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Fire Prevention and Safety for Homeowners

You might be diligent about locking your doors, but dangers can lurk inside the home as well. House fires impact hundreds of homeowners each year so it is important to have a safety plan for your family in case of an emergency. In addition, there are many steps that can be taken to prevent emergent situations in the first place.

Arguably, fire prevention is the most important step in fire safety. Homeowners should actively work to make sure their home is as safe an environment as possible in order to prevent fires.

  • Make sure the lightbulbs in your lamps or fixtures are the correct wattage that is required for the socket.

  • Do not plug more than one high voltage electronic into an electrical outlet or circuit. Even with a power strip, it is important not to overload any circuits.

  • If anything electrical, from a food processor to a curling iron, smells unusual or emits smoke, unplug it immediately and replace or have the item serviced. Discontinue use until repairs are made.

  • Make sure batteries in smoke detectors are in working order. Smoke alarms should be on every level of the home and no older than 10 years of age. Homeowners should test their smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries with each daylight savings arrival bi-annually.

  • Cooking should always be a supervised activity. Never walk away from the stove when it is on. Pan handles should be turned inwards so they don’t hang off the edge of the stovetop.

  • In the event of a grease fire, turn off the burner and cover the flaming pan with a lid.  Keep baking soda on hand nearby so that flames can be quickly extinguished. Water will only help grease flames spread more quickly.

  • Clean the stovetop and hood vents thoroughly often to keep them free of grease buildup that can catch fire.

  • Do not place any items that could easily catch fire anywhere near the oven or stove top.

  • Keep matches, lighters, and candles in safe places away from children and pets. Teach that these items can be hurtful and are meant only for adult use.

  • Permitting smoking indoors is asking for disaster; fires created by cigarettes cause more deaths than any other type of fire. It is best to discontinue smoking indoors completely. Run butts and ashes under water before disposing.

  • If you can avoid it, do not install double-cylinder deadbolts on any doors in your home. These types of locks require a key to unlock the door from the inside. In the event of an emergency, the absence of a key or rushing to escape can make this type of lock deadly.

  • Do not leave the home while appliances are left running. This includes the dishwasher, washing machine, and clothes dryer, among others. Additionally, the lint should be cleaned from the clothes dryer after every use.

  • Leave all windows and doors free from obstruction.

  • Any flammable liquids or combustibles that are necessary to be kept on the property should be stored in approved containers outside of the home; do not store indoors or underneath the home.

  • If an electrical outlet is warm to the touch or products plugged into said outlet flicker during use, do not use the outlet and contact a licensed electrician immediately. If any electrical wires are broken or cut, do not use the product to which they’re attached.

Even with extensive planning, fires can occur. As such, it is important to have safety measures in place so every member of the home can escape safely and you can get the help you need.

  • Allow every member of the family to be part of the planning process when developing the fire escape plan. Walk throughout the home and identify any possible exits that could be used in an emergency.

  • Make sure windows and doors can be opened easily. If windows have security bars, make sure they have an emergency release that is functional.

  • Choose a spot outside a decent distance from the home for the family to meet once everyone is outside. This could be a sidewalk across the street or even at a neighbor’s home; make sure to identify the spot with a marker once you’ve written out the escape plan.

  • If you have infants or elderly persons in your home, make sure there is someone assigned to make sure they able to get out and escape. Assign a back-up person as well in case the first is unable to retrieve them themselves.

  • Tell visitors and guests about your family’s escape plan. When children attend sleepovers or the family stays elsewhere, ask the homeowners of the residence about their family escape plan in the event of a fire. If they don’t have one, offer to help form one so that everyone is prepared if there is an emergency.

  • When a smoke alarm sounds, exit the building immediately. Take the sound seriously so that in the event of a real fire you will not be placed in danger.

  • Practice the escape plan with the family twice a year. Make sure everyone understands the escape plan thoroughly.

  • Once you’ve exited a building that is on fire, stay out! For no reason whatsoever should you reenter the home. If someone from your party is still missing, inform a firefighter. Only they have the required skill and equipment needed to safely extract someone from an emergent situation like a fire. For a more effective drill, do not tell children one will be occuring ahead of time. This allows them to practice as they would if there was truly an emergency. 

  • Determine if there any family members who do not wake to the sound of the fire alarm. If you have a family member who remains sleeping, assign someone else to wake them up and help escort them from the premises.

  • If the home has more than one floor, make sure escape is possible from each floor. Consider purchasing a ladder made specifically for escaping from fires that can easily be stored in a bedroom. Teach every member of the family how to set up and quickly deploy the ladder in case this window is how they need to escape the home.

  • If you have small children in the house, it may be wise to visit a fire station so they have the opportunity to meet firemen and see them in all their gear; it’s important for children to learn that even though they might look scary, these professionals are there to help in emergency situations.

Fires are scary, but it’s quite possible that your family will never be affected by one. However, in the event of an unsuspected blaze, the right steps will ensure your family’s safety.

Deirdre O'Connor with Dwell360 is a REALTOR® who services the cities and suburbs of metro Boston. She is focused on her customers and her experience in the residential real estate market is extensive. Search for homes in Massachusetts and then give Deirdre a call.

 
FEMA. Fire Safety Checklist for Homeowners and Renters. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/4W9G7T.
Foremost Insurance Group. Fire Prevention Tips for Homeowners. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/TScFtB.
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). Basic Fire Escape Planning. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/rW20jt.
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