Wildfires. Space heaters. Chimneys. Electronics. Fire threats exist year round, but there’s plenty you can do to protect your home. Here are nine ways to mitigate your risks and keep fire at bay.
1. Check fire and smoke alarms. Replace the batteries in battery-operated fire and smoke alarms twice a year. (Time this ritual to correspond with spring and fall daylight savings periods.) Check smoke alarms, too. They have sensors that tend to wear out within 10 years.
2. Make a home escape plan. A good plan has three key elements: Designate two ways out of each room. Keep all exits free of clutter. Agree on a meeting place outside your home, and never re-enter a burning building.
3. Keep an eye on your appliances. Don’t leave the kitchen with burners lit on the stovetop, and never go out or off to bed with a stove or dryer running. The same goes for space heaters. It’s also a smart practice to keep a three-foot safety zone around space heaters. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions for your household appliances.
4. Stick to the one plug, one outlet rule. When it comes to electronics, the one-to-one rule applies. Plug heavy-duty appliances like microwaves, air conditioners and, yes, space heaters directly into a wall outlet, never an extension cord. And never plug an extension cord into a power strip. Cords should be loose and unencumbered.
5. Don’t charge cellphones overnight. And keep cellphones and laptops out of beds at night. The heat created by lithium ion battery-powered electronics is a fire hazard on combustible surfaces like bedding and pillows.
6. Check your wiring. Every 10 years, hire a licensed electrician to check your home’s wiring. Usage has a way of increasing over time, which places greater strain on your home’s electric system and may require upgrades.
7. Clean your chimney. Schedule a chimney sweep to clean chimneys and woodstoves every two years. Gas heaters should also be checked before you turn them on for the season. And remember, ashes should always be disposed of in metal containers with lids.
8. Keep flammables away from the furnace. Establish a three-foot safety zone around your furnace, which means storing anything flammable or combustible – cardboard boxes, paint, chemicals, gasoline, etc. – outside your home, preferably in a detached shed or garage.
9. Clear tinder. Don’t let dead leaves, debris and pine needles that can catch embers pile up in gutters and vents or on your roof or under decks. Keep a five-foot perimeter around your home (referred to as the immediate zone) free of anything combustible.
Stay informed and fire-wise. Read this article from the National Fire Protection Association for more tips on how to reduce fire threats around your home.