My wonderful friends, Katie and David, woke to an alarming sight a few weeks ago – a neighbor’s house was fully engulfed in flames. The people escaped in their pajamas, but, unfortunately, the house and one of their pets were lost. This got me thinking about my own home and how safe I am in it from fire. 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 this today. Next week we will talk about some non-fire-related, safety issues. So here’s my list of suggestions:
1. Make Sure You Have 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 think “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.
2. Make Sure You Have a Fire Escape Plan
My kids have two uncles who are firefighters, so there’s no way on earth we were getting around this next suggestion. We had a fire escape plan we 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. After the fire near Katie and David’s, Bruce and I discussed our plan. If you have small children in your house, it’s good to practice the plan, as well. You may also want to consider an escape ladder for higher floors. So make a plan and practice it. It could save your life.
3. Make Sure You Have Fire Extinguishers for Each Floor 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 American have had at least a small fire in their home. Full disclosure, when I was researching for 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 it. I’m embarrassed to say, but have no fear, two new ones have arrived from Amazon and I’m pleased as punch.
4. Make Sure You Have Your Furnace/Hot Water Heater Cleaned and Serviced Regularly
This is a sobering statistic: “A newly-released NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) report estimates that home heating equipment was responsible for just over 48,500 home fires each year between 2014 and 2018, and that these fires caused an estimated 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage each year.” Cleaned and regularly serviced 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.
5. Make Sure You Clean Your Dryer Vent Regularly
Again from the NFPA: “…nearly 17,000 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year. These clothes dryer fires cause around 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in property loss. 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.
6. Make Sure You Have VISIBLE House Numbers
My in-laws went to a great senior center in 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.
A Final Thought…
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. I have the best readers in the world… I want all of you to be as safe as possible. Thanks. And stay safe out there, my friends.