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Fire Prevention Tips - How to Keep Your Family Safe

A Few Steps Can Reduce the Risk of Fire in Your Home

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Too often lives and personal possessions are lost due to fires that could easily have been prevented. A proactive approach to safeguard your home is crucial and in most cases, only requires a few minutes of your time. Learn how to keep your family and home safe and reduce your fire risk.

1. Smoke Detectors do Save Lives

Given the low cost of smoke detectors and the ease of installation especially for battery-operated models, there's really no excuse not to have at least one active smoke alarm in your home. And if you check your local fire code, you are probably required to have one on each floor of the home, placed close to the sleeping areas. Too often renters rely on landlords to meet this safety regulation, but really, this is a poor excuse. The responsibility is yours. This is one little piece of electronics that is crucial to your family's safety - don't postpone it.

While many do meet their fire codes and install the right number of smoke detectors and also place them where recommended, it's easy to forget that a dead battery renders your alarm useless. Make a plan or set a particular date/month to check/test your smoke alarms and change batteries on a regular basis. Your life may depend on it.
Read more about smoke alarms
How to Install a Smoke Alarm - Video
Creative Way to Test a Smoke Alarm
How to Test Smoke Alarms by Allstate
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2. Candles - Use Them Safely

Candles are extremely popular because they tend to add ambiance to a room and make it more inviting. However, improper candle use or candle holders that are unsafe, can overly warm up the space - something you'll want to avoid to protect your loved ones.

Many fires are started accidentally each year from unsafe candle use. To reduce the risk of fire when using candles, you must use safe, stable and secure candle holders. That's the first step. Where you position the candles is also important. Never place a candle on a shelf unit, leave the room while it is lit or allow curtains, fabric or flammable material to come into close contact with a lit candle.
Read More About Candle Safety and Safe Candle Holders
Candle Warmers - Safe Candle Alternatives
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3. Toaster Cleaning Reduces Risk

Toasters tend to accumulate crumbs and pieces of toasts or bagels, which can catch on fire while you are using your toaster. To reduce your fire risk, always clean your toaster regularly. Follow the link below for my steps on how to clean your toaster.

4. Dryers Can Cause Fires if Not Properly Maintained

I say that not to make you afraid of using a clothes dryer, but merely to stress the importance of keeping two areas free of lint. The first is the main lint filter. Maintain a good regimen of removing lint from this filter after/before every load. And you also need to go one step further. If you use dryer fabric sheets, you can get a build-up of this softener residue that acts as an invisible seal on the filter mesh, restricting air flow. Heat building up in lint, can cause a fire. Follow the link below to better understand this hazard.
Dryer Lint Filter Hazard

The second dryer-related area where lint can build up and that requires lint removal on a regular basis is the exterior dryer vent. Lint can clog this area too, preventing air from flowing through. Removal is usually pretty quick, simple remove the small plastic screen and take the lint out. There's a bonus besides preventing fires, you'll also have a more energy-efficient dryer.
How to Clear the Dryer Exterior Vent
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5. Woodburning Heat Stoves and Fireplaces - Care, Maintenance are Crucial

Using any type of woodburning appliance, heater, fireplace or heat stove requires diligence of care to reduce the risk of fire. Wood heat is a very cozy, dry source of heat and many including us, use this type of alternative heat to reduce energy costs. But unfortunately, it does have some risks in terms of use, as well as maintenance. The following are just some of my woodheating safety tips; read my article: Wood as a Heating Source. The more you are proactive with care and maintenance, the safer your home will be.
  • Clean the chimney regularly to reduce hazardous creosote build-up. How often depends on how much you use the stove, but at the very least once a year.
  • Use care when starting a fire in it. Do it safely.
  • Ensure a carbon monoxide detector is installed nearby.
  • Always have a professional install your stove to ensure all clearances are properly met and that the flue is installed to local codes. Some insurance companies will not insure a fireplace or heat stove that has not been installed by a professional and/or has not been inspected and approved by one.
  • Only buy an airtight certified wood heat stove. Look for that rating; it's often on the back of the stove.
  • Once clearances are approved and you're set to go, always keep flammable materials away and outside of this clearance zone. That goes for the wood box or kindling basket; carpeting in the area, or clothing that is set out to dry.
  • Always cool down the stove before clearing ash and because clinkers can be present hours after your last fire, use a metal pail for the ashes and dispose in a safe location.
  • Wood Heat Stove Buying Tips
  • What's a Clinker?
  • What NOT to Burn in your Heat Stove
  • Wood Pellet Heat Stove or Insert Buying Tips
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6. A Fire Extinguisher is a Good Investment

