As we ponder whether we could have prevented five recent house fire fatalities, we can conclude only one thing: The best way to prevent the loss of life is to prevent fires. The recent string of deadly blazes occurred during the period when most house fires occur — in the fall, winter and early spring. That’s when people spend most of their time indoors and potentially grow complacent about fire risks.
We cook more indoors so we might leave our range dirty, greasy and primed for trouble. Our homes consume a lot of energy during cold months. When all that power surges in an electrical system, it increases the potential for electrical faults that can cause fires.
Experts with the Electrical Safety Foundation International tell us that 62% of house fires are caused by cooking. That’s a noteworthy statistic, especially considering how much we cook in the cold months and how some of us might panic if a cooking fire were to break out.
Do we know how to use an extinguisher, or do we know we could make matters worse by splashing water onto a grease fire? Will we panic if a fire starts in our kitchen?
Many factors contribute to the danger of kitchen fires, including ignorance. What should you do if one suddenly breaks out? As we said, prevention is the best strategy. Keep a clean microwave, range and oven. Be attentive while cooking, and never do it when you’re drinking. After you’ve finished cooking, double check that all burners are switched off.
Did you know that 22% of house fires are electrical? Fire can be caused by wiring inside walls. When an electrical fault occurs the wiring heats so much that fires can start.
Electrical codes require wiring to have circuit breakers. If a fault occurs, the system is designed to shut off power before overheating wires ignite fires. If you’re uncertain how to check your electrical system, you will sleep easier calling in a professional electrician to have a look.
It’s best when we can prevent fires, but we need to acknowledge that occasionally even our best efforts are not enough. When fire breaks out, smoke detectors will alert us and give us the time to escape. Traditionally, the time to replace batteries is the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. If you forgot, switch your batteries this week. Another good idea is to check the pressure on your fire extinguishers and then view a video on how to effectively operate your extinguisher.
Finally, draw up a family escape plan and rehearse it so everyone knows how to safely escape and where to gather after you’ve left your home. Pick a spot that’s a safe distance in case the fire might spread from your home to a neighbor’s.
Finally, commit yourself in advance to call 911 immediately and evacuate the house. Firefighters train continually to do their jobs. They’re good at what they do, and we thank them.