Home Hazards

October 1st, 2010 by The Be Fire Smart Team

A room-by-room guide for keeping your house safe from fires.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Fire safety is a serious business: According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 25,000 Americans are injured each year in fires. And yet, most home blazes are completely preventable. We have compiled a room-by-room guide of steps to take to keep your home -- and your family -- safe from fires. Read on for a primer, or visit BeFireSmart.com for a full list of ways to fireproof your house. While there, you will also be able to download a free copy of Liberty Mutual’s Home Hazard checklist.

Living Room

• Replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries every 12 months.
• Replace all smoke alarms every ten years or sooner if they do not respond properly when
tested.
• Schedule an annual fireplace inspection and cleaning to ensure your chimney is clear of debris.
• Open the flue completely before every fire.
• Go easy on the surge protectors: Overloaded power strips can lead to electrical fires.
• Place lamps at least one foot away from curtains.

Bedrooms

• Replace electric blankets that are damaged, frayed or more than 10 years old.
• If you use extension cords, make sure they’re listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
• Never use candles in bedrooms.
• Don’t run electrical cords under rugs, and never secure cords using staples or nails.
• Remove heavy objects from the bed when the electric blanket is on.

Bathrooms

• Only install bulbs that are at, or below, the fixtures’ recommended wattage.
• If an electrical outlet or switch feels unusually warm, stop using it and call an electrician.
• Never set hot appliances, like curling irons, on clothing or towels.
• Make sure appliance cords aren’t getting pinched in drawers.

Hallways

• Ensure smoke alarms are listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.
• Install wall-mounted alarms four to 12 inches from the ceiling.
• Don’t install alarms near windows, doors or ducts.
• Dust can clog a smoke alarm; run a vacuum over the surface of your alarms every six months.

Kitchen

• Keep a multipurpose fire extinguisher in a place where it’s easy to access, and make sure every member of the family knows how to use it.
• Store flammables like dishtowels and plastic/paper food packaging well away from the stove.
• Maintain a three-foot child-and pet-free zone around the stove.
• Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing while you’re cooking.
• Smother oven or microwave fires by turning off the appliance and keeping the door closed.

Basement

• Toss or repair appliances that routinely blow fuses or trip circuit breakers.
• Remove lint from your dryer filter and drum after every load. And never dry things that have been in contact with flammable liquids.
• Always turn off space heaters when you leave the room.
• If your dryer is gas-powered, have it professionally inspected at least once a year to ensure all piping is free of leaks.
• Don’t let your dryer run if you’re not home.

Outdoors

• Place portable fire pits on stable, fireproof surfaces, such as concrete.
• Keep your grill away from walls and overhanging branches and at least three feet away from the house.
• If you live in a place where it snows, remember to shovel around all exhaust vents.
• Develop and practice a home evacuation plan -- including a safe meeting spot outside the house -- making sure every family member knows two ways out of each room.