Hopefully you'll never need to use it, but it can sure provide peace of mind knowing it's there. Areas of the home that are more at risk of fire are the best places to keep a fire extinguisher. That includes the kitchen, home shop, room where there's a woodburning fireplace or stove, or the garage. Proper maintenance of a fire extinguisher is crucial if you want it to be active and ready to use.
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7. Make a Fire Plan With Your Family

To keep everyone safe and to reduce confusion should fire strike your home, a fire plan is strongly recommended. This is something that should involve the whole family, including frequent overnight guests. A good plan includes what to do when fire starts, how to safely get out of the home and where to meet outside. What you want to avoid is someone running back into a burning building because they are unsure if everyone got out. If you have a designated meeting place outside, you reduce that risk. And remember lives are more important than possessions. You can always replace stuff.

8. Use Only UL Certified Electrical Appliances, Cords, Power Strips

Buying approved kitchen appliances is not often a problem, especially with known brands. Where we often do let our guard down is when we purchase cheap power strips or electrical cords that are not approved for use, from budget retailers or flea markets. All appliances or electrical products should be approved for consumer use and should be UL listed.

Unfortunately, there are lots of counterfeit products out there so familiarizing yourself with what that UL seal looks like, is a good plan to ensure products you buy and use in your home are safe. Heed the old adage regarding price - if it's too good to be true - stay clear of it.

When it comes to electrical cords, it's important to never use one that is not rated for the particular use you have in mind, or which could overload your electrical system. We tend to use 'octopus' style electrical connectors without thought to the consequences, assuming that the more cords you can connect, the better. That can be very unsafe. You should limit electrical cord use, never string them across traffic areas, nor hide them under rugs, or create any hazardous electric cord jungle. And contrary to public opinion, electrical cords are not a one-type-fits-all product.

Keep in mind that even though a certain product has been approved for use, a faulty aspect can surface or a hazard noted that prompts a recall. Unfortunately, this does happen all too often with household appliances. Product recalls are issued to give consumers a heads up so they can safeguard their family and home. A wise person will heed these product recalls and follow instructions given.
Making Product Safety a Priority
What UL listed means
What to do if Your Appliance is Recalled
Appliance Cord Safety - Make Sure Cords are Safe
How to Handle Appliance Problems

9. Let a Professional Do it

When in doubt or if you lack the knowledge and training to install fuel-burning appliances, update your electrical system or hard-wire an appliance, let a professional technician do it. You might save a little money doing it yourself, but if it's not done according to electrical, fire or building codes, you may have a lot of grief later. And it may create a hazardous situation in your home, something that is totally preventable.

10. Monitor Cooking, Especially With Grease

Never leave cooking unattended and use extra care when cooking with a lot of grease. Overheated grease is often the reason for kitchen fires. You can prevent grease fires by using a temperature-controlled deep fryer, rather than frying in a pot or skillet on the stove. There are also several grease-less appliances on the market that deliver excellent cooking results.
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11. Keep an Asset List for Insurance Purposes

Having a list of your household assets won't prevent loss from fire or theft, but it might help you to recover some or all of their value if you have insurance. Most of us have no idea how many towels we have, what brand of DVD player, how many thumb drives to claim or how many coats there are in the home. And trying to remember what's in the kitchen cupboards is especially trying.

It does not have to be elaborate, but making a brief inventory of your home's content can be most helpful at a time when you are reeling from a disaster and struggling to think of such things. Some people find it very helpful to make the list but also to take a photo of each room from every angle. That often helps to fine tune such a list, should you ever need it. Think of this as a good thing to do and hopefully something you'll never need to use. Like a fire extinguisher - it affords peace of mind even though you might never use it.

And where do you keep such a list for safekeeping? Some keep important paper documents in the freezer; others store back-up drives and such in a local safety deposit box with other valuables. With 'cloud computing', saving electronic files offsite shouldn't be an issue, as long as the destination is assumed to be safe.

Promotional Feature: View this video series to learn how to take good care of your house.

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