Fires in homes tend to peak in the cooler months as people spend more time indoors and home heating systems are up and operating. Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration show an annual average of $7 billion in property loss from residential fires, and an average of seven people die as a result of home fires every day in the United States. There are some safety tips that you can practice that can reduce your risk of home fires.
Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home. While 96 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. Be sure to have at least one on every level in the home, outside sleeping areas and in bedrooms for added safety.
Take the time to make your kitchen fire safe. Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. Never leave cooking unattended, turn pot handles in toward the center of the stove to avoid bumping and/or pulling them down and keep the lid to the pan nearby so you can slide the lid and cover unwanted cooking fires if they do occur.
Have your chimney cleaned and your heating system checked before the heating season kicks into high gear. In addition to preventing chimney fires, this cleaning can also prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home's living spaces. But just in case, have carbon monoxide detectors installed in the home as well.
Illuminate yourself about electrical safety. Don't overload electrical circuits and don't use extension cords for permanent wiring. Check the wires on seasonal decorations prior to use for any cracks or fraying that may start a fire. Replace worn cords with new, approved ones. Use approved indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside.
If you do have an unwanted home fire, the first priority is escape. Get everyone out of the house and call 911 from outside the home. Never re-enter a burning building, and inform the first-arriving fire crews of any missing people and where you think the fire may have started, if you know.
When you leave the home for work or school, get into the habit of checking the appliances to be sure they are off. Unplug small heating appliances after use, such as irons, hair dryers and space heaters. Repeat this safety check before going to bed as well.
Clean the lint filter and flue of your clothes dryer on a regular basis. The lint buildup is responsible for many home fires, and a lint-free dryer works more efficiently as well.
Candles should be used in rooms where adults can supervise them, and should be clear of the normal travel paths in the home. Keep a one-foot clearance around the flame, and that includes any blowing or moving shears or blinds that may move into the flame when heating systems turn on or doors are opened and closed.
Fire safety in the home just takes a few minutes, and can avoid months of heartache in the case of displaced families who may suffer from an unwanted home fire.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.