As things begin to cool down outside as winter looms, things tend to heat up inside our homes. We spend more time cooking indoors, and the meals we make around Thanksgiving and the Holidays become larger scale. Heating goes on. The fireplace is used more frequently, with open flames adding ambience to our spaces. Seasonal lighting and use of space heaters mean extra plugs in the wall. With all of this happening, it makes sense to think about home safety too.
So, here’s a reminder on fire safety from fire safety expert Sally Davidson. Sally outlines five key areas in your home where house fires commonly start, presenting some pointers on how to prevent them from happening, and how to control them if they do.
Most home fires can easily be prevented by taking a few measures to ensure fire safety. From the kitchen to the home office, here are five of the main causes of home fires and some tips to help you prevent them from occurring in your home.
Cooking-related accidents are the number one cause of house fires. Many fires occur when residents leave food to cook unattended on the stove top. If they go to another room and something catches on fire, they may come back when the fire is too large to handle.
Here are a number of actions you can take to keep your kitchen fire-safe:
- Keep all kitchen surfaces clean of spills and flammable objects like potholders and towels, especially the area around the stove.
- NEVER leave your cooking unattended. If you must leave the stove, have another adult supervise it, or just turn off the burner.
- Make sure microwave vents are clear of obstructions.
- In the case of a microwave fire, keep the microwave door closed and unplug it. Have the appliance serviced before you use it again.
- Similarly, for an oven fire keep the door closed and unplug it. If the fire doesn’t go out you should call the fire department.
- A common type of kitchen fire is a grease fire. NEVER put water on a grease fire, as this will only cause it to splatter and spread. Instead, slide a lid over the pan to smother the fire, turn off the burner, and wait until it cools completely before moving the pan. Baking soda may also work to choke the fire.
2. Areas using supplemental heating like space heaters
Heating equipment is the top cause of house fires in the winter months. Space heaters are the most dangerous, as they can easily ignite flammable objects like curtains or sheets if they are too close to them. Older central heating systems may also cause problems if they are not regularly serviced. Here are some ways to ensure safe use of heating devices:
- Keep space heaters at least three feet from any flammable object.
- NEVER use an extension cord with a space heater as the high current needed can melt the cord.
- Use heating devices with automatic shutoff features when possible.
- Have central heating equipment inspected and serviced every year by professionals.
- Be sure that any heating device has proper ventilation.
3. The fireplace
Fireplaces are one of the more obvious causes of house fires, but many homeowners with fireplaces still do not use them safely. Here are some ways to keep your fireplace safe:
- NEVER use flammable liquids to start a fire, as this can cause a fire to get out of control quickly.
- Don’t use too much paper to start a fire because this can cause flammable creosote to build up in the chimney.
- Have your fireplace inspected every year and cleaned whenever necessary.
- Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to keep sparks from jumping out.
4. The home office
Tangled electrical cords and overloaded sockets can lead to electrical fires in the home office. Cords that are frayed or cracked are especially dangerous because they can shoot sparks that will ignite other surfaces. Here are some tips for electrical safety in your home office:
- Try to avoid using extension cords, especially under carpets or around doorways.
- Use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of two- or three-way adapters. Only use one power strip per outlet.
- Replace any loose or frayed cords.
- If a fuse blows frequently, you should reduce the number of high-power appliances on that line.
- Make sure there is plenty of space around outlets, computers, and other entertainment systems like TVs and stereos so that they don’t overheat.
5. Any area where there is smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in the home. If someone falls asleep while smoking, the cigarette can fall on upholstery or newspaper and start a fire. If you are a smoker, here are some tips you should consider:
- The best way to avoid causing a fire with a cigarette is to smoke outside rather than in the home.
- If you do smoke inside, avoid doing so near materials that can easily catch fire, such as bedding or upholstery.
- Make sure cigarettes are fully extinguished before disposing of them.
- Keep ashtrays away from any flammable objects.
Sally Davidson maintains the site Fire Science Degree Schools. Sally is an experienced EMT and loves to write various articles about health and safety.