5 Fire Safety Tips For Your Home

Equipping your home with the right fire safety equipment can help you gain precious seconds in a fire emergency. Be sure your home includes the following equipment, that you (and your family) know how to use it.

What to Include in Your Home Fire Safety Kit

1. Smoke Alarms
The single most important piece of fire safety equipment you can have in your home is a smoke alarm. A properly working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in a fire by half.1 Be sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your house, especially outside rooms where family members sleep. Test and clean them with a vacuum every month, and replace the batteries twice a year. And install new smoke alarms every 10 years.

2. Automatic Fire Sprinkler System
It’s important to note that an automatic fire sprinkler system won’t necessarily extinguish every fire that starts in your home. But it will reduce the amount of harmful smoke and gases so you can get out of the house. Some sprinkler systems can also be connected to your alarm system, so it’ll call the fire department if a fire starts.

3. Fire Extinguisher
You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your home. Extinguishers with A-B-C ratings are effective against ignited cloth, wood, paper, rubber, and plastics (A), flammable liquids like gasoline, alcohol and oil-based paints (B), and energized electrical equipment (C).

What to do when using a fire extinguisher:

  • First call the fire department.
  • Use an extinguisher only on small fires with minimal smoke.
  • If you’re dealing with a liquid fire, use the extinguisher only if you can eliminate of the source of fuel. Otherwise, immediately get out of the house.
  • Remember “PASS”: Pull the pin. Aim low. Squeeze. Sweep.
  • If you can’t put out the fire within the eight seconds it takes to empty the extinguisher, take immediate steps to get out safely.

4. Fire Escape Ladders
If you have a two-story (or more) home, you need fire escape ladders in every upstairs bedroom. They come folded into permanent or portable boxes that you can store under a window or bed. During a fire, if all other exits are blocked, you can drop the ladder out of the window and climb down to safety. Fire escape ladders are either 15 feet (for second-story windows) or 25 feet long (third floor).

Pro Tip: Make sure your ladder has a stable standoff, which is the support arm system at the top that holds the ladder away from the side of the house to steadies it and make escape quicker for you.

5. Fireproof Safe
The most valuable of your possessions should be in a safety deposit box at the bank. But if there are certain things you want to protect and also keep close, you need a fireproof safe. Depending on what’s kept in there, you can get a safe that’s guaranteed not to get hotter than 125 degrees (DVDs, computer disks) or 350 degrees (papers). Most fireproof safes offer 30 minutes of protection.

Once you have all of the right fire safety equipment in place, don’t forget to create and practice your home fire escape plan. Having the right fire safety equipment can help reduce your family’s risk of injury and property damage due to a serious fire. Or at the very least, you’ll be warned and have time to get out.

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The Risks of Hoarding

Many fire departments are experiencing serious fires, injuries, and deaths as the result of compulsive hoarding behavior. The excessive accumulation of materials in homes poses a significant threat to firefighters fighting fires and responding to other emergencies in these homes and to residents and neighbors. Often, the local fire department will be contacted to help deal with this serious issue. Since studies suggest that between three and five percent of the population are compulsive hoarders, fire departments must become familiar with this issue and how to effectively handle it.

Why is hoarding an issue for the fire service?

  • Hoarding can be a fire hazard. Many occupants die in fires in these homes. Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home. In addition, many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them.
  • Responding firefighters can be put at risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult.
  • Those living adjacent to an occupied structure can be quickly affected when a fire occurs, due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.

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Washer & Dryer Maintenance

Washers and dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of clothes dryer fires are higher in the fall and winter months and peak in January, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is a failure to clean the dryer of dust, fiber and lint. Lint is highly combustible and can lead to reduced airflow, posing a fire hazard in clothes dryers.Here are several safety tips for properly maintaining your washer and dryer:

Ensure proper installation
Be sure to have your washer and dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Check your washer and dryer manuals to ensure that your electrical outlet is appropriate for your plugs. If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are working properly and don’t have leaks.

Maintain the lint filter
Always clean the lint filter before drying each load of laundry. If you are drying a new item that creates a lot of lint, such as a bath towel or bath mat, consider drying it for half a cycle and then pause to clean out the lint filter before continuing to dry the item. Regularly check the dryer’s drum for lint accumulation.

Inspect the vent
The dryer vent is located outside of your house. It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure air is coming out of the vent while clothes are drying. If no air is coming out of the vent, turn off the dryer and inspect the vent for blockage. Accumulated lint, a bird’s nest or even small animals can block vents.

