How to Help Prevent Fires at Home (and Come Up With a Fire Safety Plan)

By Ian | Nov. 15, 2016 11:51 pm PST

Fire safety

Follow these home fire safety tips to help make sure your home and family are safe from potential fires.

Every 85 seconds. That’s how often fire departments responded to a house fire in 2013, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The tragic part is that most fires are preventable. Because October is Fire Prevention Month, we want to make sure you’re prepared to keep the worst from happening. From formulating an action plan to simple fire prevention tips, here’s how to create a fire safety plan to help protect your family from a potentially deadly household emergency — home fires.

Home Fire Prevention

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Make sure to check the test button on your smoke and CO detectors every month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Also make sure to install a smoke detector on each level of your house, including the basement. You can even buy CO detectors, combination smoke/CO detectors and fire extinguishers right from a Sears Blue Service Crew® technician.

Inspect your gas appliances.

Maintain your appliances by checking your water heater, gas stove, furnace and dryer once a year to make sure all the appliances’ connections to gas lines are in working order, and that the gas lines themselves are in good condition. “Gas appliances that are improperly installed or maintained can present serious safety hazards such a fires and deadly carbon monoxide poisoning,” warns Andrew Brown, national manager of in-home tech sales at Sears Home Services. “In addition, homeowners shouldn’t store combustible materials near gas appliances.”

Get an annual inspection.

Have an expert conduct a preventive maintenance assessment of your home’s heating and cooling systems every year. This will help ensure that your heating and cooling systems are properly installed. Heating and cooling equipment fires constitute the second largest share of residential fires, after cooking equipment, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you have a Sears Masters Protection Agreement or a Repair Protection Agreement on your home’s HVAC systems, an annual preventive maintenance check from a Sears Home Services technician is included. See your agreement’s terms and conditions for more information.

Take care while cooking.

When you’re cooking, never leave a stove unattended. Make sure to turn cookware handles toward the back of the stove, so that young children can’t accidentally knock over a boiling pot. Also use heat-resistant oven mitts to handle hot cookware. In the event of a grease spill, be sure to clean up any grease residue as soon as it’s cool enough because it can easily catch fire. If a grease fire ignites, don’t put it out with water — that could cause it to splash out and spread. Instead, shut off the flame and cover the fire with the lid of a pan. Cutting off the air supply allows the fire to die out. It’s also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher that’s made especially for grease fires in your kitchen.

Remove dryer lint buildup

Dryer lint that accumulates in your dryer’s removable filter is flammable. If the lint isn’t removed on a regular basis, it can cause a fire. Also check for and remove lint buildup around the dryer’s exhaust hose at least once a year. If you want a professional to do the job, schedule a clothes dryer vent cleaning appointment.

Repair damaged power cords.

If the plastic casing around your power cords is cracked or damaged, it could lead to electrical sparks that could cause a fire if the cord is in use. Replace any power cords or appliance cords that are damaged before using them again.

Don’t overload electrical outlets.

“Also, make sure that you don’t have too many appliances plugged into one outlet,” Brown says. “That could overload a circuit and potentially lead to a fire.” This can be prevented by streamlining how many appliances are plugged into an outlet and making sure the combination of appliances plugged in doesn’t exceed the outlet’s amperage rating, Brown says.

Assess your electrical wiring.

Another cause of home fires is electrical arcing, which is an electrical discharge that develops in a gap between two electrodes. This can break down the insulation of a wire and cause an electrical fire. Older or faulty wiring can be prone to this. Installing an arc-fault circuit interrupter will reduce the chance of electrical fire because the circuit interrupter will sense a quick electrical surge from an arc and cut the power.

Home Fire Prevention Action Plan

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, another important aspect to helping keep your family safe in the event of a fire is to create an escape plan so everyone can exit your home as safely as possible.

Practice makes perfect.

Develop a fire escape plan for your family to follow in the event of an emergency. Have all family members practice opening windows, unlocking screens and unlatching quick-release latches on security bars so they’ll be familiar with how to unlock and remove everything in an emergency.

Feel your way out.

During your family’s practice drill, let family members become familiar with feeling closed doors and door handles with the back of their hand before opening a door. Tell them that if a door feels hot, use their alternate escape route.

Stay down and out.

During their escape prep, have family members practice staying close to the ground, where smoke will be less dense. And tell everyone to keep their hands over their mouth in an actual fire emergency to help reduce smoke inhalation. Once everyone’s safely out of the home, have them gather in a designated spot. In case of an actual emergency, they should not go back into the home for any reason.

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