Bruce and I are just back from a trip to Hawaii in December. What we heard and what we saw in beautiful, and now devastated Lahaina got me thinking about fire safety. Just how safe am I in my home. And how safe are you? I think that the New Year is always a good time to reevaluate the safety of your home, so I thought we’d talk about a fire safety checklist today. Next week we will talk about some non-fire-related, safety issues. So here’s my list of suggestions:
Item #1 on Your Fire Safety Checklist: Operational Smoke and CO Detectors
I want to almost write “Duh!” with this one because by now everyone should know that working smoke and CO detectors are a must. But it’s just not that way all the time. How often have you taken the batteries out of the detector closest to your kitchen because your cooking skills, or lack thereof, are giving the detector fits? Or perhaps when we recently went through daylight savings time (the twice-yearly point when fire professionals suggest that you change the batteries in your detectors) did you forget? Or maybe you thought “well, I know I replaced that one recently, and batteries are pricey?” C’mon people! Life and limb are too important. Check those detectors and replace those batteries AT LEAST twice a year. And for those of you out there without detectors… first of all… really? But secondly, check with your local fire department. Many departments have programs for low or no-cost units. Also, be sure to test your units regularly to make sure they are operating properly.
Item #2 on Your Fire Safety Checklist: Have a Fire Escape Plan
My kids have two uncles who are firefighters, so there’s no way on earth I was getting around this next suggestion. I had a fire escape plan that I shared with them as soon as they could walk and talk. Along with discussing various ways they could safely exit the home, we had a designated meeting place outside. My kids knew “meet at the mailbox” and they knew it was important. If you have small children in your house, it’s good to practice the plan, as well. Even if you don’t, it’s good to have one and to discuss it. You may also want to consider an escape ladder for higher floors too. So make a plan and practice it. It could save your life.
Item #3 On Your Fire Safety Checklist: Have A Fire Extinguisher for Each Floor of Your House and One For Your Kitchen
Although the best thing to do in a house fire is get the heck out of Dodge, the next best thing you can do is put the fire out. If you outfit your kitchen with a fire extinguisher you will be way ahead of the game if a fire ever strikes. A full quarter of homes in the US do not have a fire extinguisher even though 28% of all Americans have had at least a small fire in their home. Full disclosure, when I wrote this piece I realized that my own extinguishers had not made the trip to my new house (they had expired – and yes, they do expire) and I had failed to replace them. I’m embarrassed to say this whilst talking about a fire safety checklist. But have no fear, two new ones have arrived from Amazon and I’m pleased as punch.
Insider Tip: We do not sell safety equipment, like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers at Consignments Ltd. For safety reasons you should NEVER and I repeat NEVER buy these items on thrift or consignment.
Have Your Furnace/Hot Water Heater Cleaned and Serviced Regularly – It’s a Big Part of Fire Safety
This is a sobering statistic, but according to the U.S. Fire Administration, “heating fires remained the second leading cause of home fires in 2021. An estimated 32,200 home heating fires were reported to fire departments within the United States.” And they further reported that, ” (t)hese fires caused an estimated 190 deaths, 625 injuries and $442 million in property loss.” Cleaned and regularly serviced heating equipment, although not guaranteed to prevent fires, can drastically reduce the likelihood that you will have one. So get them cleaned and get them serviced people.
Make Sure You Clean Your Dryer Vent Regularly
According to fire damage restorer, Jenkins Restorations, ” …government statistics show that (dryer fires) are the cause of 2,900 home fires in the US every year; these fires result in an estimated 20 million dollars in property damage.” Unsurprisingly, the leading cause of these fires, at 34%, is the failure to clean dryer vents. So buy the tool and clear the vent or replace the vent regularly to prevent this in your home. Please.
Make Sure You Have VISIBLE House Numbers – It Can Save Your Life
My former in-laws went to a great senior center in Bolton, Connecticut and one of the speakers brought this to the attention of all the members at a lecture one day. They shared this with me years ago and I share it with you now. If you need the fire department you want them to know where you are. Right? Big, visible, house numbers are an easy way for them to know exactly which house to go to. You want them there as fast as possible when you call. You don’t want it to be the shooting flames that clue them in.
I know I haven’t covered all the fire safety tips that there are in this blog, so if you have something that you think we all should know, please reach out. For more on home safety and maintenance, check out my previous blog: Fall Home Maintenance Tasks: Safety-Oriented Checklist.