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Things You Can Do To Prevent Your Home From Catching Fire.
by John M. Roberts

Every year, house fires cause billions of dollars in property damage, kill thousands of people, and injure many, many more. These numbers highlight the importance of practicing fire safety habits and keeping abreast of all home safety regulations issued by state, county, and city fire departments and other authorities.

Although house fires can be caused by old and frayed electrical wiring, gas leaks, and faulty appliances, many are caused by negligence and human error such as trying to warm cramped rooms with space heaters, careless smoking habits, and leaving stoves unattended while cooking.

House fires can be prevented by upgrading outdated circuit breakers and electrical wiring, replacing old appliances, and putting in new gas lines. If you smell gas and can't find the source to turn it off, you should leave the house and call your local gas company immediately.

There are other things you can do to keep your home safe from fires.

  • Don't cook while intoxicated or take drugs that may impair your ability to make quick decisions or move in a steady, rational way. A stumble or mishap around open flames can lead to serious burns or tragic consequences.
  • Never leave the burners on your stove unattended, not even for a minute. If you need to step out of the kitchen, turn them off before you leave.
  • Monitor hot cooking oil and keep a cover or cookie sheet handy so if the oil catches fire, you can cover it quickly and then turn the fire off.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire because the water will splatter and may cause severe burning to you or anyone nearby. It will also cause the oil to explode and spread flames to a larger area.
  • Never lie down while smoking. People fall asleep with lit cigarettes in their hands or mouths. Hot ashes can fall on pillows, sheets or blankets, sofas, wooden floors or other flammable materials and start a fire.
  • Keep small children away from stoves and don't let them climb up on chairs or step stools that are close to stoves and don't let them play around space heaters.
  • Store matches and other flammable materials in a safe place away from children. Some children like playing with fire. This may be a very serious problem. The National Fire Protection Association filed a report stating that children playing with fire started over 14,000 structure fires in 2006. If you think your child likes starting fires, you should seek counseling for them immediately.
  • Be careful not to overload extension cords and power surge devices and don't run wires under carpets and rugs or in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic.
  • If you must keep old newspapers, magazines, letters, or junk mail, store it in closed boxes away from electrical wiring or open flames.
  • Keep pets and other animals away from open flames and electrical wiring. Rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, insects and other critters have been known to start fires by gnawing through electrical wiring and striking matches with their teeth.
  • If you see electrical sparks or smell smoke coming from wiring or when you operate cookware, washers and dryers, hair dryers, or any other electrical appliances, call an electrician and have them repaired immediately or discontinue using them altogether.
  • Fireplaces are still used today, not to keep warm, but for their ambience and beauty. In most cases, they are safe if the fire is kept in them. A screen should be used at all times and it should never be left unattended. Also, your chimney should be swept and cleaned at least once a year to prevent the buildup of creosote. A buildup of creosote may cause a chimney fire that could spread to other areas of your home very quickly. To prevent chimney fires, your chimney should be cleaned at least once a year.

Most states have laws requiring homes and apartments to have smoke detectors or fire alarm systems installed. If you don't have them in your home right now, you should install them right away. If you do have them, make sure the batteries are replaced at least once a year and the alarms should be tested at least once a month.

When there is a fire in a home, even if you have smoke detectors that work perfectly, getting out may become a challenge. You should have an plan for escape in place for you and your family and everyone should practice it often. The object of an escape plan is to get everyone out of the house safely in case there is a fire or other emergency.

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