Fire Safety Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Fire Safety Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Regardless of the cause and extent of the damage, a house fire is always tragic. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Fire Administration, residential fire deaths increased by 8% in 2021, despite there being 5% fewer fires.

At Smoke Alert, our mission is to make fire safety more accessible to customers in our service areas. As veteran firefighters, we have the knowledge and expertise to educate homeowners on fire preparation. This brief guide will provide valuable tips to prevent house fires — and what to do in an emergency. 

Fire Prevention Tips for Every Area in the Home

When you understand how to prevent fires, you can take action to protect your loved ones and your property from harm. This list of simple tips will help you get started.

Dryer Vents

An improperly installed or poorly maintained dryer vent can pose a severe fire hazard. Lint builds up in the vent over time, blocking airflow and trapping heat — which can cause the highly flammable lint to ignite. A clogged dryer vent can also lead to health risks like carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Look out for these signs if you think you may have a clogged vent:

  • Your clothes take longer to dry. 
  • Your dryer’s surface heats up while in use.
  • You smell burning during drying cycles.

If you notice any of the above, immediately call a professional to inspect and clean your vent.

Additionally, clean out the lint trap between each load, and sweep away any lint that falls beneath or behind your dryer to reduce your risk. 

Electrical 

Fires that start from faulty wiring or malfunctioning outlets can quickly spiral out of control, leading to severe damage. That’s why preventing electrical emergencies is crucial. 

Follow these electrical fire safety tips to protect your family and devices.

Electrical
  • Keep wires uncovered: When installing new electronic devices, avoid placing the cords under carpets or rugs to prevent pinching.
  • Replace damaged wires: Regularly check your corded devices and appliances for signs of wire damage. If you notice cracking, fraying or looseness, you’ll need to replace the cord — or, in some cases, the appliance itself.
  • Stay within capacity: Avoid exceeding the maximum electrical load an outlet or power strip can handle to prevent power surges. If you need clarification on your home’s capacity, ask a licensed electrician to help you.
  • Use surge protectors: Surge protectors protect valuable electronic devices from power surges by quickly cutting off the electricity to anything you have plugged in. 

Even basic precautions — like unplugging devices and turning lights off in unused rooms — can go a long way in preventing electrical fires in the home.

Kitchen

According to the USFA, cooking fires are the country’s most common cause of house fires. Cooking fires are typically the result of carelessness in the kitchen, so awareness and mindfulness can help you prevent an emergency.

Keep yourself safe by practicing these tips.

  • Watch your food: Never leave pots and pans on the stove unattended. Food can catch fire if you’re not paying attention, especially if you’re using flammable ingredients like cooking oil.
  • Clean cooking appliances: Regularly cleaning your oven and stovetop prevents food splatter buildup from igniting when you turn your appliances on. Many modern ovens have a self-cleaning feature, making this task easier.
  • Invest in fire safety equipment: Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn to use it effectively in an emergency. Additionally, install a smoke detector in the room to alert the rest of your household if something catches fire.

Heating

If you rely on a space heater to stay warm in the winter, be careful where and how you use it. Place it on a hard, level surface like tile or cement rather than soft, flammable ones like carpet. 

On that note, keep your heater at least three feet away from anything flammable that could come into contact with it — rugs, drapes, bedding, matches and paper are common examples. That also goes for children and pets, who could suffer injuries if they run into the heater. Generally speaking, you should never place a space heater in a room with a sleeping child unless you’ll be in there with them. 

It’s also worth investing in a new heater if your existing unit is several years old. Modern, UL-listed space heaters have additional safety features that can reduce your risk of house fires.

Always turn your space heater off when leaving the room and before going to bed.

Fireplaces & Chimneys

While there’s nothing quite as cozy as curling up in front of a roaring fire in the depths of winter, safety should always be top of mind. Hire a certified professional to inspect your chimney annually to ensure it’s safe before lighting a fire. 

Routine cleaning and flue maintenance are also critical, as flammable compounds like creosote can ignite if allowed to build up over time. A yearly chimney sweep is usually enough if you regularly use your fireplace. 

Here are other valuable fireplace safety tips.

  • Watch fires: Someone should always be in the room if a fire is burning. If you have to leave the house, extinguish the fire by spreading out the embers and covering them with cool ashes from the bottom of the fireplace. 
  • Protect children and animals: Like with space heaters, keep children and animals at least three feet from your fireplace to prevent them from coming into contact with the fire. Installing a fireplace fence with a built-in screen creates a protective barrier.
  • Use a screen: A glass or metal fireplace screen will prevent sparks from flying into your home. The screen should be tall enough to enclose the fire, with a fine mesh that can catch and stop live sparks. 

How to Prepare for a Fire

How to Prepare for a Fire

According to data from the Red Cross, only about 26% of U.S. families proactively plan for a house fire. That’s far too few. Practicing fire safety at home is essential for protecting yourself and your family — after all, the better you can prepare for an emergency, the more you increase your chances of escaping without injury. 

The following points can help you ensure your entire household is ready for any emergency that comes your way.

