Fireproofing Your Home

Let’s face it. Fires are frightening. Fires should be frightening because there is nothing worse than watching your house go up in flames or losing a loved one in a home fire that, in most cases, could have been prevented. Prevention is the key to fireproofing your home. Fires can start without you knowing it until it’s too late, for example an electrical fire, will generally smoke first then can be set ablaze by clothing, paper or other flammable material around it.

Electrical fires are common in home fires. It is important that you keep electrical outlets uncluttered. Don’t jam a number of plugs and extension cords into a plug that has a ‘multi-plug’ outlet put into it. This can cause an overloaded socket.

Watch for wear and tear or fraying of electrical cords on lamps, irons or other appliances as that can cause a fire; if not a rather nasty electrical shock at some point. Replace the item or the cord. Make sure all electrical appliances such as irons and coffee makers are turned off when not in use, especially if you are not going to be home or while sleeping. Turn off or unplug electrical candle warmers or diffusers and make sure candles are out when no one is home or are going to bed for the night.

A kitchen fire is another common fire starter. Keep flammable materials away from stoves including wooden matches. If you do use these types of matches, keep them in a closed container away from the stove or better yet, don’t use them. Grease fires on the stove are easily contained by using baking soda. Always keep a large box of baking soda, sometimes called bicarbonate of soda handy. (By the way, if you have a stubborn case of heartburn, a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water stirred until clear is great and will get rid of the heartburn in minutes.) Never throw water or for that matter, flour on the fire. Water will turn to steam and throw hot grease everywhere. Flour will scorch and doesn’t put the fire out. This I know from experience when I was out of baking soda and thought that flour would do the same thing. It doesn’t.

Be aware of your clothing and don’t cook with sleeves hanging down or with a fuzzy sweater or bathrobe. Clothes should be worn so that there is little chance the clothing will accidentally catch fire.

Wood stoves and fire places are also a source of fires. Keep stovepipes clean and make sure your flue is cleaned at least once a year. Keep combustibles a safe distance from the stove. Most fire experts recommend at least 36 feet unless your stove directions are different. If your stove overheats or if the pipe begins to pop or turn red, the best thing you can do is to close up the stove. This will deny it oxygen that may fuel a fire. If the door is too hot or has become warped, then you can repeatedly throw small amounts of water into an overheated stove, but never throw a full bucket or large amount of water into the stove as this may fracture any metal or soapstone violently and will spew whatever you are burning in the stove into the room.

With fireplaces, make sure the screen is always in front of the fire and as always, keep combustibles away from the fireplace. Make sure the chimney is cleaned at least once a year. You should clean the dust and other debris in the fireplace after each fire to keep the build-up of soot and other debris to a minimum.
Other sources of fires are the various chemicals, such as gasoline, kerosene and heating oil that are around the house. Chemical fires are easily prevented but can spread fast and are hard to contain once started.

Always keeps paints, battery acid and fuels in tightly closed containers and store where they cannot be disturbed by playing children or otherwise be tipped over. Don’t use oil-based paint or chemical solvents near a flame, including a lit cigarette. Always ventilate well if painting or otherwise using chemicals in the home. Don’t store these chemicals in the house or in any building where there are combustible material around. A cool room or shed might be just the place.
Buy and use smoke detectors in the home. These should be in every level of the house, especially near or in the kitchen and where your electrical panels are. Always check the smoke detectors with a smoke stick to ensure it is working. Batteries may be in good condition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the smoke detector is working properly. Replace batteries every year.

Invest in a good fire extinguisher. A conventional extinguisher with an A/B/C rating means they will put out wood, chemical and electrical fires. It’s a good idea to get them with pressure gauges on the head and learn how to use them.

Invest in one or two escape ladders that can be hung out of an upstairs window to allow your family to get out.
As a family, plan and practice home fire drills that may occur during the night and day. Keep a strong flashlight near you bed in case of a fire that has caused an electrical black-out. There are power-failure night lights that can be plugged into the electrical outlets along any escape route. These can be bought at Radio Shack.

Your fire department should have reflective placards for ‘tot-saver’ that are attached to the inside of a child’s’ room so fire fighters can locate them quickly at night.
With a little effort, you can minimize or eliminate any fire hazard in you home thereby protecting your property and your family.

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