No doubt, the recent wildfires in California and their aftermath have homeowners and renters across the country wondering how to best prepare their homes in case of fire. Fires are strong, deadly, and move quickly, engulfing everything in their vicinity. If you're at a loss as to how to defend your home against fire, read on for a checklist of home fire safety.
1. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector once a month. Having a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector that doesn't work will do you no good. Testing them monthly to ensure they're in working order is simple, quick, and vital to your family's health and safety. Replace batteries once a year, carbon monoxide detectors every five years and smoke alarms every ten years.
2. Check your fire extinguisher once a month. Fire extinguishers have a life of 15 years if they are not used or damaged, so it's easy to place it in the cabinet and forget about it, but testing it is as simple as looking where the needle falls on the gauge. If it's in the green zone, the extinguisher is good to go, but if the needle falls anywhere else, it needs to be serviced or replaced. Check the body of the fire extinguisher closely for any damage, such as cracks, rips, tears, and dents.
3. Clean heating and cooling vents once a month. Vents are likely to collect a lot of dust, creating blockage, and hazards. Clean the dust away every month to ensure safe air flow and make sure furniture is not blocking any of the vents.
4. Check wires once a year. Frayed wires are a huge fire hazard, and often overlooked as they are out of sight and out of mind. Go around the house once a year and check the wires of all your appliances. If any appear to be worn or frayed, call a professional to fix the wiring. Duct tape is not your friend in this case.
5. Clean debris from gutters and roof once a year. Gutters and roofs collect a lot of stray debris, from leaves to branches to tennis balls to any toys your kids decide are airborne. Do it yourself or call a professional service. Along the same lines, if you see an object resting on a power line, call the local electric company immediately.
6. Check your circuit breaks once a year. Make sure everyone in the house knows where to find the circuit breaker, how to operate it, and that every breaker is properly labeled.
7. Clean your heaters once a year. Your house most likely has a furnace, and depending where you live, probably a fire place as well. Both need to be cleaned every year and freed from any debris that may be around them. While you can probably tackle furnace maintenance on your own, it is recommended to call a chimney sweep for the fireplace.
8. Review your family escape plan twice a year. Make sure everyone in your household is on the same page when it comes to an escape plan, especially if you have children in the home. Outline ways to escape from every room in the house, addressing any special needs that a family member may have. Decide on a place outside the house to meet (perhaps near the mailbox, on a neighbor's front porch, or a swing set, somewhere which is far removed from any hazards occurring in the house). Go over this twice a year to keep it fresh in everyone's minds. Additionally, go over basic fire safety, such as touching door knobs to feel if they are hot if there is a fire in the home, stop-drop-roll if your clothes catch fire, smothering fire with a blanket or sheet, sealing vents to keep smoke out, etc. Make sure everyone is comfortable calling 911.
9. Check your windows and doors once a year. It is important to check every door and window to ensure they are in working order. Do the locks and bolts work as they should? Do windows latch? Do windows open?
10. Check your medications once a year. Ensure medications are kept safely away from the reach of small children and dispose of expired medications, taking special care with medications that have special disposal instructions.
11. Check your first aid kit once a month. Having a well-stocked first aid kit on hand can help prevent minor injuries from worsening or stem the effects of major injuries. First aid kit inclusions will vary from household to household, depending on your lifestyle, but there are some basic items which should be in all kits. Restocking it and checking for expired items monthly is vital.
12. Practice fire safety at all times. Especially important if you have children in the home, establish guidelines and boundaries around the stove, oven and grill.
13. Store all flammables safely. If you have any flammable liquids in your home, store them somewhere safe, out of the reach of children and far away from anything which may ignite them.
A fire in one's home is a situation no one wants to imagine, but one for which you must be prepared. Following these guidelines will help lessen the chance of a fire in your home, and should a fire occur (as we can't prevent all accidents and disasters), everyone in your home will know what to do and where to go.