When it comes to ensuring the protection and security of your entire family as well as the structural integrity of your home against emergency situations such as fires, the old adage “better safe than sorry” goes a long way for your peace of mind. Responsible homeowners looking to effectively minimize the risk and effects of fires know that it takes a lot more than having proper evacuation plans and physical fire safety systems i.e. fire alarms/detectors on every floor and a portable fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
Properly preventing and preparing for house fires takes a comprehensive and deftly planned fire safety effort that encompasses correct evaluation of potential fire hazards starting from the basement all the way to the attic, along with the development of the right escape strategies involving each member of the family as well as every room of the home.
Having an adequate and inter-connected fire safety management plan in place can literally save the lives of your family members and protect your investment, while preventing or minimizing bodily injuries and property damage in the event of a fire arising within the perimeter of your home.
Prevention is Key – Fire Safety and Prevention Checklist
It pays to establish proper fire safety management systems well in advance, which is why this detailed fire safety checklist aims at effectively improving your preparedness in the event of a home fire. Here are some general fire safety tips for the protection of your family and home.
- Have installed both carbon monoxide alarms and fire/smoke alarms on every floor of your home and in each bedroom.
- Be sure to check monthly if each alarm is functioning properly by pushing the test button.
- Call a specialist in case any of the alarms are not working as they should and be sure to replace the batteries once a year.
- If the fire alarm makes a chirping sound, then this it indicates that the battery needs to be replaced.
- Carefully remove any fire hazards in your home.
- Practice regularly (preferably twice a year, at various times of the day) a carefully prepared fire escape plan and stick to it in the event of a fire in your home.
- If a fire occurs anywhere in your home, crawl low under smoke, get out and call 911.
- Never disable carbon monoxide or smoke alarms and never use a camp stove, grill, generator or other natural gas, charcoal, propane or gasoline devices inside your home, basement, garage, outdoor sleeping area, crawlspace or other enclosed area.
- Ensure all family members know two ways of escaping from every room of your home, one of which should not rely on a staircase as well as the outside meeting point in case of a fire occurring in your home.
- Make sure there should be easy access to any windows used for escape.
- When evaluating the adequacy of the means of escape, you need to consider the size/construction/layout/contents of your home, the number of people in the household and their ability to escape without any assistance.
- Use a fire extinguisher only if the room is not filled with smoke, the fire is localized to a small area and you have been previously trained to use one.
- Be sure to keep your escape route to your back when you pull the pin, aim low, at the base of the fire and keep a distance of minimum 6 feet from the flames to avoid air-blasting the fire across the enclosure.
Basement Fire Safety Checklist
Take the time to perform a thorough inspection of your basement or better yet, rely on the expertise of a professional to expertly undertake the fire risk assessment of your basement in a timely and efficient manner, in order to ensure the following:
- The burner access panels (typically located on the front of the boilers) are fully closed in order to prevent potential flame roll-out.
- The breaker wires are perfectly tight, as opposed to loose and the circuit breaker panel functions in optimum conditions.
- If your home is older, it is likely that arc fault circuit interrupters ensure protection against potential electrical wiring errors; be sure to secure the specialized services of an electrician to have these properly fixed.
- The areas around various heat-generating equipment (i.e. water heater, furnace, stove etc) are clear of any hazardous and easily flammable materials, substances ( liquids, aerosols) and debris/trash. Place the oily rags in air-tight containers and as far as possible from open flame.
- There should be no frayed wire on light bulbs and the wire insulators must show no visible signs of decay or erosion.
- Avoid smoking next to open flame in the water heater and be sure to have at least three fire safety devices in the basement: a fire alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm and a sprinkler system.
Garage Fire Safety Checklist
In order to prevent the occurrence of fires in the garage, ensure the following:
- Your garage is free from any combustible materials or easily flammable junk. Gasoline should be stored in approved safety containers and away from any heat source, especially where there is an open flame; the same goes for oily rags.
- The door that leads from the garage to the main house should be sturdy and incorporate both a fire-resisting threshold and adequate weather stripping that can prevent carbon monoxide fumes from entering the house.
- Ensure all fire safety devices are properly installed and working optimally in your garage.
Laundry Room Fire Safety Checklist
According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 10,000 home fires arise from the laundry room. Ensure you regularly conduct these preventative laundry room safety checks:
- Properly clean the lint trap ( located near/in the door of the dryer) between each load of laundry. There should be no accumulated lint inside the dryer, the exhaust duct or the area behind the dryer.
- Check regularly the ducting at the back of the dryer for any signs of lint collected there and call a professional to replace flexible plastic or foil ducting material with rigid metal dryer duct.
- Check the end point of the dryer vent outside your home and ensure the dryer vent is neither clogged with lint and it properly opens to let the air out when your dryer is running.
- Do not store combustible material near the dryer and if the furnace is located near the laundry room, avoid dropping lint or hanging clothing near it.
First Floor Fire Safety Checklist
Wisely conduct these simple yet effective first floor fire safety checks related to fire prevention:
- Ensure the first floor has a properly working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector.
- The outlets should not be overloaded and the extension cords should not be damaged or covered; do not use extension cords as a substitute for permanent wires
- Neither incandescent lights nor closet lights should be exposed and be sure to keep all electrical cords clear of stairs and walkways.
- Keep all bedroom doors properly closed while your family sleeps; in the event of a home fire, the closed doors will keep fire/smoke out for a longer period of time and thus improve your chances to proceed safely along the pre-planned escape route.
- Ensure there is a minimum 3-inch gap between the lighting fixtures and fiberglass insulation in the attic and call a professional roofer to fix any gaps that may be in/around the chimney.
- Keep all appliances in the bathroom away from water sources and advisely adjust the water heater to a safe temperature that should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ensure there are no lit candles near the towel rack and all heating devices in the bathroom have a minimum 3 feet of clearance from any potentially combustible materials/items.
Upstairs and Attic Fire Safety Checklist
- Ensure each bedroom as well as hallway has a working carbon monoxide and smoke detector.
- Each bedroom should be equipped with an escape ladder.
- Keep portable heaters at least 3 feet away from beds, curtains and other flammable materials.
- Use UL-approved electric blankets.
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