Prevent House Fires with Education and Planning

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 4,000 Americans die in fires each year, and approximately 20,000 more are injured. As the recent news has shown, house fires are not an isolated problem. Yesterday on the MLN Law blog I wrote about several recent Atlanta area house fires. Today, I’ll talk about how to prevent house fires, and tomorrow I’ll provide a few expert tips on what to do in the unfortunate event that a house fire occurs in your home. Thursday will be devoted to teaching children about fire safety.

The good news about house fires is that, in many cases and with the right planning, house fires are highly preventable. FEMA advises homeowners to have the following precautions in place to prevent house fires:

1.) Have at least one working smoke alarm – Did you know that a working smoke alarm can double your chances of surviving a house fire? Buy one for every floor of your home. But owning it isn’t enough. Be sure to test the battery monthly and replace it at least once a year. Also, keep in mind that smoke alarms get old and lose their function. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations on when to replace the smoke alarm.

2.) Child proof your home and fire proof your child with education – Even though fire and match safety is a favorite topic of educators and public service announcements, in 2006 children set as many as 14,500 structure fires. Children almost always use lighters or matches when playing with fire, and the most common accidental fires occur when children accidentally set clothes, bedding or other cloth items alight. Teach your children about fire safety and make sure to keep dangerous objects out of the home or safely hidden away. For more on this topic, check out these 14 tips for child proofing your home.

3.) Be smart with wires, extension cords and circuits – Never overload your circuits or extension cords, and if you notice that a cord is emitting sparks, or an unusual smell, shut off the item it powers and stop using it. Have this item repaired or replaced. Never simply put it aside because chances are you will plug it in again in a few years having forgotten about the electrical problem. The same goes for electronic household appliances or devices that are emitting sparks or strange smells, or are exhibiting other unusual behavior. Further, don’t put cords or wires under rugs or other flammable surfaces or near sharp objects.

4.) Observe Strict Safety Precautions with Alternate Heaters – Use extreme caution with portable heaters. Make sure they stay at least three feet away from anything combustible, including carpet. Avoid heaters powered by dangerous substances such as kerosene if at all possible. If you find it necessary to use a kerosene heater, be sure to refuel outside and always use the specified type of fuel, never substitute gasoline or camp stove fuel. If you and your family enjoy a fire in the fire place, be sure to employ fire screens and have your chimney cleaned every year to avoid dangerous creosote buildup.

5.) Consider Installing Fire Sprinklers – When combined with smoke alarms, fire sprinklers can greatly increase your chance of surviving a house fire. Plus, they are often inexpensive to install and can actually save you money by lowering your home owners insurance premiums and increasing your property value.

Stay tuned tomorrow for important information on what to do in the event of a house fire.