How can I prevent a house fire?

According to the American Red Cross, house fires cause over $7 billion in property damage each year. Being prepared and conducting regular safety checks can help keep you from adding to that number.

Here are simple things you can do to protect your home and loved ones from falling victim to a house fire.

  • Test your smoke alarms. Properly maintain your smoke alarms by testing the batteries once a month. If they’re not working, replace them immediately.
  • Inspect heating sources. Regardless of what kind of primary heating you have in your home, an annual inspection will reduce your risk of fire.
    Change filters regularly to avoid build-up of dust and lint that can easily catch fire.
    If you use space heaters, carefully inspect them before and after each use and place them at least three feet away from anything combustible.
  • Keep the stove and oven clear. Don’t leave anything flammable near the stove or oven. Make sure curtains don’t hang over the stove, and never rest towels or a cookbook on the stove.
  • Stay in the kitchen. Don’t leave a hot cooking surface unattended. Whether it’s a pot on the stove or an electric griddle, you need to be close by. If you have to leave the room, take the pot off the stove or turn off the griddle first.
  • Check the dryer. If you have a gas-powered dryer, have it inspected once a year to make sure all connections are secure. No matter what type of dryer you have, always clean out the lint trap after a load is finished. Regularly check behind and around the dryer for pockets of lint or items of laundry that have fallen under or behind.
  • Maintain cords. Regularly check the condition of cords and watch out for frayed wires: repair or replace cords with frayed wires immediately. Electrical cords can produce heat, so don’t trap them under a rug or between furniture and the wall.
  • Store flammable products properly. Many household cleaners and cosmetic products like shaving cream and hair spray are flammable. Keep flammable products away from heat, including exposure to sunlight. Designate a cool, dark cupboard for flammable products and make sure all family members know where they go.
  • Be careful with candles. Never leave candles unattended and always keep them away from flammable items like blankets and curtains. Place candles in secure, tip-proof holders and extinguish them before leaving or going to sleep.
  • Use the fireplace responsibly. To keep errant sparks from escaping, install a durable metal fire screen in front of your fireplace. Don’t leave a fire unattended, and give ashes ample time to cool down before disposing of them. Always place fireplace ash in a dedicated metal container that isn’t used for any other household refuse.
  • Keep fire extinguishers handy. Stock key areas of your home with fire extinguishers. At the very least, keep one in the kitchen and others near high-risk areas like a fireplace. Regularly review the instructions and make sure all members of the home know how to properly use the extinguisher.

Fire damage can be devastating, but you can minimize the risk of fire in your home. Make these practices part of your fire safety plan and review them regularly.

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