Imagine what would happen if a fire engulfed your home. All of your belongings—from expensive electronics to cherished pictures—could be lost. You could be homeless. You and your loved ones could be injured, or worse. It’s a nightmare scenario that we’d all like to avoid. Unfortunately, many don’t do enough to prevent fires.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), 30.8 percent of fires occur in residential areas, making it the most common property type to be affected. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that U.S. fire departments respond to a home fire every 86 seconds on average.
To protect your home, your belongings and your loved ones from a house fire, follow these safety tips:
- Check your smoke alarms. Never leave them disabled. Replace the batteries twice a year and conduct tests every month.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Fire extinguishers do expire, so check the expiration date.
- Be careful in the kitchen. According to the USFA, half of all residential fires in 2014 were caused by cooking incidents. When cooking, don’t leave your kitchen unattended.
- Check your heating system. The USFA says that 12.5 percent of residential fires were cause by heating in 2014, making this the second leading cause. The NFPA advises maintain a three-foot kid-free zone around space heaters and fires, keeping heaters on a flat surface, turning heaters off when you leave and purchasing heaters that turn off when tipped over. For more information on heater safety, look here.
- Look out for electrical malfunctions. According the USFA, electrical malfunctions accounted for 6.3 percent of residential fires in 2014. Replace frayed cords and don’t overload plugs.
- Keep an eye on your candles. If you’re planning to leave or go to bed, put out your candles. Don’t place candles close to flammable materials.
- Turn off your appliances. Kitchen and bathroom appliances, such as hair curlers and coffee makers, should be turned off when they’re not in use.
- Keep matches and lighters away from children. According to the NFPA, between 2007 and 2011, an average of 49,300 fires each year involved someone playing with fire.
- Dispose of cigarette butts in a safe manner. According to the NFPA, smoking materials are responsible for 5 percent of fires and 22 percent of civilian deaths from fire.
- Be safe around fireworks. According to the NFPA, fireworks cause 15,600 fires in 2013. Leave the displays to the pros.
To learn more about home fire risks, check out the infographic below from The Hartford Junior Fire Marshal Program. You’ll see that a home fire has affected one in eight Americans. You’ll also see that several California cities—Oakland, Modesto, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Ana and Santa Rosa—have made the list of U.S. cities with the highest home fire risk.