Little is more damaging than a devastating house fire in the list of disasters that could befall a typical American family. The only good outcome of such a disaster, may be that these fires frequently occur while everyone is away from the house, preventing the issue from getting out of hand.
What the statistics are telling us
Between 2015 and 2019, US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 346,800 home structure fires per year. These fires killed an average of 2,620 civilians, injured 11,070 civilians, and cost $7.3 billion in direct property damage per year.
A house fire is still one of the most destructive, costly, and preventable calamities in the country. Cooking, heating, electrical distribution, and lighting equipment, intentional fire setting, and smoking materials are the five leading causes of home fires and fire casualties.
Except for the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, the most damaging fire in US history happened in 1903 at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing 603 people.
While fire detection and suppression technology have advanced in recent years, fire remains a serious concern in both homes and public structures.
A half-dozen simple housekeeping safeguards can prevent an unimaginable tragedy. Proper gear and planning save lives in the event of a house fire.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and dependable. There is literally no excuse not to have them, regardless of your social status. The most basic kind relies on disposable batteries and is reasonably priced at any big-box retailer.
Their ear-piercing shrieks are enough to awaken even the deepest sleepers, and they let you know when their batteries need to be changed, usually in the middle of the night.
Detectors and alarms can be plugged into an existing electrical system for added convenience. These detectors all include a backup battery and, while more expensive, require less upkeep.
All alarms, however, should be tested weekly and replaced every ten years.
Nest Protect devices speak to you in a woman’s voice designed to command children’s attention by simulating a generic mom.
These remarkable technologies can tell the difference between burned toast and a blazing house fire and react accordingly. They also connect to a bigger home automation system and allow for remote monitoring and management via smartphone or tablet.
Simple tools can save lives too. A few old blankets stashed in a tool shed can help a family stay warm after fleeing their house in an emergency.
Keeping a suitable fire extinguisher in the kitchen helps prevent a small fire from becoming a huge one.
Handheld fire extinguishers are inexpensive and should be kept in each vehicle and liberally distributed throughout the home.
In most emergencies, training is essential for survival. Play through scenarios with your children and devise a plan as well as a backup plan in case a house fire occurs.
Then practice the plans until everyone in the family can carry them out when cold, drowsy, and bewildered. Determine the primary, secondary, and tertiary egress points for everyone in the family.
Evaluate the equipment required to escape safely. Determine who is accountable for retrieving young children and then make sure everyone is aware of the outside rally spot where a fast headcount can be taken in the event of an emergency.
Make a risk assessment for your home
Natural foliage helps you create a lovely seasonal décor, but you should think twice before bringing it indoors.
Some friends had a bad experience with such natural decorations several years ago. They used cattails to make various decorations, and a cluster of cattails spontaneously combusted in their pantry.
They never discovered what set them on fire, but it was pure luck that stopped the ensuing blaze from destroying their house. Choosing plastic fake flowers and foliage for decoration is their preferred option after this, and it’s not the worst choice after all.
Those narrow brown extension cords easily overload and cause hundreds of fires each year. Never run wires beneath rugs, where they can overheat or fail due to heavy foot traffic. A single heavy cord is always preferable to multiple small ones.
During quiet moments, plan your steps in the event of a grease fire in the kitchen. You never know when you might have to put out a grease fire, and you should be able to handle the situation properly. Cooking is, in fact, the leading cause of house fires in our country.
Never overload electrical sockets, and store batteries with care. A 9-volt battery brushed against a piece of steel wool provides an excellent improvised fire starter that is both portable and effective.
Think about insurance
Not all fire insurances are the same, and there are three basic categories that decide what and how much is covered. Most homeowner’s insurance policies will pay the real cash value of your home (minus depreciation) based on its age.
Replacement-value policies are more expensive, but they perform a better job of replacing your home and possessions without requiring a large out-of-pocket expense. The cost of replacing a home’s contents is typically limited to 50 to 70 percent of the cost of the dwelling.
Holiday house fires
Many of our customary seasonal celebrations can be dangerous at the same time. Inattention to fire safety during the holidays can quickly transform a festive celebration into a tragedy.
Statistics show that unattended candles, electrical decorations, abundant natural greenery, and the inherent dangers of space heaters in cold weather make this a particularly dangerous time of year.
When natural Christmas trees are allowed to dry up, they burst like bombs when ignited. The amount of energy stored in all of that dry foliage is truly astonishing.
If that heat was released indoors, the consequences would be disastrous. Keep trees away from anything that could catch fire, such as fireplaces, candles, and open flames.
Candles are an essential part of the holiday season, but these appealing tiny ignition sources may be extremely deadly if not carefully regulated. It’s best not to burn them in the open.
Fireplaces are comfortable, romantic, and affordable to run in locations with plenty of deadfalls. Make sure all fireplaces are extinguished before retiring for the evening, and never decorate the mantle with combustibles.
Any fireplace can splutter and explode from time to time, and a single ember dropped into a Christmas tree, or other flammable decoration will ignite fast. As such, you should never leave a fireplace unattended.
Seasonal lights may get hot, especially if left on for an extended period of time, and that string of old Christmas lights running through the trimmed spruce branches that smell so good can become a severe fire hazard.
Technology improves our lives in a million small ways, and newer LED Christmas lights are significantly cooler and less expensive than earlier models. Before decorating, inspect any light strings for frayed or exposed wires and take care not to overload your sockets.
Basic measures do not have to interfere with the holiday mood, but the difference between a happy time with family and a disastrous fire can be found in the most insignificant aspects.
Consider getting these fire safety essentials
In the event of a house fire, there are a few items that can improve your chances of escaping a home inferno. Here are a few recommendations:
Early detection tools
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas produced by almost every incomplete combustion process. Because human hemoglobin has a significantly higher affinity for CO than it does for oxygen, asphyxia in the presence of high CO concentrations is swift and painless.
Most current detectors are sensitive to both smoke and CO and are quite inexpensive. Test them on a regular basis, install one anywhere you or your children might sleep, and keep one in the camper when traveling.
Smoke detectors are widely available and reasonably priced, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have them in your home. There’s simply no logical reason to be without them.
These are inexpensive and widely available. After an unfortunate accident with a propane torch years ago, the only reason my workshop isn’t a burned slab now is because of a handy $20 fire extinguisher.
One should be kept in the kitchen, the car, and near the fireplace. Make certain that everyone is aware of where they are and how they operate.
If you’re crawling around on the floor trying to escape a house fire, it’s likely to be dark and disorienting. Keep a high-quality flashlight next to each bed, and replace the batteries on your birthday every year.
If the bedroom windows are on the second floor, everyone in there would need a route down without breaking their legs. Folding rigid ladders or rope ones that roll up and tuck away are reasonably priced, and you should consider getting one for each bedroom.
Practice with the equipment when the weather is calm so you aren’t trying to read the directions/user manual by the light of a house fire.
Tools for breaking out
Keep a hatchet or prying tool wherever you can locate it quickly in the dark. Some doors require keys to lock both inside and out, and using a hatchet to break a window is far superior to using your hands.
Call for help
In this day and age of cellular devices, many households no longer have landline phones. Teach children as soon as they are old enough to comprehend how to relate their address and dial 911.
Keep your phone in a constant location at night so you can find it without groping in the dark. Charging your phone in the same location in the house every time is a simple approach to developing these habits.
The probability of catastrophic fire damage decreases year after year as technology and public awareness of fire dangers improve, yet there are still disasters occurring within communities, and some of these have devastating results.
Think of how you can prepare your family for a house fire and make sure they have all the knowledge and tools to survive a house fire’s deadly blaze.