Did you know there are hidden culprits lurking in your home ready to cause damage and threaten your loved ones? Most people realize cooking and kitchen fires are a serious and dangerous threat, but few realize there are other electrical culprits such as appliances and wall outlets that can cause devastation.
According to the U.S. fire administration cooking and kitchen fires account for nearly 49% of home fires while heat sources attribute to 13% and electrical sources 6%. With an annual rate of 1.4 million national fires causing over 3,000 deaths, one things for sure: fires are dangerous. The good news is that fires are preventable by taking precautions and measures to ensure your home and family are safe.
Preventing fires and smoke damage start with a home assessment for risk. Start by evaluating the condition on your home appliances such as your washer/dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher and water heater. Are they running efficiently? Is the appliance making strange noises, does it smell of smoke or shake when in use. If the appliance isn't working properly, stop using it until you or a contractor have made repairs to ensure the appliance doesn't cause any sparks and to prevent it from catching on fire.
When the weather chills, out come the space heaters. Space heaters, however, account for 25,000 credential fires each year. Space heaters cause two problems for home owners. First, older homes with older electrical outlets struggle to manage the elect rial surge of some space heaters causing a potential fire at the outlet. If your electrical outlet begins to smoke or burn when the space heater is plugged in then that is tell tale sign to stop using the heater until a qualified electrician asses your outlet. Second, space heaters cause fires when items are placed too close to the heater. Make sure to keep a 36-inch radius around the heater. The means keeping clothes, towels, sheets and furniture a good distance.
Overloaded electrical outlets are a common and dangerous cause of home fires, especially around the holidays. An outlet plugged up with several cord extenders and cords is a sure fire way to create spark. First, make sure you are using your outlets wisely. One power outlet per electrical outlet is safe. No stacking outlets into power outlets and no doubling two power outlets into one electrical outlet. Second, make sure all the wires, cords and plugs are in good working order. Faulty wiring is a leading cause of outlet fires. If there are any signs of burns, smoke, frays or damage replace the item.
Cooking and kitchen fires are the number one most dangerous home fire cause. When cooking for family and entertaining guest, it's easy to get caught in conversation or distracted away from the kitchen, but leaving hot pans and cooking food unattended is a recipe for disaster. In a matter of seconds, cooking oil can reach a heat point that causes it to smoke and burst into flames. If flammable items are left near the cooking surface such a cook books, papers and pot holders, they can quickly add flame to the fire. In a matter of minutes an entire kitchen can be up in flames and most people panic at this time trying to put the fire out with water or grabbing at the burning pan. Both will only make matters worse. Your best defense against a full blown kitchen fire are to be vigilant and keep a K rated extinguisher int he kitchen.
In addition to taking preventive measures, a monitored smoke alarm will reduce the damage of fires by detecting smoke and alerting the monitoring station within seconds. Having a monitored smoke alarm in your home will ensure the fire department is called immediately. During a fire, every second truly counts.
Author: Shana Cooper, Manager, Crime Fighters of Atlanta