A Complete Guide to Home Fire Prevention and Safety

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Every year, house fires claim the lives of over 2,500 people and cause around $7 billion in damage. While house fire deaths are dropping (largely due to fire safety awareness), it’s still a number that is far too high for something so often preventable.

When it comes to household fires, heroics don’t start with firefighters, they start at home with you. Keep in mind that when discussing this topic, awareness is not enough. To read the following tips and do nothing is a disservice to your family and home. By taking action with the tips below, you can increase the odds of making sure that a firefighter never has to risk his life running into your burning home, and that if he does, your family will be safe and sound outside.

Fire Safety Equipment

Safety Equipment 1

Smoke Detectors

Fire alarms are far and away the number one lifesaver when it comes to fires in the home. In fact, two-thirds of all fire deaths occur in homes with either no working smoke alarm, or no alarm period. In many cases, deaths are the result of an alarm not working properly, most often due to issues with the battery (no battery, dead battery, not connected properly).

Fire alarms seem like such a small part of your home and get all too easily overlooked, but they’re perhaps the most important pieces of hardware in your abode. Utilizing the following tips will drastically reduce the chances of a deadly fire in your home:

  • There are two types of alarms: ionization (better at detecting “flaming” fires) and photoelectric (better at detecting “smoldering” fires). Ionization is the most common, as it’s cheaper and can detect minute amounts of smoke. Your absolute safest bet is to get a dual sensor alarm that utilizes both technologies.
  • Make sure alarms are installed in every bedroom, and outside every sleeping area.Also be sure there’s at least one on every floor, including the basement.
  • Test your alarms (all of them!) monthly by hitting the “test” button. If the alarm doesn’t work, first replace the battery and try again. If it still doesn’t work, replace the entire alarm.
  • Replace the batteries in all your smoke alarms once a year. If an alarm starts chirping with a low battery signal, replace it immediately; don’t just disconnect it in hopes that you’ll remember to do it later.
  • Replace the alarm itself every 10 years or when the “test” button fails, whichever comes first.
  • Do not disconnect when cooking. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires, especially around the holidays when ovens and stovetops are used all day long. If the alarm goes off, the tendency can be to just disconnect it for the time being. Instead, turn on your range fan, put a fan near the alarm, open windows, etc.
  • Think about every member of your family. If someone in your household is deaf or hard-of-hearing, get an alarm that has a strobe light option. You can also get vibration options if those don’t work. Also be sure that the extra-heavy sleepers will wake up when an alarm goes off.

Escape Ladders

If your home has a basement with window wells, or is any higher than just a single story, you’ll want fire escape ladders on hand.

For window wells, they are generally just a basic metal ladder, 4-5 feet tall, that plants in the ground a few inches, and hooks over the well. Have one for each occupied room of a basement.

Ladders for levels that are higher up come with a little more variety. Use the tips below to ensure you get ones that are right for your family:

  • One of the most important features to look for is the presence of “standoffs.” These are small protrusions that hold the ladder rungs away from the house. This provides stability and adequate space for the foot to move down without slipping. The more standoffs, the better.
  • There are two standard length ranges: 13-15 feet and 23-25 feet. The shorter models are for second-story rooms, and the longer for third-story rooms. If you have four or five stories, there are ladders available for those as well.
  • Make sure it’s been load tested for at least 1,000 pounds, and is clearly marked as such.
  • It’s recommended to have one in every occupied room above the main floor. Store them next to potential escape windows, and be sure whoever occupies the room is able to use it properly and efficiently. Have your kids test going down the ladder.
  • If you have guest rooms, be sure to have ladders there as well, and inform guests of their presence. This goes for both higher levels and basements.

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