Fire Safety and Prevention Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Fire Safety and Prevention Tips for Homeowners

In recent years, fires spreading across Australia and the western United States have received a significant amount of news coverage, as they should.

These wildfires have been devastating, but for those of us here in Indiana, our fire risk is within our homes. The good news is that you can have a direct impact on preventing a house fire by adhering to safety tips and taking proper precautions.

THE KITCHEN

In most homes, cooking is an everyday occurrence, but using the stove and oven — whether electrical or gas — is one of the main causes of house fires.

This can happen for a multitude of reasons, from forgetting to turn off the burners all the way to leaving food cooking in the oven while you’re out of the house. Burners also get turned on by mistake more often than one might think, which is why it’s important to keep flammable materials (think paper towels and napkins) away from the stove at all times.

“I've even heard of fires starting because a pet turns on a stove and there's something flammable on or near the stove that starts a fire,” Rebecca Serratos, the Emergency Services Administrator at Paul Davis Restoration of Northeast Indiana, said. “If you have like pets and young ones that could touch those dials, it might be a good idea to just take those off or use some kind of a safety device to make sure that they can't be turned on unintentionally.”

Another common cause for house fires is when grease accumulates inside the oven or on the stove. Even when dry, grease can catch fire and cause a significant problem. That’s why you should clean your stovetop and oven regularly.

HOME APPLIANCES

Even outside of the kitchen, there are a number of home appliances that can cause house fires.

The two most problematic household appliances are your dryer and a space heater. That doesn’t mean you should avoid using either, but you should take the proper precautions and adhere to preventative maintenance tips when using them. 

“It's important after every load in the dryer to make sure you're cleaning out that lint trap. If lint accumulates in there, that could start a fire,” Serratos said. “Having your dryer vent cleaned is something that you can do yourself with supplies found at a hardware store. There are also companies, including Paul Davis, that will come out and clean that vent. That's recommended annually.”

Space heaters, on the other hand, can cause fires when left unattended, on for too long or near flammable materials, such as a blanket, papers or chemicals.

When using a space heater, it’s important to monitor them carefully to prevent a fire. Never leave a space heater on in an empty room, even if there’s an auto-shutoff feature.

Lastly, appliances such as hair straighteners and curling irons should be turned off and unplugged when they’re not in use.

ELECTRICAL WIRING

Faulty and exposed wires can spark and cause fires in your home, which often happens because of poor installation.

“There's definitely a lot of things out of your control,” Serratos said. “The thing about electrical is you don't know that there's an issue until you have a problem most of the time, but if you are doing anything with your circuit breaker, like you're adding circuits or if you decide to add some recessed lighting, get a qualified electrician to assist with that. It's not the greatest DIY project.”

Other wiring issues can come from extension cords and Christmas lights.

Old and worn out extension cords may have exposed wires that can malfunction and overheat, which is why it’s important to check them before use, especially if you have pets that could chew on them or if they were left outside or in the garage. You’ll also want to make sure you uncoil all extension cords to prevent them from overheating and melting the protective plastic.

Christmas tree lights should never be left on overnight or when no one is home in case there’s an issue or a pet chews on the cords. It’s also important to adhere to the recommended number of strands you’re allowed to link together.

WHAT IF A FIRE STARTS IN YOUR HOME?

If a fire does start in your home, the first thing you’ll want to do is get out of your home in the safest way possible and then call 911 immediately. When exiting your home, stay low to the ground to avoid inhaling smoke and other toxic fumes. Touch all doorknobs with the back of your hands to make sure they’re not too hot to grab.

It’s also recommended that you and your family sleep with your doors shut. In the event of a fire, a closed door can help keep smoke and toxic fumes away while you sleep and give you and your family more time to escape.

Smoke detectors are also lifesavers, which is why it’s important to check that they’re in good working condition on a regular basis. Change the batteries at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time every year.

CALL IN THE PROFESSIONALS

Experience fire damage? Paul Davis can help restore your home after a fire. Call 888-473-7669 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If your home is damaged by fire, it’s critical to contact a company that specializes in the fire and smoke restoration process as soon as possible to prevent additional damage. Your local Paul Davis is available 24/7 to help minimize the cost of fire and smoke damage to your home.

Paul Davis can also help commercial businesses plan for fire safety and prevention, including going over safety precautions and preparing strategies to get everyone out of the building safely.