As a homeowner, your to-do list to protect your home is constantly changing, and there’s always more to add — from buying extra contact sensors for your home security system to insulating your pipes before winter. But one item that should always be at the top of your list, no matter what time of year, is home fire safety.
With a little preparation, you can help prevent a fire and make sure your family takes the right steps if the unexpected happens. Here are some essential tips we collected to help you get started.
Cross These Items Off Your Fire Inspection Checklist
For many homeowners, their fire safety checklist starts and ends with “changing the batteries in the smoke detectors once a year.” But preventing fires (and making sure you know if and when they happen) requires a few more steps. Here are some tips from the U.S. Fire Administration to help improve your home’s fire safety:
If you have a Ring Alarm, you can take your fire safety prep one step further by placing Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Listeners next to each detector. If an alarm goes off when you’re not home, you’ll get a notification on your Ring App. Or, if you have an Amazon Echo device with Alexa Guard, you can get an alert if it hears your detectors when you set Guard to “Away” mode. That way, you can call a neighbor to check things out or dial 911 to send the fire department.
Follow These Fire Prevention Tips Around the House
Whether you’re firing up the grill for a summer barbecue or lighting the first fire of the winter on a dark, chilly night, you should always take some home fire safety precautions. Here are some guidelines to follow throughout your home.
In the kitchen, it’s important to always be alert. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen. Be on alert at all times and don't light up the stove if you’re sleepy (or just got home from an afternoon wine tasting). Don't leave the kitchen if you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. And if you put a casserole in the oven or leave tomato sauce to simmer on the stove, check on everything regularly and set a timer, so you don’t forget about tonight’s dinner.
If you decide it’s the perfect day to head outside and cook some brats or burgers, move your barbecue away from the house, deck, and trees — and if the kids are out enjoying the weather, keep them three feet away.
When you’re doing a few loads of sheets and towels in the laundry room, Consumer Reports stresses that you should clean out the lint filter every time you use the dryer. And while you’re at it, try and think of the last time you cleaned out your dryer ducts. If it’s been more than a year, it’s time to crack out the vacuum (or call a professional to take care of it).
In the living room and other common areas, the NFPA recommends keeping flammable items at least three feet away from your fireplace, wood stove, and other heating equipment — and watch your little ones and pets to make sure they don’t get within three feet, either. You should also have a professional inspect your chimney and heating equipment at least once a year to catch any potential issues ahead of time.
When you start winding down in the bedroom after a long day of work or running errands with the kids, turn off any appliances, like space heaters or heated blankets. And if you lit an aromatherapy candle to help you feel extra relaxed, blow it out before you close your eyes.
Looking for more tips to help protect your home and family in the winter? Learn how to winterize your home, drive in snowy conditions, and heat your space safely. Read Our Blog
Know How To Use Different Types of Fire Safety Equipment
If a large fire happens at home, your top priority should be getting out safely. But in some cases, you may be able to contain or stop a fire with a portable fire extinguisher. The NFPA says that you can attempt to extinguish a fire with a fire extinguisher if it isn’t growing and is confined to a small space without too much smoke — but you should make sure to call the fire department and get everyone else out of the house first.
You should have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor and place them near exits, so you can grab one quickly while leaving the house. If you need to use an extinguisher, follow the PASS method:
A sprinkler system is another type of fire safety equipment that can help prevent damage to your home, and all you have to do is keep the main control valve on. Your sprinklers will automatically go off when they detect high temperatures from a fire.
Develop (and Practice) an Escape Plan
Creating an escape plan is one of the simplest ways to prepare for a fire — and it’s a great way to get your kids involved. According to Ready.gov, you should sit down with your family and write down an escape plan that includes:
Once everyone knows the plan, you can have a fire drill at home. Send your kids to their bedrooms to wait for the sound of the smoke detector. When you sound the alarm, turn on a timer and see how long it takes everyone to arrive at your safe spot. If the process takes less than two minutes, you can celebrate with high-fives, imaginary gold stars, or a dance party. (If it takes longer, keep practicing!)