According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 1.3 million fires were reported in 2014 in the US alone. Those fire destroyed properties worth 11.6 billion dollars, killed 3,275 and injured 15,775 people.
Fires can happen pretty quickly and cause serious damage to lives and properties. Unlike other disasters, home fires can be avoided. Most people associate home fires with the kitchen, but there are other potential fire hazards present in the home. To prevent your home from going up in flames, it is important that you learn how to access and address these hazards.
In this article, we are going to be looking at some common fire hazard in the home and some effective ways to address them.
Before we dive right into the nitty-gritty of this article, we are first going to be looking at the nature of fire.
The nature of fire
Fires can start in any part of the home, including the kitchen, bedroom, storage areas like store room, attic, workroom or basement. Causes of fires include sparks from the fireplace, cigarette ashes, overheated electrical wire, and unattended barbecues.
To successfully combat a fire, you first have to understand its nature. A fire will only occur when the following elements are present- oxygen, fuel, heat and chemical reaction. When these elements are present, fire occurs. At the same time, if any of these elements is removed, a fire will slowly die out. These core elements are branded as the four faces of fire or the Fire Tetrahedron.
Fuel, like paper, rubber, wood or clothing (anything that is combustible) provides the energy the fire lives on. Oxygen, the air we breathe, is critical for the burning process to occur.
Heat serves as an ignition source just like a match or lighter. It also causes the continuous vaporization of combustible solids like wood. High molecular activity or intense chemical reaction is needed to keep the fire burning.
When a fire occurs, a chemical process known as oxidation and reduction, simultaneously take place. This chemical term means that fuel like plastic, paper are reduced in the presence of powerful oxidizing agents like oxygen among others.
Heat and fire cause the carbon molecules and hydrogen in wood to decompose and release energy in form of flame and intense heat. The wood slowly reduces and gives off hydrogen and CO2 into the atmosphere.
Cooking is a fun and relaxing task that often bring friends and family together, but cooking is also the major cause of home injuries and home fires. Being cautious and mindful while you cook can go a long way to prevent these fires.
Here is everything you need to know about kitchen safety.
- Unattended cooking cause 90% of kitchen fires.
- Residential fires are more likely to start in the kitchen than any other part of a home.
- Cooking fires are the major cause of home fires.
- Two-third of cooking fires started when cooking materials or food caught fire.
Common causes of kitchen fires
According to a report from the NFPA (National fire prevention association), more than 33% of all kitchen fires that occurred between 2010 and 2015 are linked to unattended cooking. Walking away from cooking equipment that is in use or turning your attention away from it for a while to talk to a family member of check your phone can be catastrophic.
Although the NFPA didn’t release any official statistics linked to frying, they still pointed out that frying dominates the kitchen fire problem. Be very careful any time you want to fry food because hot oil can catch fire and spread easily. Throwing water on a grease fire will only make things worse. The safest way to put it out is to cover it with a fire resistant material.
According to the NFPA Less than 1% of all cooking fires that occurred between 2010 and 2015 stated with the ignition of clothing. In fact, articles of clothing are normally not the first thing to catch on fire during a kitchen fire accident. But then, clothing is to blame for a good number of kitchen fire-related deaths.
Two third of the kitchen fires that occurred between 2010 and 2015 are linked to the ignition of food, as reported by the NFPA. As you probably know, some food will catch on fire easily than others. Most kitchen fires start shortly after food goes up in flames.
As you now know, kitchen fire can start for a good number of reasons. Taking your eyes off a pot or a frying pan on the stove can turn to into a tragedy.
Ways to prevent kitchen fires
- Unplug appliances that are not in use
After using any kind of pressure cooker, slow cooker, deep fryer, electric skillet, instant pot or toaster, make sure you unplug it after use. Also, avoid using appliances with worn or frayed cords. Appliances should only be plugged directly into an outlet and never into any type of extension cord.
- Be alert when cooking
According to the U.S fire administration, kitchen fires mostly begin when kitchen equipment like stove and fryer are unattended to and when whatever is cooking gets too hot. To reduce the odds of fires breaking in your kitchen you have to be on the alert when cooking.
If you notice smoke while cooking, turn off the burner quickly. If you have to leave the kitchen to attend to your kids or check your phone, also turn off the burner.
- Keep these three items in your kitchen
A fire extinguisher, baking soda, and a large pan lid should always be within arms reach in your kitchen. Rearrange your kitchen if need be to ensure that you have easy access to these items that can effectively help you put out a fire or stop it from spreading.
- Don’t wear baggy clothes when cooking
If your clothing accidentally catches fire while cooking, don’t run out of your home, rather drop to the floor and roll to put out the flames. Seek medical attention if any burns are apparent or follow the CDC’s guide for treating burns.
- Don’t use water to put out an electrical or grease fire
Using water to put out grease and electrical fires may lead to a serious explosion or make a fire spread quickly. If a food catches fire, quickly place a cooking sheet or a pan lid to suffocate the flame. Baking soda can be used to put out electrical and grease fires.
- Manage your microwave
Not putting metal in a microwave is something most people know. But it is important to keep an eye out for unexpected items that contain metal. According to the Massachusetts public fire education department, aluminium foil, twist-tie wraps usually used to store food can easily ignite the microwave.
When removing food from the microwave, use a thick glove or a pot holder. If a fire is starting in the microwave, turn it off and unplug it. Do not open the microwave door even after you have done this.
- Pay attention to the placement of handles
Turn the handle of pot and frying pans away from the edge of countertops. When they are placed on a heat source like a stove, the handles should face the back so that no one can knock them over when passing.
