Beware Of These Hidden Home Fire Hazards
The National Fire Protection Association reports as many as 400,000 house fires occur each year and Twin Cities homeowners see roughly 13,000 house fires. What’s even more unfortunate than the fires themselves is the fact that many of these disasters are completely preventable. So why do fires strike when they’re relatively easy to avoid? Because many household fire hazards are hiding in plain sight.
Though you may not realize it, many seemingly harmless items inside your home can dramatically increase your risk for a house fire when you handle them improperly. In this blog, the fire restoration contractors at Kiser Construction explain what those items are and what you should do to keep your home and family safe.
How often do you clean out your dryer lint trap? You should be doing it after every load of laundry, and if you aren’t, you’re increasing your risk for a house fire. Dryer lint is void of moisture and composed of tens of thousands of tiny particles, which makes it extremely flammable. Given the proximity of the lint trap to the dryer’s heat source, the potential for a dryer fire is very real.
Need proof? Each year in the United States, dryer fires cost homeowners nearly $35 million in combined property losses. If you hope to avoid a devastating disaster and expensive fire damage restoration, clean your lint trap after every load of clothes you dry.
You wouldn’t assume a few regular batteries could put you at risk for a house fire, would you? Unfortunately, that assumption could end in disaster. So what is it about batteries that poses such a fire risk?
Household batteries have positive and negative terminals, and they can heat up quickly when they come into contact with other metal objects. Nine-volt batteries can be particularly hazardous as they feature positive and negative poles on the same side. If those poles make continuous contact with something as simple as a paperclip, the battery can overheat and generate a spark. And even a single spark can quickly transform into a full-blown fire.
To reduce your risk of experiencing a damaging accident, always store your batteries carefully. Rather than simply tossing them in an empty drawer, set them upright so the terminals cannot make contact with other objects. If you want to be extra cautious, cover either the positive or negative terminal of each battery with tape to eliminate the chance of overheating.
Extension Cords & Power Strips
If you’re like most people, you plug your electronic devices into the closest open outlet — be careful which outlet you choose! If the closest receptacle is attached to an extension cord or power strip, make sure the device is designed to handle the voltage your electronic items require.
If the voltages are mismatched, power strips and extension cords can heat up quickly, which can damage the wiring within them. When you unknowingly draw current through a mismatched extension cord or power strip, eventually, the interior wiring will begin to melt. And super-hot, melting wiring is a fire disaster just waiting to happen.
This should go without saying, but if you’re going to use a space heater inside your home, be very careful where you place it! More importantly, never leave a space heater running when you’re not at home!
To avoid expensive fire damage restoration repairs, heed these tips any time you crank up a space heater indoors:
- Never place a space heater near loose upholstery, such as curtains or bedding.
- Always situate space heaters on hard, level, non-flammable surfaces.
- Leave a minimum of three feet between the heater and any surrounding objects.
- Unplug space heaters when they’re not in use.
- NEVER leave a space heater running unattended. If you’re heading to bed, even if the heater is in your bedroom, always turn it off.
- Periodically test the heater’s thermostat control to ensure it’s working properly
If you also use central heat, seriously consider scheduling an annual system inspection for safety’s sake. Though HVAC systems aren’t major fire culprits, it’s still important to test them for proper functionality each year.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires. If you’re a budding chef, listen up: Any time you have food cooking on the stovetop, remain in the kitchen until you turn off the stove.
NEVER leave a stove unattended, especially if you have a gas-fueled unit. If you must leave the room — even for 30 seconds — turn off the stove. It takes a mere moment for a fire to start, and no stove, not even the electric type, is immune.
If you’re enjoying adult beverages at an in-home gathering, don’t use the stove if you’re even mildly intoxicated. Be cautious where you place cooking essentials like oven mitts, towels, and wooden utensils. When left near high heat or open flame, these items can quickly catch fire.
Damaged appliance cords also present a kitchen fire hazard, so be sure to routinely examine each appliance cord for signs of wear and tear. If you notice fraying, exposed wires, discoloration, burn marks, or melting, unplug that cord immediately and contact an appliance repair specialist.
A little diligence and proactive maintenance can go a long way toward preventing an unexpected household disaster and the need for expensive emergency restoration services.
Even a properly contained fire can set your home ablaze if you don’t watch it diligently. Open fireplaces are especially hazardous because sparks frequently fly and logs can easily roll. If you enjoy using your open fireplace, ALWAYS be sure to use a spark screen and never leave the flame unattended.
If you own a wood-burning stove, be mindful of the flue setting. Don’t keep it open all the way as the free-flowing air can rapidly strengthen the fire and make it incredibly hot. Each time you finish building a fire or adding wood to the stove, make sure you close the door fully. And of course, remove ashes regularly.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking cigarettes indoors is the leading cause of in-home, fire-related deaths in the U.S. Obviously, the best way to mitigate this particular danger is to smoke outdoors.
If you insist on smoking inside your home, at the very least, move your ashtray outdoors. Always make sure you extinguish cigarette butts completely and NEVER toss them in a trash can. Ideally, you should toss used cigarettes in a jar of water to make doubly sure they’re no longer burning.
Never leave a burning candle unattended! If you must leave the room, blow out the flame — no exceptions. Avoid placing candles near flammable items and be sure there’s plenty of open space in the immediate vicinity for adequate ventilation.
If you love the cozy candle-lit ambiance but could do without the fire hazard, opt for flameless, battery-powered candles as a safer alternative. Limiting open flames inside your house is the best way to avoid fire damage restoration expenses.
Non-Functional Smoke Alarms
One of the quickest and easiest things you can do to help prevent a household fire is check the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once per month. Even if you have hard-wired smoke detectors, routine functionality testing is a must.
Though hardwired smoke detectors are designed to use your home’s power supply, many of them also contain backup batteries that activate in the event of a power outage. Check your hardwired alarms for backup batteries and test their functionality monthly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, you should replace all smoke alarm batteries at least once per year, preferably twice.
Outdated & Poorly Maintained Electrical Work
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, every year, approximately 51,000 house fires in North America are caused by improperly maintained or outdated electrical work. That equates to over $1.3 billion in property damage and a similar amount in resulting fire damage restoration and reconstruction services.
To protect the safety of your family and your home, you must pay close attention to the state of your home’s electrical system at all times.
If your wiring hasn’t been updated in the last 20 years, it’s time to call an electrician. When you find any loose outlets or have difficulty plugging in cords, have an electrician replace those outlets as soon as you can. If you’re constantly tripping breakers, it’s time to update your wiring and distribution system.
If you ever see sparks emanating from outlets or power strips, stop using the affected receptacles immediately and contact a licensed electrician who can assess the situation. Last but certainly not least, never overload your outlets! Though power strips and extension cords may be convenient, they can present a major fire hazard if you draw too much power at any given time.
Kiser: Your Twin Cities Source for Emergency Restoration Services
At Kiser Construction, we help Twin Cities homeowners successfully recover after disaster strikes. If you’re in need of comprehensive fire damage restoration, smoke damage cleanup, contents cleaning, water damage restoration, or remodeling services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.
To learn more about how we can help you, give us a call today at 763-633-2010 or contact us online. If you recently suffered home damage and require emergency restoration services, please call our 24/7 emergency line at 612-518-8852.