It's National Fire Prevention week and we have a few tips to keep you safe through the holidays. Before you break out the space heaters, fire up the chimneys, and bust out the candles for decorating, take a moment to educate yourself on fire hazards to ensure your home and family's safety year-round.
Kitchen fire hazards
Cooking using the stovetop, microwave or conventional oven can easily spark fires. Heat sources can catch flammable materials like oven mitts and hand towels on fire, while cooking protein-rich foods without caution can result in grease fires, fire and smoke damage, and lingering, unpleasant odors and potentially toxic residue. Outdoor cooking equipment like deep fryers also pose significant risks.
Kitchen fire safety tips:
- Always stay in the kitchen while food is cooking.
- Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach in the kitchen. Class B extinguishers are suitable to combat grease and oil fires.
- Keep flammable fabrics and other items away from all cooking appliance heat sources
Dryer Fire Hazards
Dryers were responsible for over 90% of all the residential fires involving washers and dryers between 2010 and 2014 according to the NFPA (PDF). The leading cause of home fires involving dryers is improper cleaning, but you can easily reduce your risk with routine maintenance.
Dryer fire safety tips:
- Clean out your lint trap or lint screen after every use. It takes only a couple of seconds and can help stop a potential fire before it ever becomes a significant risk factor.
- Get your dryer professional inspected on an annual basis. An expert will be able to access and check the vents and interior machinery for additional lint buildup and fire risks.
Heater fire hazards
Flammable materials and dust near space heaters can easily ignite and create a quick-spreading fire. While fireplaces may be designed to contain fire, they still require caution and regular maintenance to effectively manage flames, embers and smoke.
Heater fire safety tips:
- Sweep dust bunnies regularly.
- Place your heater a minimum of 3 feet from all flammable items.
- Use the 1:1 rule — only plug one heating appliance into an electrical outlet at a time.
- Unplug appliances and completely put out fires in the fireplace before you leave home.
- Call a professional to check and clean your chimney at least once a year.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent hot embers from flying out and catching your possessions on fire.
Electrical fire hazards
Outdated appliances, faulty outlets and damaged cords can all spark electrical fires and the risks are easy to miss if you aren't looking for them.
Electrical fire safety tips:
- Do NOT use any cords with exposed or frayed wires.
- Do NOT run cords under rugs or carpets.
- Do NOT use bulbs that exceed the manufacturer's recommended wattage for lamps and light fixtures.
- Use extension cords as needed so you only have one appliance connected to each wall outlet.
- Unplug electronics when not in use, including holiday lights.
- Look for testing labels that certify the safety of your electrical appliances and equipment. If an appliance is old or the safety label is missing, consider getting a professional inspection or replacement.
Other home fire hazards
Trash, old papers and dense clutter in areas like your garage, basement and attic create the perfect fuel for a fire. Pay close attention to other common, highly-flammable items you may keep in a garage or storage shed, including gasoline, chemicals and gases used for grilling.
Household items, like improperly stored batteries and even glassware sitting in a beam of sunlight, can generate enough heat to ignite a fire. Of course, you don't want to forget about the dangers of candles either, especially during the holidays. Candles are particularly easy to knock over or bump into, posing additional risk.
General home fire safety tips:
- Do NOT leave burning candles unattended.
- Avoid leaving piles of lawn clippings in your yard.
- Clear clutter from garage, basement and attic spaces.
- Safely store important papers and get rid of the rest.
- Discard unwanted materials, debris and trash in the proper receptacles.
- Store glassware away from direct sunlight.
- Store unused batteries in their original packaging and recycle them appropriately after use.
- Keep flammable liquids in tightly-sealed metal containers and away from heat sources.
- Place outdoor cooking equipment at least 10 feet away from structures, trees or overhangs.
Home fire preventions starts with you! Don't be afraid of the potential hazards in your home — be aware, and use the fire prevention week activities above to minimize your risk.