of the house, and have additional ones in every bedroom and hallway. Especially be sure to check the batteries regularly.
Clean That Dryer Vent
Dryer vents cause a frightening amount of fires in the home that often lead to injury, expensive damages, and even death. A clogged dryer hose in the house is the equivalent of a dead tree in the forest: the minute a spark hits it, it goes up in flames and quickly becomes a deadly, rapidly spreading fire. Simply cleaning and maintaining the dryer vents and hose on a regular basis dramatically reduces the chances of the house burning down in a fire. The NFPA recommends that homeowners never use a dryer without a lint filter, that they keep the lint filter clear, and thoroughly clean the vent pipe annually at minimum to prevent this dangerous build-up of lint from occurring.
Put Out the Fires
Whether it’s a little candle or a backyard fire pit, if a flame is lit and left unmonitored, it is an invitation for a larger fire to start. When going about the day, it is important to extinguish any flames once their purpose is complete. A smoldering cigarette butt on the porch, votives left burning on the counter, that pan on the stovetop, the grill that’s “just barely heating up outside”, they all become fire hazards if not attended to when burning, and carefully put out before being discarded or left unsupervised.
Properly Dispose of Chemicals
Strong chemicals are frequently flammable, and will ignite if mixed with the right materials. Things like wood stain, gasoline, paint-thinners, even rubbing alcohol produce fumes that can become flames if exposed to warmth or the slightest spark. A Saturday spent staining garage doors, cleaned up by tossing the empty cans in the trash with the oily rags, then left sitting in the warm summer air in the closed container is all it took for the entire floor of one man’s house to burn beyond repair. Take the warning labels seriously, make sure to read about strong chemical substances before using them, and once finished, dispose of or store them properly.
Safety Tools in the Event of a Fire
In the event of a fire, here are a few tips to help keep the family safe. First, sleep with the doors closed, which gives the person inside each room more time to become awake, aware, and then escape. Store safety ladders under the beds upstairs, unpacked and ready, not still in the box. Keep flashlights in each bedroom also, especially for children, to help the path of escape remain visible, even at night. Keep fire extinguishers around the house, one on each floor and one in the garage is a good start, and review how to use them. Create a family escape plan (more on this to come) and review it regularly. Finally, remember that in an emergency, the people are always more important than the things that may be lost. Make sure everyone is safe before reaching for material things, and never reenter a burning building once safely evacuated.
September is National Preparedness Month, and in honor of this we will be posting weekly articles about preventative measures you can take to minimize fire hazards around the house, and how to prepare a plan for your family in the event of a fire occurring. Be sure to check Facebook and Twitter, where we will be sharing the latest article every Monday.