Chances are that homeowners who have built a new luxury custom home in recent years are less likely to ponder the potential fire hazards that plague older homes and renovated homes; commonly considered hazards include fireplace cracks and old or faulty electrical and lighting. Newly constructed homes, particularly custom built on a luxury scale, do not face such concerns. However, the majority of fires in any type of home today have more to do with careless behavior on the part of occupants and less with structural failure due to a home’s ago or outdated equipment. The homeowner’s awareness and vigilance about fire safety practices and preparedness naturally leads to both prevention and minimal damage upon occurrence.
Studies over the past decade have shown the leading cause of home fires are related to cooking. In fact, 45% of all home fires has to do with cooking equipment, with unattended cooking being the main culprit; grease splattering or flammable items near the range such as an oven mitt or paper towel are commonly cited. Heating equipment fires accounted for 16% of all reported home fires, the 2nd major cause. If the fire has to do with heating equipment, space heaters are most often cited as responsible, usually as the result of proximity to flammable items such as upholstered furniture, draperies, clothing or bedding.
While less common, fires caused by electrical equipment malfunctions or overloaded circuits are not unusual and can occur in several different areas of the home. They can be caused by faulty circuitry, using the wrong extension cord, overheated lightbulbs, or appliance malfunctions. Simple advice from the experts is to not overload outlets, make sure you have the right cord for the right job, always use a certified electrician for any electrical wiring modifications and never use appliances with a frayed cord.
Ways to protect your family from fire damage and injury:
- Smoke detectors should be installed on every floor, in every bedroom and outside all sleeping areas. They should be checked monthly to ensure proper working.
- Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended.
- Have chimney cleaned at the beginning of every heavy burning season (fall). Avoid burning exclusively soft wood (pine) and damp wood, both of which contribute to higher levels of creosote buildup.
- Avoid leaving burning candles in rooms unattended.
- Keep matches hidden from plain view when small children are in household.
- During the holidays, keep Christmas tree watered and turn tree lights off at night.
- Consider having an electrician perform a checkup of your home’s wiring every 1-2 years.
- Don’t overload outlets or electrical cords.
- Always clean the dryer lint screen before using dryer.
- Discourage anyone from smoking in the house, but especially in bed.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen as well on every level in house. Ensure all occupants are aware of their location.
- Have a fire escape plan to review with the family, practice yearly.