A report from the National Candle Association shows that 18,000 candle-caused fires occur in the United States annually. Although deaths from fires dramatically decreased by more than 50% since the early 1970s because of the widespread use of smoke alarms, candle fires is still an ever growing problem.
According to the candle association, seven out of ten homes use candles. Consumers in the US spend 2billion dollars on candles each year. These statistics show that candles play an important role in the lives of most people in the US.
As good as they smell, candles can be very dangerous. If you like burning candles during the winter month and on holidays, please keep the following safety tips in mind.
- Don’t use water to extinguish the candle
Hot candle wax can splatter in and cause serious damage if doused with water. The sudden temperature change could cause the glass container to break. Instead of using water to put out your candle flames, use a snuffer instead.
- Don’t use candles in your bedroom
One-third of candle fires start in the bedroom and a good percentage of fire deaths occur between midnight and 5:00 am.
- Have different candle holder in your home
As you probably know, candles come in different shapes and sizes. So, it is wise that you have the right size holder for the candle you want to burn. It is also important that you make sure that your candle holders are placed on heat-resistant surfaces.
- Don’t use candles as a night light during a power outage
Batteries6 powered lights are much safer than candles. Night lights, which are fairly expensive and safe to use is a good alternative to candles.
- Keep an eye on your candle when in use
Never leave a candle in an unattended room for a long period of time.
- Use common sense
Watch the airflow around the candle which can cause the flame to shift direction quickly. Make sure that the area around the candles is free from combustible materials like plastic, cotton, paper, and so on.
- Follow the manufacturer’s safety information to the letter
Strictly following the manufacturer’s safety instructions will reduce the odds of a fire ever occurring.
- Don’t burn candles that are less than two inch
You certainly will agree that replacing your candles regularly cost far less than replacing your home. Don’t allow a candle to burn very close to its holder.
- Keep candles away from children
While candles can make your room look become brighter, a passing child can easily tip them over.
- Keep lighters and matches in a safe area
Lighting material should be stored up high and out of the reach of kids in cupboards and even a closet
In 2014 the U. S fire department reported that Smoking materials like pipes, cigars, cigarettes, started 17,200 residential fires. These fires destroyed properties worth $462 million dollars, injured 1,140 people, and cursed 570 deaths.
Smoking materials caused 21% of home fire death, 6% of direct property damage and 5% of reported home fires.
The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to quit smoking for good, but if you are someone who won’t quit and really want to reduce the risk associated with the practice, read on.
Smoking and vaping
For smokers that don’t want to quit yet, vapes (e-cigarettes) are a much better option. Dropping a vape on an armchair or carpet won’t start a fire. So if quitting the habit isn’t an option for you, then it is best you swap your regular cigarette for an e-cigarette.
Safety tips when using an electronic cigarette
- Only use the charger and batteries compatible with the e-cigarette.
- Don’t charge your e-cigarette overnight.
- Don’t use a damaged e-cigarette.
Smoking safety tips
- Don’t leave cigarettes unattended
- It is safer to smoke outside the house, but make sure you put out the cigarette and dispose of it appropriately.
- Use durable ashtrays that won’t tip over easily.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of little children.
- Quit smoking if you use equipment like medical oxygen because of your health condition.
- Don’t balance cigarettes on the edges, they can easily tip and fall as they slowly burn away.
- Never smoke in sofas, bed, and armchairs – especially if you are tired and you think you might fall asleep.
- Don’t smoke when you are tired or after taking any medication.
According to a report from the United States fire administration, electrical fires accounted for 6% of all residential fire, 7% of the fires where someone was seriously injured and 11% of fires where someone died.
Most Electrical fires occur in the winter month between December and January, due to the continuous use of light and heating appliances. Some electrical fires happen because of appliances failure, problems with house wiring and mistakes by homeowners.
Common causes of the electrical fire
Portable space heaters with heating coils can cause fires when placed close to combustible materials like clothes, rugs, and curtains. The heat generated from the coil in the heater can easily ignite a flammable material.
Old wiring can sometimes cause electrical fires. If your home is over 15 years old, its wiring capacity may not be able to comfortably handle the increasing amount of appliances in modern homes, such as video game consoles, flat screen TV, computer, air conditioners, and microwaves.
The work of a breaker is to prevent overload caused by too much electricity. A new breaker can do this perfectly. Old and outdated breakers, on the other hand, may not be able to because their connectors may have worn out or may not be working at all. This is ultimately going to cause the entire system to overload and start an electrical fire.
Outdated appliances that have damaged plugs, frayed cord, or that doesn’t meet modern safety standards are one of the major cause of electrical fires. Old appliances use more power than modern outlets can handle. Frayed or damaged cords can easily heat up and ignite combustible materials like curtains and carpets.
Plugging too many appliances into an extension cord can easily cause an electrical fire. Heavy appliances should be plugged into outlets, not into an extension cord. Extension cords should only be used temporarily. If you don’t have the right type of outlet for your appliances, then hire a reputable electrician to install new ones for you.
Register your gadget and appliances
On average, the success rate of electrical appliances and product recall in the UK is between 10 and 20 percent. Most times, manufacturers aren’t able to directly contact those who purchased their product. So, millions of potentially unsafe appliances are in use in home and offices, putting their owners at risk of fires, electrical shocks or even death.
When you register your product, it will be easier for the manufacturer to contact you if there is a problem.
Time is of essence especially when it comes to in-house fires. A fire can become life-threatening in less than 2 minutes. An entire home can become engulfed in flames in less than five minutes. To prevent this, it is important that family members and homeowners become conscious of the common home fire hazards like faulty wiring, smoking in bedrooms, candles and so on. Save your loved ones the trouble of dealing with a fire at home, and the fireman from risking his life running into your apartment by applying fire safety tips discussed in this article.