Check the exhaust duct
Make sure the duct that runs from the back of your dryer to your wall and outside to your dryer vent isn’t clogged with lint or debris. If there is a blockage, you may have to remove the duct to clean it out. Consult with a professional before making any changes to your dryer’s exhaust duct.

Basic washer and dryer safety tips
Follow these basic safety tips when using your washer and dryer.

  • Don’t overload.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • Don’t run the washer or dryer when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping.
  • Keep the entire area clean and free of clutter, boxes and other materials.
  • Don’t store items on the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Consult the operating instructions prior to washing or drying an item that has been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or paint.

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Identifying & Testing Fire Alarms – Part 2

Now that we’ve discussed the types of fire alarms found in many home and small businesses, let’s see how to test them.

How to Test It
You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper method of testing your smoke detector and fire alarm. But, in general, most battery-powered and hardwired smoke detectors can be tested in the following way:

Step 1. Alert family members that you will be testing the alarm. Smoke detectors have a high-pitched alarm that may frighten small children, so you’ll want to let everyone know you plan to test the alarms to help avoid frightening anyone.

Step 2. Station a family member at the furthest point away from the alarm in your home. This can be critical to help make sure the alarm can be heard everywhere in your home. You may want to install extra detectors in areas where the alarm’s sound is low, muffled or weak.

Step 3. Press and hold the test button on the smoke detector. It can take a few seconds to begin, but a loud, ear-piercing siren should emanate from the smoke detector while the button is pressed. If the sound is weak or nonexistent, replace your batteries. If it has been more than six months since you last replaced the batteries (whether your detector is battery-powered or hardwired), change them now regardless of the test result, and test the new batteries one final time to help ensure proper functioning. You should also look at your smoke detector to make sure there’s no dust or other substance blocking its grates, which may prevent it from working even if the batteries are new.

Remember, smoke detectors have a normal life span of 10 years, according to the USFA. Even if you’ve performed regular maintenance, and your device is still functional, you should replace a smoke detector after the 10-year period or earlier, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Installing smoke detectors can be a great way to help keep your family safe, but assuming they are working may lead to a dangerous situation. Taking a few minutes to check them regularly can help ensure they’re working properly.

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Identifying & Testing Fire Alarms – Part 1

Smoke detectors and fire alarms may be some of the most important items in your home when it comes to your family’s safety. These early warning devices may help alert your family to fire and dangerous smoke while there is still time to evacuate, but they need to be periodically tested to help ensure proper function.

Why Do It?
Electronic devices are not infallible. Batteries die, and other parts of the smoke detector can wear out over time. Testing them regularly and replacing batteries (or the entire device) is one way to help ensure your family stays safe should there be a fire in your home.

How Often?
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month and batteries should be replaced at least twice a year. A good way to help remember to do this is to change your batteries when you change your clocks for daylight saving time — when you spring forward or fall back. Make sure to review your smoke detector’s user manual — you may need to check more often if any of the following apply:

  • The detector often gives false alarms.
  • The alarm emits short beeps regularly without anyone touching it.
  • Frequent kitchen smoke has caused it to activate often, which may wear it out faster.

There are two main types of smoke detectors, according to the USFA:

Battery-powered:  This type can be susceptible to defective or worn-out batteries. Monthly testing is critical. Never put old batteries into your smoke detectors and fire alarms.

Hardwired:  These detectors are powered by your home electrical system, but they usually have back-up batteries so the device can remain operational in a power outage. Hardwired smoke detectors still require monthly testing to help ensure that both batteries and parts are functioning properly.

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2016 Angie’s List Winner

For the 6th Year straight, we’ve won the Angie’s List Award for our service industry.  NO other company we compete against has ever won the award four times, and we’ve won it 6 consecutive years, setting the standard in disaster restoration like no other.

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Types of Fire Extinguishers

A fire is a fire, and a fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher, right? Well, not quite. There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each. So, which is right for you? We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association:

  • Class A: Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.
  • Class B: Fires in flammable liquids, like gasoline, or flammable gasses, such as propane.
  • Class C: Fires in energized electrical equipment, such as appliances or motors.
  • Class D: Fires in combustible metals.
  • Class K: Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats.

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous. So, how do you pick a fire extinguisher? Do you need several? A good bet is a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

  • An extinguisher that’s large enough to put out a small fire but not too heavy to handle safely.
  • One that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • One for each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher — or try to fight a fire with any method — make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the fire small and contained?
  • Are you safe from toxic smoke?
  • Do you have a way to escape?
  • Do your instincts tell you it’s OK?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side. Once the fire is out, remain aware, because it can re-ignite.

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet. Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

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