Fire Safety at Home

How to Keep Your Home Safe and Prevent a Fire

Thousands of lives are ruined by house fires each year. Fortunately, these can be prevented. There are certain steps you can take to prevent house fires - all it needs is a little education and vigilance.

Inspect your home

From time to time, have a look around your house for possible faulty electrical wiring. You may need to bring in a professional to inspect if all the connections of your gas plumbing, air conditioning and heating are not worn down.

Electrical fire safety

Do not forget to check the electrical system in your attic. Try to find out if there are wires potentially damaged by rodents or other pests. Mice, squirrels and other rodents like to chew on the material covering the wires, so it will be wise to check the little used areas of your house for this.

Make sure there are no overloaded circuit breakers, fuse boxes or panel boxes. If the electricity in your home suddenly fluctuates more often than normal, it may be because there is a short in the circuit or a possible bad connection. Fuses that blow, or circuit breakers that "trip" frequently are signs of a serious electrical problem.

The ground cable should be checked regularly, as failure in the system may cause electrical shock. Look for loose clamps, split bolts, connecting devices and corrosion.

If you live in an area prone to lightning, consider getting a lightning protection system installed into your home. Not only will this prevent house fires, it may also save you money by protecting your appliances.

Natural gas or LP gas system safety

This also requires you checking on it from time to time. Make sure to look for leaking valves, loose fittings, faulty pilot lights and improperly stored flammable materials/debris near these appliances.

Check the vent stacks on furnaces, gas water heaters and clothes dryers regularly.

Make sure the guards around an automatic ignition system are installed properly and that there is no dust or lint build up in the immediate area.

If you suspect a gas leak or smell a leak, immediately have a professional check the gas pipes, valves and regulators inspected.

Air conditioning and heating fire safety

As these involve electric motors and equipment that move air around the house, it requires regular maintenance. Lubricate boss bearings on drive motors, belt drive pulleys (if applicable), and other equipment as needed. Have the furnace burners or resistance coils cleaned and serviced before you start using the heaters after the summer months. This is because debris may have accumulated during the time it has not been used regularly.

Do not use extension cords for window AC units, as it may go haywire if it overheats.

Rumbling noises, squealing sounds or tapping and banging noises while the system is operating usually indicate that loose parts in the system may be seizing up.

Check your appliances

Avoid grease accumulation on your stove or oven and make sure that they are always clean.

Regularly clean the filter of stove vent hoods and make sure that there are no bird or insect nests in the exterior vent.

Make sure the wirings of your appliances are intact and that they have no missing ground prongs on the plugs.

Clothes dryers have become notoriously dangerous for causing fires, so keep a close eye when using it. Make sure that the outside vent and lint trap are always clean. The internal ductwork of your machine may require servicing from time to time. The heat coils in the dryer should not be in contact with any lint or flammable material. It will also be wise to install a fire extinguisher and smoke alarm near where the dryer is, just in case.

Space heaters should be kept at least 3 meters away from any flammable material like curtains, fabric couches, bed linen, etc.

Do not leave your cooking unattended

This is one common reason for house fires. You should, therefore, always keep an eye on your cooking. If you need to leave, even just for a minute, turn all the burners off. It would be very easy to turn them back on when you get back after a minute. Leaving your cooking to answer the phone in another room, running out to the mall, going to the bathroom or just getting a can of tomatoes in the basement may look insignificant. But if there is a fire you can't put out when you get back, then there will be much regret.

On a similar note, using drugs, drinking alcohol or being extremely tired should not be done in conjunction with cooking. This is because you will not be paying full attention to what you are doing.

Stand up when smoking

It is understandable that one may need to light a couple of cigarettes after a hard day at work - just smoke standing up. Sitting down or lying on the bed while smoking in a tired state may cause you to fall asleep and drop your cigarette unconsciously. You should, therefore, make sure that your cigarette is put out properly every time you smoke. Put the cigarette out thoroughly in the ashtray or dampen the ashes in the sink, then throw them away in a trash can far away from your house.

The other purpose of the sprinkler system

Although the main purpose of the sprinkler system is to water your lawn, it will also help extinguish fires in your home when you are unable to. Think of getting one installed, if you have not already.

General fire safety rules:

  • Teach your children not to play with lighters.
  • Put out matches and candles properly.
  • If your pets are not trained, place them in a crate or confine them to a single room when you are out of the house.
  • Holiday lights on a dry, natural Christmas tree may cause fires. So be particularly careful about using this and keep a close eye on them.