Preventing House Fires & Fire Safety

Since becoming a parent one of my biggest fears has been that of a house fire.  I mean, what could be scarier than your house catching on fire while your family is sleeping?  What if the fire starts in one of your kids rooms, and you can't get to them?  Terrifying!  We recently had two families we know lose their homes to house fires.  This sent me on a frenzied mission to learn fire safety strategies and make sure that we were doing all we could within our home to prevent a fire.

Preventing a House Fire
Information, Tips, & Things to Avoid
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After lots of reading and talking with fire experts here is a summary of what I have learned about preventing a fire in the home.  I hope this information helps you and your family.  This post may contain affiliate links for reader convenience.

Things to look for and Avoid in Your Home
  • Electrical Cords- Make sure that electrical cords are not frayed or damaged in any way.  Do not have cords pressed between furniture and the wall as heat can build, and a fire can start.  Do not over jam outlets.  Do not run electrical cords under rugs or furniture.  Do not over-use extension cords and avoid them whenever possible.  Never use extension cords for space heaters or air conditioning units.
  • Avoid space heaters if possible-  I know this is not always possible, but if it is then omitting them in the home is best.  If you do have to use a space heater make sure they are at least three feet from anything flammable including carpet, clothing, and curtains.  Always keep space heaters on a steady, firm, fabric free surface.  Do not place heaters in walk ways or in kids' reach.  If possible purchase a space heater that automatically shuts off if it is tipped over.  
  • Batteries-  Batteries stored loosely can cause a fire.  I was shocked to discover this and have definitely kept batteries loose in my junk drawer often.  Not anymore!  Read more on how batteries can cause a fire in the home.
  • Candles- burn candles when you are in the room and blow them out before leaving.  Keep candles out of reach of pets and kids and away from combustible materials.  Eliminating them altogether is another option and the safest.  There are so many alternatives to candles these days like flame-less candles, air fresheners, and melting wax fixtures.
  • Kids and Fire- always keep all matches, lighters, candles, and anything else flammable away from kids of all ages.  Kids are naturally curious and often mischievous.  A lot of times it is accidental, but they cause a large percentage of annual house fires in the United States.
  • Poor wiring- how can you tell you have wiring issues within your home?  Here are some things to look for: dimming of lights when an appliance is used, frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers, electrical shocks when touching appliances or plugging them in, hot ceiling fixtures, and switches or outlets that do not work.
  • Flammable materials-  avoid storing flammable liquids in the home if at all possible.  Storing them in a detached garage or shed is ideal.  Items like fuel, paint, and containers under pressure need to be stored away from heat sources and in a cool, dry place.  Make sure items are stored in appropriate containers and read all warning labels for best use and storage practices.  Read more on flammable liquid safety.
  • Christmas trees- Christmas trees cause a large percentage of house fires, but they don't have to.  Keep real trees well watered and check the trees water level daily.  Before stringing lights onto the tree inspect the cords for rips, tears, or frays.  Do not place Christmas trees near heat sources or next to the television.  Never leave the Christmas tree lights on when you are sleeping or away from the home.  Read more about Christmas tree safely precautions here.

Behaviors to Modify or Avoid

  • Do not leave food unattended on the stove top- I am guilty of doing this in the past, and it is a big no-no.  Cooking is the leading cause of house fires.  It only takes a second for a fire to start, and if you are not in the room it can get out of hand very quickly, especially a grease fire.
  • Don't smoke indoors- it is no secret that cigarettes cause house fires.  Smoking indoors creates many potential fire starting situations including the smoker accidentally dozing off, not fully putting out their cigarette, or dropping hot embers from their lit cigarette without realizing it.  A cigarette butt that is not fully extinguished can cause a fire hours after the smoker has finished his last drag.
  • Never block doorways or windows with furniture as they may become needed exits during a fire or other crisis.
  • Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs in the home.  These bulbs don't produce as much heat as incandescent bulbs making them safer, and they will also save your energy bill.

Life Saving Tactics & To Do's
  • Get your heater serviced and checked annually.  Are annual furnace inspections really necessary?  In regards to fire prevention the answer is yes.  Here are some reasons why.  An inspector will check for blockages and leaks, ensure that combustion gases meet specifications, and check for wiring issues just to name a few.  Read more about annual inspections here.  
  • Keep your dryer cleaned and maintained- clean away all lint after each use, check the dryers ventilation frequently, and only use your dryer while you are home and awake.
  • Have your home inspected by a professional every few years and inspect your home on your own annually.  As you walk your home look for any common causes of fire, check smoke alarms, and examine cords and outlets.  Check the attic and any crawl spaces in the home for wiring that may have been damaged by pests.
  • Smoke alarms- while researching I read several times that having properly working smoke alarms cuts your risk of dying in a fire in half!  Such a simple thing with such a great and positive impact!  It is recommended that smoke alarm batteries be changed every six months and that you have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home.  Test smoke alarms often and make sure everyone in the house is familiar with how they sound.
  • Fire extinguishers- be prepared for the worst by having fire extinguishers on hand.  It is recommended that you keep one readily available on every floor of the home and educate anyone in the family that is old enough to learn on how to use them.  Make sure you have at least one all purpose fire extinguisher and keep it in the kitchen.  Read more on how to properly use fire extinguishers.  Fire extinguishers can be purchased at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart.  They can also be purchased online here and here.
  • Practice fire drills as a family and have an escape plan and meeting spot.  I strongly advise you to read more on escaping a house fire and developing a fire escape plan.  After all, we never know when a fire might start and being prepared is our best defense.
  • Keep kitchen appliances clean and free of grease, especially the stove
  • Do You Remember the rules for putting out the varying types of fires if one does start?  No?  I didn't either.  Refresh and remember by reading this helpful article- it could save your life!
  • Check the wattage of the light bulbs you are using in the home and make sure they do not exceed the recommended wattage for the light fixture itself.  Turn off all lights whenever you leave a room and especially when leaving the home.

Educating the Kids
One of the most important things you can teach a child is not to hide if there is a fire.  It is their natural instinct to hide in a closet or under a bed which is DANGEROUS and could even lead to your not being able to locate them.  

Teach kids to: 
  • Move as low and fast as possible to the nearest SAFE exit
  • Crawl as low to the ground as possible 
  • Cover their mouths with a napkin, clothing, their shirt, or even their hand if possible
  • Feel doors before opening them, and if they are hot  DO NOT OPEN them
  • To stop, drop, and roll.  This one is really important.  It is a child's natural instinct to run which will feed the fire
  • not to worry about personal belongings or pets and to just get out 
Have Fire Drills  Have several escape plans for varying parts of the home and practice them.  Manually set off a fire alarm and see if the plan works.  Practice often so everyone is as ready as possible if a fire should occur.

Fire Prevention Resources
Read more about fire prevention and educate yourself to the max with these helpful resources
For other helpful parenting articles visit Growing a Jeweled Rose Parenting
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