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Hidden Fire Hazards Around Your Home

Nov 22, 2023|

Understanding fire hazards and the importance of fire safety is crucial for every homeowner. In 2021, the U.S. had more than 330,000 home fires that resulted in over 2,800 deaths, 11,000 injuries, and $8 billion in property damage. Don’t be a statistic this year; brush up on your fire safety knowledge with this guide to the hidden fire hazards lurking in your home.

In this article, we will discuss the most common causes of home fires, surefire prevention measures, and the best fire safety equipment to protect you and your family against potential fire threats. Let’s start with the most prevalent sources of home fires and how to avoid them.

Washer/dryer graphic

6 Common causes of home fires and how to avoid them

Spotting fire hazards in the home can make it a much safer place for you and your loved ones. Here are the top six:

1. Electrical hazards

Electrical hazards are the troublemakers behind many home fires. Here’s a rundown of typical issues and how to tackle them:

  • Overloaded circuits. When too many gadgets crowd a circuit, it can overheat, melt wires, and catch fire. Avoid this by spreading your gadgets across different circuits, and only use extension cords as a last resort.
  • Faulty wiring. Damaged wires can start electrical fires when they come into contact with flammable materials. Regular check-ups by a licensed electrician keep things in check; A good rule of thumb is to do this every three to five years and more often for older homes.
  • Misuse of electrical appliances. You might already know that dryer lint buildup can cause a dryer fire. But would you guess that, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments respond to an average of nearly 16,000 home fires caused by clothes dryers or washing machines each year? To prevent appliance fires, always clear your dryer’s lint trap before each load, unplug small appliances like toasters from electrical outlets when you’re not using them, and replace any damaged cords.
  • Outdated electrical systems. Old systems and electrical wiring struggle with today’s power demands, risking overheating or causing sparks to fly. Time for an upgrade? Call in an electrician to modernize your system and make sure it’s in working order.
Rugs being put into a washing machine for cleaning.

2. Cooking accidents

Cooking mishaps are the most common cause of home fires. Let’s go over the main offenders and how you can reduce your risk of a cooking fire:

  • Unattended cooking. A bubbling pot left unattended can quickly become a fire hazard. Always stay in the kitchen while cooking, especially when using a stovetop. Use timers and alarms as reminders to check on your cooking to prevent potential kitchen fires.
  • Grease fires. Grease fires can happen when oil gets excessively hot. Maintain controlled heat while cooking, and keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case, as water can make a grease fire worse.
  • Flammable materials near stoves. A stray kitchen towel near a stovetop burner can ignite a fire. Clear the area around the stove before cooking to avoid fire risks.
  • Improper use of cooking appliances. Misusing appliances can cause overheating or sparks, leading to fires. Always stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines whether you’re using an indoor stove or an outdoor barbecue.

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3. Heating equipment

We all cherish a warm, cozy home when the cold hits. Yet heating equipment, if not tended to carefully, can be a fire’s best friend.

  • Space heaters. They’re handy yet risky if they cozy up to combustible materials, which is why they’re linked to about 1,700 yearly home fires. Keep them at a safe distance from curtains and furniture, and opt for models with automatic shut-offs.
  • Fireplaces and chimneys. A clean chimney is a safer chimney. Regular sweeps prevent creosote build-up, nipping potential fires in the bud.
  • Furnaces and boilers. They need their space free from clutter. Regular maintenance checks will ensure they’re functioning safely.
  • Portable heaters. They’re convenient, but they might also pose a fire danger. Place them on stable surfaces away from flammable items.

4. Smoking materials

It’s no secret that smoking materials can spell trouble when not handled right.

  • Cigarettes. The ember at the tip can ignite flammable materials. Always smoke outside, and never in bed; more than a third of smoking-related home fire deaths start in the bedroom. Wherever you smoke, completely extinguish cigarettes in fire-safe ashtrays.
  • Lighters and matches. The open flames are an obvious fire risk. Keep them out of reach of children and away from flammable items.
  • Improper disposal. Tossing still-hot cigarette butts can ignite trash or dry foliage. Make sure they’re out cold before you dispose of them.
A clean stovetop, which helps minimize fire risk.

5. Candles and open flames

Candles might be cozy, but they still rely on an open flame. Any of these oversights could lead to a dangerous situation:

  • Candle misuse. Leaving candles unattended or placing them near flammable objects is inviting trouble. Use candle holders with wide bases, and never leave them burning unattended. Or, just switch to flameless candles and wax melts.
  • Flammable decorations. Festive times can unwittingly increase fire risks with flammable decorations—especially Christmas trees. Make your holidays safer by keeping them away from open flames or heat sources.
  • Open flames indoors. An open flame can catch onto flammable objects, igniting a fire. Keep an eye on them, whether it’s a lit candle or a fireplace.

