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Blog category: Right at Home

Home Fire Hazards and How to Prevent Them

5 min read

As a result of the pandemic, many of us who used to commute are now working from home either fully remote or on a hybrid schedule. And because we’re spending more time at home, the instances of home fires and related injuries are also on the rise.

Cooking, electrical malfunctions, and heating equipment are the three leading home fire hazards, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Other hazards exist too, all exacerbated by our recent nesting tendencies.

The kitchen area in many homes is a busy hub with lots going on. Not least, someone trying to prepare a meal. Most home fires start at the stove, which is no surprise given the elements involved: heat, grease, liquid, and distracted cooks dealing with everything from hungry kids and rambunctious pets to Zoom meetings while trying to get a meal on the table.

Read on to learn what hazards to watch out for and how to prevent a fire in your home.

Prevention Tips

  • Stovetop: When you’re about to light the burners, tie back long hair and avoid wearing loose, flowy clothing. Roll up your sleeves and tuck in any clothing that could come in contact with the open flames. Keep dish towels, food wrappers, paper towels, and utensils away from the burners also. Turn in handles to avoid knocking or pulling pots and pans off the range.

  • Unattended Cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and related casualties. It’s important to never leave the stovetop unattended while you’re in the middle of cooking — especially if you’re frying or if the oven’s very hot. If you need to step away, turn off the burners.

    Cooking with hot oil or fat demands extra care — especially if it’s hot as it can start a fire or burn someone badly. Another aspect of stove safety is keeping the surfaces and oven clean. Wipe up spills and burns before they cause a problem.

  • Appliances: When lighting the pilot light or burners, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and exercise caution. Appliances that are kept clean and in good repair have less danger of malfunctioning. Remove crumbs from the toaster regularly and wipe out the microwave and oven from time to time. The countertop gadgets like your toaster, blender, and coffee maker should be unplugged when they’re not in use. If the wiring’s old, it could be more prone to sparking, or if the thermostat’s faulty on any of these devices, it could start a fire.

    Flammable products: Most homes harbor their share of cleaning products, chemicals, and leftover paint cans, which should all be stored in a cool, dry place away from heat sources. Even grooming products like hairspray deserve to be stored carefully since exposure to sunlight can cause aerosols to explode.

Safety Equipment

  • Smoke alarms: You need to have smoke alarms on each level of your home with one in every bedroom. This simple tool is your first line of defense against smoke or fire and designed to give you an early warning.

  • Carbon monoxide alarms: Installing these alarms on each floor and outside each bedroom can be the difference between safety and tragedy if this invisible, odorless, and colorless gas starts to leak. Even inhaling a small amount of carbon monoxide, or CO, can be fatal, so if an alarm emits a high-pitched warning, open doors and windows immediately or get outside and deeply inhale fresh air.

  • Fire Extinguishers: At a minimum, you’ll want to have an extinguisher in the kitchen due to most home fires starting there. But it’s best to install them around the house as well, placed near the exits, away from heat sources, and out of reach of children.

  • Sprinklers: A sprinkler system can completely douse flames before they get a chance of taking hold, or, at least, slow a fire’s progress until help arrives. Sprinklers also prevent smoke inhalation, which can be just as deadly as fire.

How to Extinguish Fire Sources

  • Grease fires: Never use water — as it can cause the grease to explode and spread even further. Instead, suffocate the flames by either covering them with a metal lid or using baking soda or salt. For larger grease fires, use a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher.

  • Electrical fires: Again, water is not your friend in this situation. Water conducts electricity, so you could end up getting shocked — or worse. If an electrical appliance is on fire, unplug it (if you’re able). For a small fire, smother it with baking soda. For a larger fire, you’ll need a Class C or ABC Class fire extinguisher.

  • Flammable liquids: For gasoline and other ignitable liquids such as propane, alcohol, or paint, smother the fire with a blanket or use a Class B fire extinguisher, which employs foam, powder, or carbon dioxide to tackle the problem.

  • Indoor fires: We love our fireplaces, wood stoves, and candles as they provide ambiance, heat, and the cozy factor. But anytime you light one of these fire sources indoors, you increase the risk of a home fire. Candles should never be left unattended when lit, and stoves and fireplaces need a screen or metal or glass door to prevent sparks from escaping onto rugs or furniture. If something does ignite, use water to put it out.

  • Outdoor fires: These can also be a hazard to your home and surrounding property if not properly looked after. If you build a bonfire or light up your firepit, make sure to have a bucket of water or sand close by in case the fire gets out of control or sparks fly. Use extra care when conditions are ripe for high fire danger, as in dry, brittle foliage and a breezy evening at the end of a hot summer.

If you follow the above advice, you’ll increase your chances of staying safe, but it’s not always possible to prevent a fire from starting. Your homeowners insurance policy can help protect your home and belongings in the event of a home fire. Speak with a helpful Wawanesa agent to make sure you’re adequately covered.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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