Every household should have a fire safety plan. That way you’ll know what to do if you wake up to a blaring smoke alarm and the smell of smoke. The same best practices for fire safety that businesses use apply to your home. Make a plan in advance, practice fire drills and know your escape routes. Here is additional guidance on protecting your home against fire damage.
Ways to Prevent Fire at Home
Even if no one in your circle has experienced a house fire, they are actually fairly common. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 379,500 residential fires in the United States in 2020. Fortunately, it is possible to minimize the risk of fire and keep your loved ones safe if a fire occurs. Here are tips to prevent house fires.
Use Smoke Detectors
The risk of dying in a fire is 55 percent lower if your home has working smoke alarms. Install alarms on each level of the house and outside each sleeping area. For best protection, the alarms should be interconnected so that if one sounds, they all go off.
Get Fire Extinguishers
Place a fire extinguisher on every level of your house, including the basement and garage. Different types of fire extinguishers put out different types of fires, so choose the one that addresses the likely threat. For example, a Class B extinguisher, used for fires caused by flammable liquids like grease and gasoline, is a good choice for a kitchen or garage. Learn to use the fire extinguisher before you need it.
Plan Your Escape
If a fire breaks out, you need to exit fast! A small flame can grow into a major fire in less than 30 seconds. Find two escape routes from every room in your house. Make sure everyone knows the escape routes, including children. Before opening a door, touch it lightly to see if it’s hot. Open it slightly to check for smoke. Stay close to the floor, it’s cooler and less smoky there. Decide on a place in your yard where everyone will meet after exiting the house. Once you’re outside, don’t return to the house.
Take Care with Space Heaters
Space heaters are associated with 25,000 residential fires per year, so it’s important to follow safety rules for using them.
- Keep the heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn.
- Plug heaters into outlets, not extension cords.
- Turn off heaters when you go to bed or leave a room.
- Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch. This will turn off the heater if it tips over.
Reducing the Threat from Wildfires
While practicing fire safety in your home is important, some threats come from outside. If you live in an area that has been threatened by wildfires, there are practical steps you can take to minimize the risk of a fire jumping to your house.
Create a Defensible Space
To increase the chance of your home surviving a wildfire, create a buffer around it that is 100 feet of defensible space. This lessens the chance of embers, heat or flame igniting your house.
Zone 1: 0 to 5 Feet
- Use non-combustible hardscape materials like gravel or pavers instead of mulch.
- Don’t plant vegetation within five feet of the house.
- Avoid combustible outdoor furniture and planters on decks.
Zone 2: 5 to 30 Feet
- Plant trees and shrubs in clusters. Trees should be at least 10 feet from other trees.
- Remove shrubs or other vegetation near decks, balconies and stairs.
- Trim trees so no branches overhang your roof. Keep your yard clear of dead leaves or pine needles.
- Remove tree branches that are not at least six feet above the ground.
Zone 3: 30 to 100 Feet
- Keep grass to 4 inches high or lower.
- Keep stored firewood in this area, 10 feet away from anything else.
- Remove dead plants and tree branches.
Recovering After a Fire
Sometimes house fires occur despite a homeowner’s best efforts. Coping with a fire is a stressful and traumatic experience. Once everyone in your household is safe, there are a few steps to begin the restoration process.
- Contact a local relief agency and your insurance company. Homeowners insurance typically covers the cost of a hotel if you can’t stay in your home.
- Don’t enter your home until the fire department indicates that it is safe.
- Let professionals manage the clean-up process. Even after a fire is extinguished, safety hazards remain. Smoke and soot release toxins into the air. Standing water can hide electrical dangers and soggy ceilings could suddenly collapse.
Look for a contractor that can handle all aspects of the restoration process. For example, the fire damage restoration specialists at SERVPRO use a seven-step process to return your home to its former condition. It begins with an assessment of the damage and coordination with your insurance company. SERVPRO’s fire specialists navigate the insurance claims process for a faster, easier experience.
To keep your property secure, they provide immediate board-up and tarp service. Other steps include water removal and drying, using specialized equipment to remove smoke and soot from surfaces, cleaning and sanitizing, and repairs and construction.
Protect Your House from a Fire
Reducing the risk of fire in your home takes a few basic precautions. Inside, using smoke detectors, having fire extinguishers and practicing an escape plan can help protect your home and family. Outside, keeping vegetation and flammable materials away from the house minimizes combustible materials that feed a wildfire. Don’t delay. Plan your safety strategy and practice it with your family.