October is National Fire Prevention Month. Every year, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 house fires in the U.S., according the National Fire Protection Association. Make sure your home is prepared in case of emergency.
The best way to prevent house fires is to understand how they start. Here are the 5 leading causes and how you can prevent them:
- Cooking: The majority of house fires are caused by cooking-related incidents, specifically, a person leaving a hot oven or stove unattended. Ranges are the source of 58 percent of home cooking fires.Prevention tips: Keep an eye on cooking equipment while it’s in use. Use a timer to remind you cooking is in progress. Identify and remove flammable objects and materials around cooking areas and surfaces. Follow the exact instructions carefully when using a turkey fryer this Thanksgiving.
- Heating: Heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 U.S. home fires in 2010. Portable and stationary space heaters accounted for 32 percent of these fires, but most resulted from the homeowner’s failure to clean heating equipment or chimneys.Prevention tips: Have heating equipment cleaned and inspected every year to ensure it’s working properly. When using space heaters, situate them away from combustible objects such as clothing, furniture and bedding (most manufacturers recommend at least 3 feet of space), and turn them off when you leave home.
- Electrical systems: Lighting sources are responsible for most electrical fires. Fires started through electrical systems represent more than $1 billion in property losses each year.Prevention tips: Have a qualified electrician handle your electrical projects, as many fires are the result of improper installation by homeowners. When using electrical appliances, replace frayed or damaged cords, refrain from overloading outlets with plugs and use bulbs of the proper wattage for lamps.
- Careless smoking: Smoking is the No. 1 cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. Sleep was a factory in two of five smoking-related fire fatalities, and possible alcohol impairment was cited as a factor in about one-fourth of those deaths.Prevention tips: If you smoke, smoke outside or limit smoking to common home areas. Make certain cigarette butts are extinguished and, if necessary, supervise smokers who seem tired or impaired.
- Candles: Decorative and scented candles are a popular form of home decor, but they are also a leading fire hazard. Candles are responsible for 5 percent of home fire deaths, and on average, 35 home fires caused by candles are reported each day in the United States.Prevention tips: Don’t leave burning candles unattended and put them out before going to bed. Make sure to place candle holders on sturdy surfaces and away from flammable objects.