Have a Plan

Every second matters in a crisis, and having a well-rehearsed emergency plan can mean the difference between life and death. When everyone knows what to do in a fire, your family can keep a clear head without panicking. 

Your home fire escape plan should include these vital items.

  • Escape routes: Try to map at least two escape routes for every room in the house. That way, if one exit is inaccessible, you have another way to get out.
  • Home base: Choose a specific meeting place outside the home, such as the mailbox or the big tree in your backyard. Ensure your designated meeting space is a safe distance away so there’s no further risk of injury.
  • Contact information: Teach young children how to call 911 and other emergency numbers. Program these into your cellphone contacts for quick access.

Once you have the fundamentals down, check all doors and windows in your home to ensure they are clear and unobstructed. You may need to use openings you usually don’t touch to escape. 

Practice your house fire plan at least twice yearly to ensure everyone knows what to do if a fire breaks out. If you have overnight guests, share your plan with them so they can stay safe if something unforeseen happens during their visit. 

Pack a Go-Bag

You can’t take everything with you if you need to evacuate. Prepare a go-bag for each person in your household to ensure everyone can access emergency supplies. 

You can use any small or medium-sized bag for this purpose, but backpacks are typically the best choice because they come with plenty of compartments for stashing differently sized items. Must-haves to pack include:

  • Documents like passports and birth certificates
  • A small first-aid kit
  • A handheld flashlight
  • A cellphone charger
  • Bottled water
  • Prescription medications
  • An N95 respirator
  • A small supply of nonperishable food
  • Baby wipes and feminine hygiene products
  • A map with at least two evacuation routes clearly outlined
  • Spare batteries
  • An extra set of car keys
  • Duplicate credit cards and cash or traveler’s checks
  • Contact information for everyone in your family

Store your go-kits in a cool, dry spot where you can easily access them, such as in a hall closet or a kitchen cabinet. You’ll also need to replace items like batteries, water bottles and food occasionally to ensure they’re still usable.

Store your go-kits in a cool, dry spot where you can easily access them, such as in a hall closet or a kitchen cabinet.

Install and Test Fire Safety Equipment

Having the proper equipment handy can help you contain a minor fire and minimize the damage, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Here are some examples of fire safety equipment to add to your list.

  • Smoke detectors: Install one on each floor and one in every bedroom. Installing a mix of detector types can help you create a comprehensive system for identifying different kinds of fires.
  • Fire extinguishers: Place one on each floor, one in the kitchen and one in the garage. You’ll want to inspect your extinguishers once a month to keep them in good condition.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors: While it doesn’t detect active fires, a carbon monoxide detector can alert you when carbon monoxide levels are high inside your home so you can evacuate in time.
  • Escape ladders: A foldable life safety ladder allows people on higher floors to quickly escape through the windows if your home lacks a fire escape.
  • Fireblankets: A fire blanket is a fiberglass sheet you can throw over a fire to smother it quickly. They’re excellent for putting out kitchen fires and are easy to store in your cabinets or on the wall.

Since there are so many options on the market, talking to a knowledgeable sales rep with fire safety experience can help you find the appropriate products for your home. 

Fire Safety Tips for Kids

Kids are naturally curious about everything, including fire. Educating your children on fire safety from a young age is critical for keeping them safe, whether it’s a typical day or an emergency.

Teach kids these simple fire safety rules to ensure they know how to protect themselves.

  • Have two exits: Show your kids at least two ways out of every room and two ways out of the building so they can escape even if the primary route gets blocked.
  • Stop, drop and roll: While your kids likely learned this drill in school, it’s still wise to reinforce the lesson of falling to the ground and rolling around if their clothes catch fire.
  • Feel the doors: Tell your kids to feel the door before trying to open it. If it’s hot to the touch, they should know to use their other planned exit to escape.
  • Stay low: Staying low to the ground helps keep more smoke out of your lungs, increasing your chances of getting out during a fire. Have your kids practice crawling along the floor so they know what to do.
  • Teach about firefighters: Firefighting gear can scare young kids, who may run farther into a burning building to hide. Show your kids pictures of firefighters and explain that they are helpers, not people to be afraid of. 

When practicing your escape plan with your kids, try turning it into a game. Write down your fire safety checklist and run through each point with them, then reward them with a prize when they complete the task correctly. 

Get a Free Home Safety Check

If you’re ready to start creating your fire safety plan, your first step is to contact the team at Smoke Alert to set up a free home fire safety check. We’ll examine all your fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, to ensure everything is in good condition. And if we find a defective product, we’ll replace it for you at store cost. 

As experienced firefighters, our technicians know what to look for. You can count on us to protect every room in your home, from your attic to your basement. 

Prevent House Fires With Help From Smoke Alert

Prevent House Fires With Help From Smoke Alert

Since 2010, we’ve made fire safety more affordable for Raleigh, Atlanta and Charlotte homeowners. In addition to our inspection, installation and maintenance services, we sell leading fire safety products on our website. 

Protect your home today. Learn more about our home fire safety services on our website, or explore our online store to browse our selection of alarms, fire extinguishers and other safety equipment. Or, feel free to contact your local office for more information about any of our offerings.