Y’all, Texas was not prepared for the latest snowmageddon! I’m in my home that has been without water for almost a week. I’ve got frozen and busted pipes that started spilling water as soon as the water came back online. But, I’ve had power and have been able to get warm. This is a blessing. There are several homes in our tiny town who, while having power, still couldn’t get their homes warm enough. Consequently, the unsafe use of space heaters caused a few families to lose their homes due to fire. Let’s talk a bit about how to stay safe and prevent fires in your home.
Check Your Smoke/Fire Alarms
This is possibly the number one life saving task. First of all, if you don’t have smoke detectors, GET THEM. You need a smoke detector in every room in your house and in the hallways also. This can literally save your life and the lives of your family. Once you have them installed, check them monthly to be sure they are operational. All you have to do it press the test button. Press and hold the button a few seconds and the alarm should sound. If it doesn’t, check the batteries. Of course, all the smoke detectors on the market will alarm when the battery is almost dead. It will beep, and beep, and beep until you change the battery.
Test the detectors once a month to ensure they will alarm in case of fire. If you have commercial property, make sure to look into reputable fire alarm system services to keep yourself, your teams, and customers safe from the risk of fire.
Identify Potential Fire Hazards
There are many potential fire hazards in your home. Candles are a great way to create beautiful fragrances in our homes. But because they include an open flame, caution needs to be taken when burning them in the home. Never place a candle anywhere near curtains or drapes. It’s too easy for them to catch fire. Never leave a candle unattended. When a candle gets to the end of the wax, the glass container can bust open and the flame has a chance of getting to the surface it’s sitting on. Just be mindful when burning candles in your home.
The potential for fires in the kitchen is great. Something as simple as leaving a dish towel too close to the range top can be disastrous. It just takes a small corner to touch the flame and it can start a fire. Of course grease fires are notorious for starting fires. Be sure your small appliances are working properly. A frayed cord can easily spark and depending on what’s around it, a fire can definitely ignite.
Use all of your electric equipment with care. Don’t put fabric over lampshades that can accidentally touch the bulb. Depending on the type of fabric, the heat from an incandescent bulb can ignite it. Store any flammable chemicals in a safe and dry place away from the possibility of contacting any kind of flame.
Pay attention to the electricity in your home. If you’re noticing lights dimming periodically, this could indicate a large surge or pull on your electricity. Don’t overload the plugs in your home. The wiring in your walls can ignite if overloaded and you won’t necessarily notice until it’s too late. Be sure you have the proper size electrical boxes for the size of your home. You need a certain number of amps to power everything. It’s a good idea to annually have a certified electrician come to inspect your electrical systems to be sure everything is up to code.
If you’re experience rolling blackouts, unplug your appliances. There is the possibility of big electric surges that can blow fuses or cause an overload that can spark and ignite a fire.
Inspect furnaces & fireplaces
Another annual inspection should be your home’s heating sources. A gas furnace that is not working properly can be emitting deadly carbon monoxide in your home. This is an odorless gas that has the potential to kill you and your family. Don’t take chances. Installing a CO alarm is also a good idea if you have gas appliances or furnaces.
If you need to use electric space heaters, be sure they are set up in a well ventilated area. Don’t place them near furniture but in an open space. Definitely never set a space heater near curtains, clothing, or any other source that can ignite. Never place mittens or other wet clothing on them to dry.
Your fireplace chimney, while built to channel smoke, can be a major fire hazard. Wood burning fireplaces need to have a professional chimney sweep clean out the creosote build up in the chimney. Creosote is a tar like substance that builds up in the chimney of a wood burning fireplace. It is highly flammable and needs to be cleaned each year. Cleaning out your the ash in your fireplace also has the potential to start fires. You should actually leave about an inch of ashes in the bottom of your fireplace box. This acts as an insulator and helps the wood to burn hotter. Once the ashes are cool (let them cool 24 hours) use a metal shovel and shovel them into a metal ash bucket. Put a tight metal lid over the bucket and let it sit outside a while before putting them in the trash. Always assume there are hot embers in the ashes and use caution.
Common sense can go a long way to help you prevent fires in your home. Fire prevention is not difficult, you just need to be diligent and don’t let your guard down. Your life and the lives of your family depends on it.