The fire at the Howard Hanna building this week serves as a good reminder to all of us as to how important it is to do a periodic fire safety audit of our own homes. The great majority of fires occur in the home. 3,400 Americans are killed in fires each year and approximately 17,500 more are injured. In addition to protecting your life, good fire safety also protects what is likely to be your largest investment. So take a few minutes this week and check out your own home with these guidelines in mind.
You should have an adequate number of smoke detectors in your home – ideally one on very level and one in each bedroom. The mere existence of working smoke detectors (which you check regularly and replace batteries for yearly) will go a long way to protecting the people in your home. To protect your investment, it is best to have smoke detectors that are hard wired into an alarm system, so that even when you are not home, if there is smoke, the fire department will be called. Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years – when was the last time you replaced yours? Ideally, they would also be interconnected so that when one is tripped in one part of your home, it sounds all of the alarms, dramatically increasing your chance of catching the fire before its too late.
Work to prevent electrical fires. If you have any reason to have an electrician in your home, have him check out your entire home. Do you have any ungrounded 3-prong outlets? If so, either update your wiring or change the outlets back to two prong. Any open junction boxes or wire splices? Get them covered in proper boxes. Make sure your entire electrical system is grounded to your plumbing. Be careful not to overload your circuits through the use of extension cords. Don’t place cords under rugs. Throw away frayed cords. Don’t use appliances that smell unusual or spark. Clean your furnace at least every other year.
If you burn logs in your fireplace, keep it clean of creosote build up. If you use portable heaters, keep them away from things that could catch on fire. Don’t use space heaters while you are asleep. Don’t leave holiday lights on when you are asleep. Don’t use excess wattage in your lamps.
The majority of home fires start in the kitchen. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand in an easily accessible place just in case.
How did you do on your home audit? Spending a little time now (and possibly a little money) may save you from the chaos and destruction fire leaves in its wake.