We at Gunter Mfg. know it’s about more than the basics of using fire safe vents in your home and changing out your detector batteries regularly. This spring, as the temperatures rise again and the risk of fire becomes greater, we’ve put together a list of the five easy and cheap things you can do to help make your house more fire safe.
1 Own a fire extinguisher and keep it in the kitchen .
Just as important is knowing how to use it. If your house is on fire, chances are you’ll also be at least partially panicked, which is why you should know where your fire extinguisher is and how to use it ‘inside and out’. Learn how to unlock it at the very least, and read the directions carefully, making everyone in the house do so as well. Aim at base of the flames. Practice somewhere outside with a practice burst (just don’t drain it!). You wouldn’t own a firearm without practicing a bit, would you?
By a huge margin the number one cause of household fires is cooking equipment (source: NFPA), so keep your extinguisher as close to where you cook as possible, never forget it’s there and replace it when the label says to! Lastly, if you have any doubts about your success in dealing with your newly acquired fire, just exit, call 911, and let the pros deal with it (it’s what they’re paid for, right?). Don’t push over any kids on the way out like some George Costanza character, We’re trying to have a society here, George!
Maintain your extinguisher with this exercise yearly: Turn the extinguisher upside down and shake it to remix anything that has settled to the bottom over the course of the year. Then look at the pressure display and make sure that your extinguisher is still pressurized.
On a more serious note, although most home fires are caused by cooking appliances, the most household fire-caused deaths (66%) are caused by smoking. We’re just putting that out there.
2Clean out the dryer lint. This one is easy, simple, and could save the country 2900 fires per year. They should be emptied after every use as a habit.
3Frying poses the largest fire hazard for cooking (source: PDF, NFPA). Unattended (woops forgot, now everything is hot) is also a major cause of kitchen fires. So if you do fry, don’t leave it alone for a minute. More than half of home fire injuries are from fighting the fire personally as things tend to ‘get away’ from you in raging infernos. Ordinary humans lack the fire protection of say, a rhino or a fireman equipped with suit and oxygen mask, and fire hose with a very high psi output, etc.
4 Remember your ABCs: Always be careful!
Remember Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. Well, it may go wrong. Murphy was a known exaggerator.
Still: cloth curtains from the old days are one relatively easy change out (thankfully those are getting rare). Old furniture made with non fire-resistant fibers should be changed out. This also includes old power strips that have been working overtime since 1996. Don’t ‘daisy chain’ power strips together anywhere near oily rags (see #2 in case that’s not perfectly clear), especially for high wattage devices. Not an electrician? Don’t work with electricity; never try to ‘fix’ a broken appliance if you are not 100% knowledgeable in the general area of electrons, conductivity, and polarity. Got ammo? Lock those bullets in something nice, thick and metal, go big if you need to, you really don’t want to forget them if evacuating and they’re not locked up somewhere safe.
Oily rags can (and do) spontaneously combust.
Take them outside or clean them asap. An average of 1,600 home fires per year are caused by instances of spontaneous combustion or chemical reaction. Spontaneous combustion may sound like a freak occurrence, but it’s real and destroys property. Things happen where a spark may come out of an outlet as an invisible cloud of flammable vapor drifts off something. Oily substances can unleash an incredible amount of exothermic (hot) energy on a house in an awfully fast amount of time, so why even keep them around?
We’d go one further and advise this: keep all the reactive chemicals in the garage, in the shed, or just dispose of them properly if you have no intention of using them anytime soon.
As a rule of thumb, keep excess paper, cardboard boxes and generally flammable things to a minimum. The father of the author of this article had to throw his baseball card collection away as a kid. It wasn’t wrong (but couldn’t he have saved his Mickey Mantle rookie card? They had no idea back then.). Of course everyone can have a lapse every now and again, and those credit card offers keep coming in the mail. Just make sure the unwanted paper keeps flowing to where it should be: the bin!
5 Have a cat or dog? Ratchet up precaution, prepare the house for when you go to work and sleep.
Take care where you put the space heater, clothing irons, candles, incense, cigarettes, keep them all away from edges and well out of reach of Fido’s or the kitties tail. Consider putting appliances like these (that do not turn off by themselves) on a timer, for that one time when you do forget to turn it off while running late for work (or sleep!). For example, set the curling iron to turn off every day at the same time right before you leave for work.
The NFPA has a trove of useful statistics on their site. Let’s try this one on for size: In 2015, guess how many fires, total, were reported in the U.S.?
Answer: If you guessed C, you were right. And with more than half of those home fires, that’s more than one for every two hundred households. Every year. There are 125.82 million households in the United States as of 2016.
What else can you do to help your house? See below for more tips!