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How do I prevent a house fire?

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The harsh reality of house fires is that, while everyone believes it won’t happen to them, no one is safe. There is no guaranteed way to completely fireproof your home, but taking preventative measures can greatly reduce your risk of a house fire.

Cooking fires

Most commonly, a house fire starts because of an accident in the kitchen; so it’s important to educate yourself on safe kitchen practices and to understand what to do if a fire does break out.

  • Keep your stove clean and free of grease and other flammable materials, as this will greatly reduce the chances of a fire starting and/or spreading.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and make sure that you and the members of your household know how to use it.
  • Know what to do if the fire is a grease fire. Whatever you do, don’t douse it with water—the superheated water and oil will spray everywhere, and the fire will spread with it. Smother a grease fire with baking soda, a pan lid, or a fire blanket.

Electrical fires

Often, a house fire is triggered by a fault in the house’s electrical system. However, through regular maintenance and being able to recognize and repair damaged electrical parts, you can lower the risk of an electrical fire to almost zero.

  • Look for signs of faulty or damaged wiring. This can manifest itself in ways such as flickering lights, power surges, tripping breakers, or frequently blowing fuses. When you see any of these problems, chances are that your house’s electrical system is impaired. Fixing these problems as soon as possible will both prevent an electrical fire and allow you to maintain good usage of electricity in your home.
  • Be aware of damaged cords or wires and the ways in which they can become damaged. Never let your pets or small children chew on cords, and if you do see a cord in which the plastic has been chewed through or damaged, remove and replace it as soon as possible. The wires in your attic are also at great risk of being damaged, because insects or rats can chew through the plastic coating. Remember to regularly check and maintain these wires.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use. Commonly, hair products such as curling irons and straighteners are left plugged in—sometimes still on. Simply unplugging an unused appliance, especially ones that produce great amounts of heat, is a simple way to help reduce the risk of an electrical fire.

Additional Preventative Measures

Thanks to modern technology, the risk of a house fire is significantly lower than in the past— but we often forget to maintain or properly store household items, leading to a tragically preventable fire.

  • Always make sure that the smoke detectors in your house are in good condition, as well as adequately numbered. There should be one outside each bedroom, and at least one for each level in your house.
  • Always store flammable products in a cool, dark place, or dispose of them properly. Paint thinner is a highly combustible material, and may ignite if not taken care of properly. Don’t let it sit in the sun, even if it is indoors and the sunlight is coming through a window. Never store rags saturated with paint thinner, as they are at a high risk of spontaneously combusting.
  • Consider investing in a home sprinkler system. They can be costly, but it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs—and in this case, the cost can be your home, or the life of someone in it.