Home Fire Safety Precautions Reduce Damage and Save Lives

In 2011, 13,910 Americans suffered injuries and 2,520 Americans died in residential fires. Residential fires are responsible for 66 percent of U.S. fire fatalities each year and many of these tragedies were preventable1. Here are some of the most common ways that fires start:

  • Cooking, both indoor and outdoor (the leading cause for injury-causing residential fires)2
  • Arson
  • Burning candles or incense
  • Smoking
  • Electrical (contractor repairs and fires originating from major appliances and small electronics such as toasters and hair-dryers)
  • Wildfires

Let’s look at some of the ways to help prevent a fire or stop the fire from spreading before it injures or kills.

The Importance of Smoke Detectors

Every home should have at least one working smoke detector. If your Florida or South Carolina home is multi-level, install a working smoke detector on every floor. Working smoke detectors can double an occupant’s chance of surviving a fire.

Homeowners and renters should test smoke detectors regularly and replace batteries at least once a year. Smoke detectors themselves should be replaced after 10 years of service or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Fire Extinguishers

Every household should have at least one fire extinguisher. Before purchasing fire extinguishers, consider the size of your home and the most likely origins of a fire. For example, larger homes may need easily accessible fire extinguishers in high-risk areas like the laundry room or the garage.

Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. There are five different types of extinguishing agents3. Fire extinguishers may be designed to handle one type of fire or may be multi-purpose, such as those labeled “B-C” or “A-B-C” that can be used on two or more of the fire types shown below.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

    • Class A extinguishers put out fires in ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper and many plastics.
    • Class B extinguishers are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints.
    • Class C extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.
    • Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal used. These are typically found only in factories working with these metals.
    • Class K fire extinguishers are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. They are used in commercial, and increasingly, in residential kitchens.

Always choose the extinguisher best suited to your home’s likely fire origins.

Preventing Electrical Fires

Here are some proactive measures that should be considered in helping prevent residential electrical fires:

      • Never overload circuits and extension cords. When purchasing or using an extension cord, ensure it is rated for the amperage of the electronics you are plugging into it. Never plug shorter cords into each other to reach the desired length.
      • Never place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Incorrect cord placement can cause unnecessary wear and tear or pulling at the socket, increasing the risk of starting a fire.
      • Immediately turn off and unplug electronics that start to sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. These electronics will need to be repaired or disposed of properly.
      • Always hire licensed and insured contractors for residential remodels or electrical repairs.

Alternate Heating Sources

Portable heaters need space. Do not keep anything combustible within three feet of a portable heater. Do not leave a portable heater running when no one is home. Follow manufacturer maintenance and replacement guidelines.

When using a fireplace, be sure to use a fire screen to prevent cinders from escaping to the surrounding carpet and furniture. Have your chimney cleaned annually. Creosote buildup can start a chimney fire that could easily spread to the rest of the home.

Home Fire Sprinklers and Fire Alarm Monitoring

When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, fire survival rates increase greatly. If a fire started, sprinklers stop or slow its progress, allowing occupants to escape and decreasing damage to the home.

A monitored fire alarm system in your home can also reduce the severity of fire damage. If a fire starts while no occupants are home or are sleeping, the fire could grow and cause extensive damage before the occupants become aware of it.

Monitored fire alarms and sprinklers can reduce your homeowners insurance premiums. Your Florida or South Carolina homeowners insurance agent can help you determine the benefits of installing these important safety measures.

Every homeowner should develop an emergency evacuation plan for potential disasters. A fire can occur in any home at any time. Consider the unique dangers a fire presents when determining your family’s emergency evacuation plan. Plan for the worst and significantly increase your chance of survival in the event of a home fire.


(1) http://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/casualties.shtm

(2) http://www.usfa.fema.gov/statistics/reports/casualties.shtm

(3) http://www.fire-extinguisher101.com/

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.