Fire Safety: What Homeowners Must Know To Keep Their Families Safe

Unlike hurricanes and floods that can often be predicted, house fires usually occur with little or no warning. With flames capable of racing through an average wood-framed home within minutes of ignition, residential fires all too often result in serious injuries or fatalities to the the occupants, along with severe damage or total loss to the structure. Because home fires can have many different causes, there is no way for homeowners to completely remove all risk of suffering this type of destruction, but there are a number of actions they can take to reduce the risk and enjoy a safer home environment for their families. 

What are the three most prevalent causes of home fires? 

According to recent statistics released by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the three most common causes of residential fires are related to cooking, heating, and malfunctioning electrical infrastructure or appliances. In fact, just these three causes account for more than 68% of the fires reported annually, so it makes sense for homeowners to focus on reducing risk for these types of fire in order to help keep their family safe. 

Actions homeowners can take to reduce the risk of fires related to cooking

With cooking associated with approximately half of all home fires, it makes sense to make some changes in the way cooking appliances are used in the home kitchen to reduce the risk of fire. Some of these changes include: 

  • keeping cooking surfaces, such as ranges and ovens, clean and free of grease 
  • keeping range hoods free of greasy buildup
  • never leaving ranges, ovens, and small cooking appliances on when no one is at home or awake to check on them
  • keeping flammable materials, such as potholders and dish towels, away from burners and heat-producing appliances
  • using timers when cooking to help prevent instances where someone forgets about food left heating inside ovens or on stove tops until they catch fire
  • using extra precautions when frying or cooking with oil, shortening, lard, butter, or other flammable ingredients

Tips to ensure safer heating appliance usage

Heating appliances, such as wood stoves, furnaces, and portable electric heaters, are the second leading cause of home fires. To use these appliances in a safer manner and reduce the risk of them causing a home fire, homeowners should: 

  • make sure that they are properly installed and serviced regularly by a qualified professional
  • make sure that flammable materials, such as upholstered furnishings, curtains, drapes, clothing, paper, and bedding, are never used in the immediate vicinity of these appliances
  • make sure that the electrical service in the home is in good condition and capable of safely providing the type of power used for electric furnaces and heaters
  • make sure that heating equipment, especially portable electric heaters, are never left unattended
  • make sure that electrical cords for these appliances are in good condition, with no cracks or exposed wiring
  • learn how to operate wood stoves safely 

Teach family members good electrical safety habits to help reduce the chance of having an electrical fire in your home

As the third leading cause of destructive home fires in the United States, electrical fires are often caused by conditions that could be prevented. Homeowners who want to focus on this type of prevention are wise to begin by having their home's electrical system inspected by a company like Safe-Way Electric & Solar Co. to make sure it is safe to operate and properly sized for the demands placed upon it. This type of inspection should only be performed by a qualified electrician and should include: 

  • checking the electrical panel to make sure it meets applicable safety standards
  • checking the circuits in each area of the home to make sure they are operating properly
  • visually inspecting electrical sockets and switch plates 
  • looking for signs that wiring is degraded or made of materials that are no longer considered safe, such as knob-and-tube wiring
  • checking for improper usage of electrical cords, appliances, and surge protectors
  • checking exterior electrical connections and wiring to ensure they are safe to use

Educating yourself and your family about the most common causes of home fires is the best way to reduce risks and enjoy a less stressful life.