By Stephen Gremillion, NPI Property Inspector, Montgomery, Texas
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) http://www.nfpa.org, there were about 365,500 household fires in 2015. As an inspector, I’ve learned that many house fires are preventable. In fact, the NFPA also states that three out of five fire deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. This, to me, says that simply installing and maintaining smoke alarms could save your life.
When talking about fire safety, I like to break it down into three categories: Fire Prevention, Fire Preparation, and the Fire. Fire Prevention items are things that you can do to prevent a fire. Fire Preparation items are things you can do to be prepared in case of a fire, and the Fire is what to do if you find yourself in a house fire.
- Use caution when using electrical resistance heating items like toasters, heating blankets, etc.
- Use caution when using open flames like candles, barbecues, fireplaces, tobacco, etc.
- Keep your kitchen clutter free and clean of grease.
- Fix sub-standard electrical work.
- Add Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) protection. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2016/2510/afci-and-gfci-outlets-improve-electrical-safety-in-your-home/
- Keep your dryer vent and lint trap clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1248/have-you-cleaned-your-dryer-vent-lately/
- If you have a wood burning fireplace and use it regularly, the flue must be kept clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1728/keeping-your-chimney-clean/
- If you use portable heaters, they should be monitored and have a tip safety. A tip safety is a function that shuts off the heater if it tips over. Also, it should be kept clear of combustibles.
- Get a home inspection. A home inspection can reveal problems like sub-standard electrical work, improper fireplace hearths, etc.
- Get a thermal imaging inspection. A thermal imaging inspection can reveal electrical problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
- Proper smoke alarm placement and maintenance. You should have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and each adjoining space. These should be tested once a month, have the battery changed once a year, and be completely replaced every ten years.
- Fire extinguishers. We recommend that you have clear access to an extinguisher in the garage, kitchen, and bedroom. You should be familiar with their use and have the right type. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1863/1863/
- You should have two escape options from each room. (Second-story windows do count).
- Teach your kids some basic fire safety.
Hopefully, you never find yourself in this situation. However, if you do, here are some basic tips.
- If the fire is small, try to put it out with your extinguisher.
- If the fire cannot be contained, then you must leave immediately. Gather your family and an extinguisher and leave through one of your planned routes.
- Door handles may be hot. It is best to grab them with a piece of cloth.
- Close doors behind you! It may seem silly, but it’s for a good reason. A door can act as a barrier in two ways; 1) It can restrict airflow, 2) It acts as separation that the fire will take time to burn through.
- If you find yourself trapped, there are two important things you must do:
- Signal for help. A piece of cloth hanging from the window is a largely recognized symbol, but a phone call is better.
- Minimize your exposure to smoke and flames. This can be done by opening a window, getting low, covering your mouth with cloth, and blocking underneath doors with wet cloths.
Make sure to be diligent about fire protection to keep your home and family safe. Practice these steps and have a happy and healthy 2017.
Stephen Gremillion is a professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Garner Gremillion in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, call 936 230-3440 to schedule your home inspection with Garner or Stephen.
Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.