While fire safety at home is a year-round project, as we head into late fall and winter now is a perfect time to review and revise your safety protocols. The cooler weather and shorter days usually mean we’re spending more time indoors often with increased reliance on electrical lights, home cooking, heaters, candles, and even fireplaces.
A home fire is one of the greatest risks to personal safety and property that Canadians face at home, but fortunately it’s also one of the easiest to protect against.
Here are some inexpensive and easy yet essential fire safety tips you can implement to protect your home, yourself, and your loved ones.
1. Install and maintain your smoke detectors
Smoke detectors (or smoke alarms), which began to be mass produced for homes starting in the 1970s, are a game changer when it comes to saving homes and lives. Affordable, effective and easy to install, you should have several located through your home, as they are your first line of defense.
Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, and more than one on each level if the level is large with several rooms. Aim to place smoke detectors in the middle of the ceiling, at least two feet away from corners and light fixtures, and away from doors, fans or vents. To avoid false alarms (e.g. every time you open the oven door) they should also be placed ten feet or more from your stove or oven.
Test your smoke detectors once a month, and put fresh batteries in twice a year. One common approach is to change your detectors’ batteries when you change your clocks in spring and fall for Daylight Savings Time. If your batteries are low, you’ll also hear your alarm make a chirping sound; an annoying but effective way to motivate you to get new batteries installed.
Consider replacing your smoke detectors every ten years with quality, certified units. Some modern models also incorporate a carbon monoxide detector, which should be placed on any level with fuel burning appliances or furnaces.
2. Pay special attention to the kitchen
Almost half of house fires start in the kitchen, so encourage everyone in the family to be extra careful while using the stove, oven, toaster, hot plates or other heat generating appliances.
Use timers for cooking, even for short durations to avoid leaving anything unattended with a potential to burn. Smart speakers (e.g. Google Home, Alexa) are great for this function.
Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and make sure everyone knows where it is stored and how to use it, including babysitters, house-sitters and live-in guests.
3. Enjoy your fireplace safely
Fireplaces are obvious potential sources of house fires. However, by keeping your fireplace clean, keeping flammables safely away from the hearth (e.g newspaper, kindling, Christmas trees), keeping the metal screen closed, and using proper tools to manage the fire, you’ll be able to enjoy the charm a cozy fireplace can bring to a room.
4. Be extra careful with candles, matches and cigarettes
As with fireplaces, candles add ambience and warmth to a room, but require an extra level of care. Never leave candles unattended, and keep them away from drapery, bedding and carpets. Beware of candles that are not sturdy and can fall over, especially as they burn unevenly. Extinguish candles when you leave the room, especially when going to bed.
Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children, it’s a cliché for a reason; kids do love to play with fire. Teach your kids the dangers of fire, and keep everyone safe.
As for smoking, it really should not be done inside the home, both for the issue of strong, often permanent odours, as well as the great risk that unattended cigarettes, cigars or pipes can bring to a home. Countless fires, and deaths, have resulted from a cigarette dropping from the fingers of a smoker who nodded off to sleep. Don’t take any chances.
5. Look out for potentially dangerous electrical wiring
Be aware of the state of the electrical cords, wires and outlets in your home. Cords and wires should be free of any fraying, burn or melt marks or any other visible damage. Turn off the light or device and replace damaged cords, especially if you see exposed wiring.
Use modern, quality power bars, and extension cords – this isn’t a place to save a few dollars. You’ll protect your devices as well as reduce the chance of electrical fires.
Be alert for flickering lighting, or any shocks, however minor, you may feel at switches – this can indicate a potential electric wiring issue that will likely require a professional electrician’s inspection.
6. Have a fire escape place and practice it with your family
While you hope it never happens to you, you should always be prepared. Know your different escape routes based on potential fires in different areas of the house and make sure everyone in the house knows the plan. Arrange a specific meeting place outside your home in the case of a fire.
As schools and office towers do, consider a family fire drill, have fun with it, it could save lives in the event of a real fire. Let children know they should get out as quickly as possible, and are never to go back in to retrieve a toy, or even family pet.
7. Teach your children well
Every safety tip you already know, or learn here or elsewhere, should be passed to your children to turn them into life-long good habits. Habits that could one day save them or their friends and family from injury, or worse.
The brokers at LLP Insurance have been helping Canadians protect their homes, businesses and families for over 50 years. For all your home or property insurance needs, contact an experienced and knowledgeable LLP broker to help you at 1-800-667-4018 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here for you; now, and in the years ahead.