Protect Yourself from Accidental Fires with In Wall Heaters, Smoke Detectors & More!
The statistics on home fires are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, there were 384,000 home fires in the U.S. and these claimed 2,640 lives injuring 13,350 people!
So what can you do to prevent a fire in your home? There are many places in the home that could be a potential fire hazard. By knowing these dangers you can prevent fires before they happen, protecting you, your family and your pets.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, "Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States." Here are some things that you should do:
Don't walk away from a stove or range while you are in the process of cooking something. Also, don't leave towels, potholders, or other flammable materials near the cooking surface.
Be on the lookout for grease and fat build up. People usually clean this away when it's around the burner but it can also build up in hidden places like the vent and under the burner. This poses a big fire risk as they are very flammable. Be sure to clean these areas at least twice a year or every few months.
If using a gas range install and use an exhaust fan over the range that is vented to the outdoors. You don't want any type of gas whether it's natural gas or propane to accumulate in your home. These can easily be ignited by just a spark.
For more great safety tips on cooking with stoves/ranges check out the USFA's article Cooking Fire Safety.
Regularly clean the coils on your fridge to ensure free air flow to the condenser. However, be careful when pulling the unit out to access the coils. This is because you could possibly roll over the cord, damaging it and exposing the wires.
Simply clean the coils with a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove any dust, dirt or lint that accumulates. This should be done several times a year according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Also, while you have the unit pulled out check for any water leaking and also for damage to the cord. Clean out any other dirt and debris that might have collected under the refrigerator as well.
These can be a big fire hazard. Be sure to always clean the lint trap between each load of laundry. Not doing this will not only cause the unit to not dry your clothes effectively but it will also cause it to overheat.
The filter doesn't always catch every piece of lint. Some can get past and accumulate in the vent. So it's important that you also regularly clean this area also. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends doing this more often if you notice it is taking longer for your clothes to dry.
Also, make sure you don't overload your dryer. Check the manufacturer's manual for proper operating instructions for your specific unit.
For even more safety tips for installing and using your dryer check out the NFPA's Clothes Dryer Safety article.
Central Heating Systems
Have installation done by a professional and make sure if the system is gas powered it is properly vented to the outdoors. Always use a carbon monoxide alarm to detect any leaking gas. If there is a leak fix it immediately. Not only is this a fire hazard but it could be very harmful to breathe, even fatal.
According to the EPA's article An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) you should have a trained professional do annual inspections, cleaning and tune-up to your furnaces, flues, and chimneys. The best time to do this would be just before heating season. Also, never store flammable liquids near or even in the same room as fuel-burning units.
Another potential fire hazard is space heaters. The reason they are usually a danger is because they are not used properly. People place them on the edge of nightstands, near flammable materials like curtains or in areas where they can be tipped over easily. Fortunately there are units available with added safety features. These can include tip-over safety switches, low surface temperatures and automatic shut offs when the unit becomes too hot.
Or there are in wall heaters available that can be easily installed in the wall so there is no risk of them being knocked over. In wall heaters also include other safety features like thermal cut out that shuts the unit off if it becomes too hot.
Other Tips for Appliance and Electrical Equipment
- Don't power larger appliances with extension cords
- Unplug all appliances when not in use
- Don't use the dryer, washing machine, dishwasher, or space heaters when you're away from your home
- Watch out for exposed wires, broken seals or missing parts
Always Use a Smoke Detector
Make sure you have a smoke detector in every room in your house. The NFPA estimates that using a smoke detector reduces the risk of dying from a fire by about 50%. It is very important to regularly maintain them.
Usually there is an alarm that will chirp when you need to change the batteries, but it is good practice to change them about once a year. Also, be sure to clean the detector because when dirty they can become less sensitive. Don't remove the cover to clean just vacuum the outside. Additionally, it is best to completely replace the unit about every 10 years.
With these guidelines and tips you and your family can enjoy having piece of mind knowing that you're protected as much as possible from any potential fires. Don't wait till it's too late. Start taking steps today to ensure your safety!