Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Unfortunately, too many people lose their lives each day to a house fire (on average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day) - and I want to see that number decrease. We’re building better these days, and in many cases that means we’re building homes that are slowing down the spread of fire, giving residents more time to escape. But you still need to be ready to go.
Make sure you’ve got a fire escape plan for you and your family. Have at least two possible exits and practice your escape plan twice a year.
If you have a fire, make sure you get out, stay out, and call for help. Don’t go back into your home until it’s been okayed by the fire department. You never want to put your family’s safety at risk.
Here are a few areas to check on when it comes to detecting and controlling house fires that could save your life one day.
1. Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms can save your life in an emergency, and should never be taken for granted. You’ll want one on every level of your home, as well as outside any bedrooms.
The most important thing to remember with your smoke alarms is that they need to be tested! If you can’t be sure they’ll work in an emergency, they're only providing a false sense of security. Test your units monthly. Start by pressing the test button; you should hear a loud beep - if it’s a weak sound or doesn’t make any noise at all, replace the battery.
Next, do a smoke test. Light a match and blow it out under the unit. If it doesn’t sound off, try changing the batteries and try again. If it still doesn’t work, it’s time to replace the unit.
For any units that aren’t hardwired and use batteries, you should replace the batteries twice per year. To remember to do mine, I do it whenever we change the clocks. Like anything else, smoke alarms will wear out over time. About every 10 years you’ll want to replace the entire unit to make sure your alarm will be in good working order if you ever need it.
2. Fire Extinguishers
Extinguishers don’t replace the need to call the fire department. No matter the size of the blaze, you should always call 911. But extinguishers are an important tool for containing small fires until the firefighters can arrive.
Every home should have fire extinguishers in accessible areas - especially where a fire is more likely to start (the kitchen or the garage). You’ll also want to have one on every level of your home. Install them in plain sight, and keep them away from stoves and heating appliances.
Like your smoke alarms, you should be inspecting your extinguishers monthly. Make sure the pin is intact, check the tamper seal hasn’t been broken, and look at the needle on the pressure gauge. If you see anything suspect with the unit, have it inspected by a licensed professional or replace it altogether.
3. Fire Places
I love a big roaring fire during the winter. If you do too, make annual fireplace and chimney inspections part of your regular home maintenance. Your flue needs to be cleaned because creosote is extremely combustible, so you don’t want it to build up in your chimney.
Make time to check up on these three areas. Ensuring that they're all in working order will help you prevent fires and protect your peace of mind about you and your family's safety.