6. Flammable liquids and gasses

These hazards may not be in plain sight, making them a significant danger if not handled correctly. Here are some of their potential risks and how to stay safe:

  • Improper storage of flammable substances. When you store flammable liquids like gasoline, paints, or solvents improperly, you’re inviting trouble. These substances release vapors that ignite easily, causing fires or explosions. That’s why you should store them in well-ventilated areas away from heat sources and electrical equipment. Only use manufacturer-approved containers and keep them tightly sealed.
  • Leaky fuel containers. Even a small fuel leak can lead to a catastrophic fire. Regularly inspect fuel containers for any signs of leakage, such as a strong smell of fuel or visible drips. If you find any leaks, address them immediately and replace damaged containers.
  • Improper use of flammable gasses. Whether meant for heating or other purposes, these can be dangerous if mishandled. Always follow manufacturer instructions and ensure proper ventilation to prevent gas leaks and fires.

Fire safety precautions

Next, we’ll cover the essential fire safety precautions you can take to protect your home. These are the best ways to make your home is well-protected from a fire:

Smoke alarms

These are your first line of defense against a fire. Smoke alarms detect smoke and sound an alarm, providing valuable time for evacuation. Never underestimate their importance; nearly three in five home fire deaths happen in homes without smoke alarms.

  • Place them properly. Proper placement of smoke alarms is crucial. Install them in every bedroom, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of your home.
  • Test and replace batteries. Don’t forget to test your smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year. These simple tasks can make a world of difference in an emergency.

Fire extinguishers

The difference between fire containment and disaster could be as simple as having working fire extinguishers around your home.

  • Know how to use them. Remember the acronym PASS: Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep from side to side.
  • Make sure they work. Regularly inspect your fire extinguishers to ensure they are in working condition. Follow manufacturer guidelines for maintenance, and recharge or replace them as needed.
  • Know when to evacuate. Safety should always come first. There are times when attempting to use a fire extinguisher may be too risky. Know when it’s best to evacuate and call the fire department.

Fire escape plans

A well-thought-out fire escape plan is crucial for your family’s safety. It provides clarity and direction in case of an emergency.

  • Create a home evacuation plan. Design a clear evacuation plan tailored to your home’s layout. Assign roles and responsibilities to family members, especially young ones.
  • Practice fire drills. Regularly practice fire drills with your family. Ensure everyone knows the escape routes, where to meet outside, and how to communicate during an emergency.
  • Designate meeting points. Establish designated meeting points outside your home, a safe distance from the danger zone. This ensures that everyone is accounted for in case of evacuation.

Fireproofing and home modifications

These safeguards can significantly reduce your risk of fire-related losses in a number of ways:

  • Use fire-resistant furnishings. Consider using fire-resistant materials and furnishings in your home. They can slow the spread of flames, providing extra time to escape.
  • Protect important documents. Fire-proof safes can preserve critical papers and other valuables.
  • Install fire barriers, insulation, and sprinklers. These precautions can contain fires to specific areas, preventing them from spreading rapidly. A home sprinkler system can also quickly suppress a fire, minimizing damage and saving lives.

Educate kids about fire safety

Teaching children about fire safety ensures they are aware of potential hazards and prepared to prevent potential fire hazards. Here are some steps to help educate kids about fire safety:

  • Learn about local fire department initiatives. Visit your local fire department’s website and look into their fire safety initiatives. They often offer resources and programs to help educate families about fire safety.
  • Talk to your kids. Teach them about fire hazards in a way they can understand. Use age-appropriate language and scenarios to convey the importance of fire safety. Younger children may need simpler explanations and more supervision, while older ones may be able to handle more responsibility.
  • Childproof your home. Find ways to minimize fire hazards accessible to children. Examples include securing lighters, matches, and flammable materials to keep them out of their reach.

Protect your home from fire hazards with Vivint

Home fires aren’t just statistics—they’re real threats that can happen to anyone. Understanding the most common fire hazards and taking the right precautions significantly reduces your risk, and that includes arming your home with the right tools. That’s where Vivint comes in.

Be alerted to the first sign of danger with Vivint’s smoke and carbon monoxide detector. This battery-powered detector alerts a 24/7 monitoring team if smoke or carbon monoxide is detected in your home. It also communicates with your Vivint Smart Hub to control the HVAC system accordingly, aiding in either slowing the spread of flames or clearing a carbon monoxide threat.

Proactive measures today could be the heroes of tomorrow, saving lives and safeguarding memories. With Vivint by your side, crafting a fire-safe haven is just a click or phone call away. Give us a call at 855.822.1220 for a free consultation today.

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