You could be taking a big risk if you don’t have a fire prevention checklist. Here's your guide to making a list that will keep you and your family safe.
Lists and checklists are part of almost everyone’s life. You have a list for grocery shopping, a back-to-school supply list, a checklist for vacation or wedding planning, a checklist for buying a home, and even a daily to-do list. Some are more important than others, like a cyber-safety checklist for your kids, for instance. But there is one important list that is all too often skipped: a fire prevention checklist.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), in 2016 there were 475,500 “structure fires, causing 2,950 civilian deaths, 12,775 civilian injuries, and $7.9 billion in property damage.” They go on to point out that more than half of those deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. And while a working smoke alarm isn’t a fire preventative in itself, it is still an essential part of a fire prevention checklist since fire safety should be a given in any home emergency plan.
How to Make a Fire Prevention Checklist:A good fire prevention checklist begins in the kitchen. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that approximately 50% or residential fires start in the kitchen, and most of those are due to unattended cooking.
- Do not leave the kitchen while you have food on the stove (frying, grilling, broiling).
- Do not leave your home while you have food in the oven (baking or roasting).
Set a timer to help you remember that the oven is on.
- Keep flammable items away from the stove.
- Keep your stovetop and oven clean and free of grease build-up.
- Unplug small appliances when they aren’t in use.
- Plug major appliances directly into the wall. Do not use a power strip or extension cord for these.
Heating and electrical
- Make sure every fireplace has a screen and keep flammable items at least three feet away.
- Have your furnace or boiler inspected and cleaned annually.
- Keep the area around your furnace or boiler clean.
- Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually.
- Make sure space heaters are in good condition and flammable items (including curtains and chairs) are at least three feet away.
- Turn space heaters off when you are not in the same room.
- Make sure electrical cords are in good shape and do not run underneath rugs.
- Make sure extension cords, power strips, and outlets are not overloaded.
Around the home
- Barbecues, grills, and smokers are only for outdoor use. Make sure they are not underneath tree branches or exterior roof overhangs, and keep them away from flammable materials like a deck or your home’s exterior walls.
- Especially if you have children, keep matches and lighters in a secure location.
- Do not leave lit candles unattended.
- Use sturdy candle holders.
- Keep flammable liquids either outdoors or away from heat sources.
- Keep your dryer and dryer exhaust free of lint.
- Smokers should smoke outside the home. (Or ideally, make a plan to stop smoking.)
What to Include on Your Fire Safety ChecklistNo fire prevention checklist would be complete without planning for the fact that fires do happen. That’s why fire safety is an important next step on your list.
- Have a fire safety and evacuation plan in place.
- Teach children not to hide from firefighters.
- Ensure you have two routes of escape from every room and doors and windows aren’t blocked.
- Make sure there are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and in sleeping areas. Ensure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors all have fresh batteries and are in good working order.
- Change your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors batteries every six months and test them monthly.
- Replace your smoke detectors at least every ten years and your carbon monoxide detectors every seven years.
- If someone in your home is vision- or hearing-impaired, consider specialized alarms that include flashing lights or vibrating devices.
- Keep at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.
- Replace fire extinguishers if they are rusty, damaged, leaking, or if the gauge points to empty. Some manufacturers suggest replacing a fire extinguisher every 5 to 10 years at a minimum.
- Only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is contained to a small area, like a trash bin or a pot on the stove. Even then, your first priority is to get everyone out of the house. Smoke is even more deadly than flames. Ready.gov points out that asphyxiation from smoke and gases kill three times as many people as flames.
- Never try to extinguish a grease or oil fire with water. It creates an inferno, as demonstrated in this video from the Woodbury, Minnesota, Fire Department.
We hope your fire prevention checklist is all you ever need, but if you do experience a tragedy like this, we're here to help you through it. Get in touch with your Pekin Insurance agent to update your home insurance.