Every year the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) designates a fire prevention week, and it’s right around the corner! The theme this year is Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety, and we are here to sound the alarms to prevent house fires.
The Ever-Present Threat of Burning Flames
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments responded to 353,100 home fires which caused 11,030 injuries, 2,620 deaths and $7.2 billion in property damage per year on average between 2014-2018.
The top causes of home fires? Cooking accidents, faulty heating equipment, electrical distribution, and cigarette smoking.
Bed is for Sleeping, Not Smoking
Most fires caused by cigarettes are related to a person falling asleep while smoking. Sleep-related smoking fires are a factor in almost 1/3 of home smoking material fire deaths. Don’t smoke in bed.
Sound the Alarms – Smoke Alarms and Escape Plans
Our inspectors report inoperable smoke alarms in dozens of homes every day, even though working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in home fires by 1/2. Regrettably, almost 60% of reported home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Even with working smoke alarms, accidents happen. Unfortunately, only 1/3 of households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan, according to the NFPA. Develop and practice an escape plan.
What’s That Sound?
It’s so important to have smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in working order, but do you know what their sounds mean?
Smoke Alarms – A continued sound of 3 beeps means smoke or fire is present. Get out of the home immediately and call 911. If you hear a chirp every 30-60 seconds, the battery is low and must be replaced/charged. If chirping continues after the battery has been replaced, the alarm is near the end of its life and needs to be replaced.
Carbon monoxide Alarms – Similar to smoke alarms, if you hear 4 continuous beeps that means carbon monoxide is present in your home. Get out immediately and call 911. A single chirp also means the battery is low and needs to be replaced, and if it continues after the battery has been replaced the unit itself near the end of its life and need to be replaced overall.
Cooking is Fun – Except When It Starts a Fire
Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen. The sad fact is that most kitchen fires are avoidable. About 1/3 of home cooking fires are caused by inattentive cooks or unattended cook-tops or ovens. The other 2/3 of fires are started because of ignition of food (yes, food catches on fire) or other cooking materials (oils and fats).
Here’s our short list for preventing cooking fires:
- Stay put while cooking – Keep a close eye on the stove when cooking and do not leave unattended
- Clear the cook-top – Keep your stove-top and oven clear of storage
- Beware little people – Children under five face a higher risk of burns associated with hot food and drinks than being burned in a cooking fire
- Monitor the microwave – Microwaves are one of the leading appliances which cause scald burn injuries
Heating Equipment – Maintain for No Pain
The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires also is avoidable – failure to clean creosote and other build-up from solid fuel heating equipment (chimneys). Another major factor in house fires is combustibles which ignite because they’re too close to the heater; 1/2 of home heating fire deaths resulted from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn.
Here’s our short list for preventing heating equipment fires:
- Chim, chimney, cheree – Hire a chimney sweep to clean your chimney
- Distance combustibles – Keep combustibles (upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, bedding) away from heat sources
- Avoid space heaters – Fixed or portable space heaters are involved in about 4 out of 5 heating fire deaths
- Cord review – Check all cords for frays or cracks, which can spark and cause fires
- Service the electrics – All electrical components in your home should be serviced and monitored; about half of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment
- Service the appliances – Other suspects for starting fires include washer, dryer, air conditioning equipment, water heater and range; get an annual service contract to have the equipment checked by a professional.
There are many areas regarding fire safety that require vigilance, including home inspection issues which we report consistently. The good news is that proper prevention and consistently applied home safety techniques can significantly reduce the probability of home fires!