Tips to Avoid House Fires

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: Waking in the night to the blaring fire alarm, panicking at the smell of smoke and scrambling to get everyone out of the house safely. Whether through cooking accidents, electrical shortages or malfunctioning heating sources, house fires can occur when we least expect them. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks that property inspectors can share with homebuyers to minimize the risk of fire. Keep these tips in mind the next time you share your inspection report with clients.

Change Your Smoke Detector Batteries Frequently

We don’t give much thought to our smoke alarms – until they go off, that is. This important safety device is deceptively simple and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Three out of every five home fire deaths involve properties without functioning smoke alarms. Make sure you’re checking the batteries on your smoke detector regularly. Even when it’s not ringing, it’s still using up battery life. One easy way to remember to change the batteries? Tie the chore to the changing of the seasons. When Daylight Savings Time ends or begins, you’ll know it’s once again time to swap out smoke alarm batteries for fresh ones.

Inspect Your Chimney, Dryer and Other Heating Elements Regularly

Heating sources should work safely and efficiently, but they can’t do so without proper maintenance. Too often, homeowners forget to thoroughly inspect their appliances and heating elements before turning them on in the fall and winter months. When maintenance and inspections aren’t conducted regularly, fires can be triggered. Even the most minor debris and dust can make an otherwise safe appliance dangerous. Encourage homebuyers to schedule annual inspections of their heating elements to minimize the risk of fire.

Clean Your Oven and Stove Thoroughly

Cooking is a naturally messy activity, and spills in the oven and on the stovetop are bound to happen. In most cases, simply mopping up spaghetti sauce drippings and french fry grease is enough to keep your stove clean. Still, a deep, thorough cleaning of the oven and stovetop should be a part of your regular home maintenance schedule. Food particles you might have overlooked during your nightly post-dinner cleaning sessions can catch fire and spread fast.

Keep Fire Extinguishers Handy

Where do you store your fire extinguisher? Chances are good that it’s collecting dust somewhere in a closet or cupboard. We rarely need to use fire extinguishers, which means they’re often forgotten about until an emergency occurs. If you’re planning to cook with oil, roast marshmallows over a fire pit or gather the family around the fireplace, make sure you keep your fire extinguisher close by. Emergencies have a way of sending people into a panic, and the last thing you want to do while your living room is filling with smoke is hunt for the fire extinguisher. Should fire break out, you’ll be glad to have your fire extinguisher close at hand.

Manage Cables and Cords Efficiently

Electricity is another potentially dangerous household feature we take for granted. Most of the time, our cords, plugs and cables work safely and effectively. It’s when these systems become overloaded that electricity becomes truly dangerous. Many people are unaware that cords can build up heat when the devices they’re hooked up to are used for lengthy periods of time. Avoid running them under rugs or behind furniture to prevent a fire from occurring. And don’t forget phone-charging cables — if you’re prone to sleeping with your phone plugged in under your pillow, find a safer spot to recharge each night.

Store Flammable Products Safely

Common household items such as hairspray and shaving cream may seem innocent enough, but under certain circumstances, they, too, can be the catalyst for a fire. Anytime an aerosol can is exposed to heat, there is a risk of it combusting. While most people don’t necessarily store toiletries like these close to heating elements, you’d be surprised at how much damage a can of hairspray can do when it’s placed next to a hot curling iron or space heater. Store them in a cool area when not in use, and be careful about where you place aerosols while you’re doing your hair or shaving.

Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Kitchen While Cooking

Simmering soups, browning hamburger meat and boiling pasta water are all staples in the American kitchen at dinner time. You may be used to doing these tasks without thinking about them, but even these cooking techniques take more supervision than you might realize. It’s tempting to run and answer the doorbell, change the song or fold a quick load of laundry while cooking, but multitasking can end in disaster. Home cooking leads to an average of 471 fires a day in the United States, so give your dinner the attention it deserves.

Register Now for Comprehensive Home Inspection Training

The best way to prevent fires is to share your knowledge about the risks. While these tips and tricks are a good start, there’s no substitution for comprehensive Home Inspection Training. At ICA, we’re committed to training the next generation of home and commercial property inspectors so they can spread the word about common household safety risks. After all, keeping homebuyers happy, healthy and safe is key to a successful career in home inspection!

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