House fires can be deadly and leave serious damage in their path. Unfortunately, house fires are more common than we might realize. From 2013-2017, more than 350,000 house fires were reported, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths. Every homeowner should have a house fire action plan in place and this should include a mapped evacuation route. There are other steps, too, that can help families and homeowners prepare in case a fire threatens their home.
Here’s a fire prevention checklist to ensure all homeowners are prepared:
- Working smoke detectors (tell homeowner’s to check batteries often)
- A mapped evacuation route (and meeting place)
- At least one (but preferably three!) fire extinguishers (keep one in the kitchen and others by exit doors)
- Working fire sprinklers (in some condo complexes this is building code)
- Adequate home insurance coverage (for fire)
- Visible street number on the house
Check those Smoke Detectors
Working smoke detectors will alert the homeowners to a fire. This is one of the most important features of any home, and those alarms could save many lives. Smoke detectors should be in every room…especially bedrooms!
Encourage homeowners to check every alarm once a month, and change batteries as needed.
A Mapped Evacuation Route
A detailed layout of the house could be a great housewarming gift for your clients. This blueprint could help them create a fire exit strategy.
Homeowners need to know how to escape from any room of the house in case a fire blocks major exits. If necessary, portable ladders may need to be on hand for multi-story homes. Encourage homeowners to keep these ladders by the windows for easy escape. Portable ladders also would make a great housewarming present (for families with kids, opt for a kid-friendly ladder).
Homeowners should not only map out their exit plan, but they should also choose a meeting place so everyone knows where to go after escaping.
One Fire Extinguisher is Necessary, but Three is Better!
All homeowners should have at least one fire extinguisher in their homes, preferably in the kitchen (many fires start there). However, the more extinguishers…the better. Ideally, a fire extinguisher should be kept by all major exits (doors!).
Make sure homeowners know how to use the fire extinguisher…and that they teach children to use them, too! The easiest instruction for use: P.A.S.S. or pull, aim, squeeze, sweep!
There are different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires. So what are the different types of fires? According to Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, Class A fires are typical (or “ordinary combustibles”), Class B fires refer to liquids that start the fire (grease, gasoline, etc.), Class C fires are electrical in nature (the wire fires), metal fires are Class D and fires started from cooking oils are referred to as Class K. Each of these fires needs to be extinguished differently. Most kitchens should be equipped with a Class K extinguisher as well as an extinguisher that can handle Class A, Class B, and Class C. However, household needs may vary. Some homeowners may have a need for a Class D extinguisher.
Working Fire Sprinklers
In some multi-family complexes (like condos), fire sprinklers are mandated per building codes. These sprinklers add another layer of protection for homeowners. When a sprinkler gets too hot, it is activated to release water. This usually can stop many home fires immediately, but, in many cases, the fire department has to deactivate the sprinklers. Homeowners may also inquire if their insurance covers water damage (just in case sprinkler activation causes damage).
Adequate Homeowners Insurance
Make sure your clients purchase insurance that covers them in case of a fire. Most policies cover fire, but homeowners may need to add additional riders in the case of special circumstances. For example, a fire caused by lava (from an active volcano) might not be covered. So homeowners living in Hawaii may need to inquire about additional coverage. When in doubt, have a homeowner talk to their insurance representative.
Visible Street Numbers
In case of a fire, the fire department needs to be able to see the house number. Yes, in many cases, the blaze will be obvious. However, smaller house fires won’t always be visible. Make sure homeowners place a visible street number on the front of their home.
Homeowners should stand outside and view their home from the curb. Is the address legible? Then it’s fine. If not, opt for larger numbers that are also reflective.
Other Ways to Reduce Fire Hazards for Homeowners
All homeowners need to understand that certain hazards may put their home at risk for a fire. You might even create a laminated document or magnet that lists common hazards as well as the phone number of the local fire department. This is a great resource for homeowners and serves as a handy visual reminder to keep the home safe.
Some common home fire hazards include:
Daisy Chaining Power Strips
Plugging one strip into another unit is called daisy chaining. Interpower reports that daisy chaining typically violates codes and guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association and OSHA.
Using Space Heaters
Space heaters can help boost warmth during winter, but they also create a fire hazard. Warn homeowners against using these small heaters.
Candles are pretty as long as they aren’t unattended. Too often, we forget about those little flames…and this can lead to a fire. Homeowners should choose flameless candles instead (you can gift these, too!).
Maintaining a Dirty Flue
For homes with a standard fireplace (even one with a gas insert), advise homeowners to keep the flue clean. However, Bob Vila’s site also advises scheduling a yearly inspection, installing a chimney cap and opting for safe materials to start a fire.
Leaving the Gas On
Gas leaks can lead to a fire…and sickness. Make sure homeowners not only install carbon monoxide alarms but also that they remember to check those pilot lights, too.
Wires can start fires, too. Make sure that all wiring is up to code. All appliances should work without having to unplug one to start the other. If homeowners notice any weird electrical glitches, they need to call an electrician STAT!
Create a checklist for your clients to help them prepare in case of a fire. Safety items are great housewarming gifts for new homeowners; consider gifting safety ladders or even extra fire extinguishers. You may even create magnets featuring the fire department’s number and a list of preventable fire dangers (like candles!). Help keep your clients safe by advocating for fire preparedness and fire safety!