Home fires can be a catastrophic event for any household. A lifetime of memories can be lost before your eyes in an instant. Or worse: 74% of all fire-related deaths occur in the home. Older Americans (age 65+) face even higher risk. Despite only making up 15% of the population, they account for 35% of all fire-related deaths. But the good news is that a little advance planning can greatly reduce your fire risk. Here are some easy safety tips to have a fire-safe home.
1. Make an Escape Plan and Practice It
Schools and office buildings hold regular fire drills for a key reason: They work. Why wouldn’t you put in at least as much effort where you and your family sleep? Plot out both main and backup escape routes that take into account the physical abilities of every family member. Then get everyone in your household to practice to make sure the routes work as planned. Play a loud alarm sound on your phone to prepare everyone for the type of trigger they would hear in a real emergency.
2. Create Fire-Safe Spaces
Most fires, whether caused by cooking, heating equipment, smoking or other sources, are a result of a flame or spark coming in contact with nearby flammable materials. At each area of your home where there is potential for fire danger — stove, fireplace, furnace, space heaters — take the time to clear a three-foot radius of any materials that could catch fire, especially paper, wood or fabric.
3. Don’t Skip Out on Prep Time
Many of us are in a hurry, especially when cooking, but with many house fires starting in the kitchen, rushing to get a meal on the table can prove to be a real fire danger. Take the time to concentrate on the task at hand and avoid distractions. Consider your recipe and prepare all ingredients and supplies before you start cooking. Make sure your phone is already nearby, so there’s no reason for you to leave the room while cooking. If you do have to step away, be sure to turn off the stove first. Don’t cook while overtired or when under the influence of alcohol or medications that can slow reflexes or make you drowsy.
4. Get Alarmed
The early warning given by smoke alarms is critical. Almost 60% of all house fire fatalities occur in homes without functioning smoke detectors. Make sure you have smoke alarms installed on each level of your home and in rooms where people sleep. Replace the batteries twice a year when you have to reset your clocks for Daylight Saving (set a calendar reminder if you need to).
5. Have the Right Firefighting Tools
Having a fire extinguisher on hand is a great idea, but it helps to have the right kind for the type of fire you’ll likely face:
- Class A is great for ordinary combustibles like wood, paper and plastic.
- Class B is for liquids like gasoline, oils or solvents.
- Class C works for electrical fires.
- Class D is best for combustible and reactive metals.
At home you’ll likely face one of the first three categories, so a combination ABC extinguisher will work well. For grease fires on the stove, your best tool is a large pot lid you can put on top to cut off the oxygen and starve the fire. Never use water for a grease fire as it’s likely to spread the flames.
6. …And Keep Them Handy
Even the best fire extinguisher will do no good if you can’t grab it quickly in a crisis. Keep a few small fire extinguishers in out-of-the-way but easy-to-reach spots near common fire sources around the house in places like:
- Under the kitchen sink near the stove
- In the basement near the furnace
- Just inside a cupboard or closet near the fireplace or a space heater
- In the garage or workshop
7. Butt Out
Cooking now causes more home fires than smoking, but fires started by smoking materials are still responsible for more deaths than any other cause. This is often due to someone falling asleep while smoking or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you or anyone in your household does smoke, make it a rule to always smoke outside. And be sure any cigarette butts are thoroughly out by soaking them in a glass of water before they go in the garbage.
8. Keep Fuel Far From Home
Always store any heating fuel, such as propane, kerosene or gasoline, outside of the house in a secure container. Before bringing gas-powered garden equipment, such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers, inside the house for the winter, be sure to drain out and properly dispose of any remaining fuel.
9. Go Down to the Wires
If your home was built before 1974, you should have a licensed electrician inspect your wiring to protect against electrical fires. This is especially true if you have common warning signs of electrical issues such as:
- Dimming or flickering lights
- Switches or outlets that are warm to the touch or discolored
- Circuits or fuses that repeatedly trip or blow
Many electrical fires are caused by improper use by the homeowner, so check to make sure you don’t overload outlets or extension cords. Also replace any fraying cables to devices or lighting, especially if they touch flammable materials.
10. Upgrade Your Bulbs
LED bulbs are not only more energy efficient and long-lasting, they also burn much cooler than incandescent or halogen bulbs. This greatly reduces the fire risk from lighting coming in contact with flammable materials such as lamp shades or curtains. Upgrading holiday decorations to LED bulbs is also a good idea to ensure a fire-safe home.
By taking these important steps, you can help protect your home and those you care most about from the dangers of fire. What tips do you take to maintain a fire-safe home? Share with others in the comments.
For more home fire safety information, download our free comprehensive guide Fire Sense: A Smart Way to Prevent, Detect and Escape Home Fires.
A variety of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistical and research reports about home or residential property fires during the period 2008 to 2020 were referenced in the writing of this article.
Thanks for the tips
Thanks for this useful information about tips for a fire safe home.
You’re welcome, James! Thanks for the nice comment!
Thanks for the information.
You’re welcome. Thanks for checking out Extra Mile!
I am a senior living alone. Your informative tips remind me of a necessary precaution which I recognized some time ago. I need to install a portable ladder (for escape to outside), mounted to the upstairs window closest to my own bed in the master bedroom of my two-story townhome. This avenue of escape to the outside- -if it ever becomes necessary, is critical for seniors, along with any other persons occupying upstairs bedrooms! The more prevention, the better- –
These are great points! Thank you for sharing.
I would suggest adding 2 items as part of your description.
In developing a safety plan a gathering site be designated. We suggest that when developing an escape plan a specific site be designated away from the residence, like the driveway across the street, but close enough to get to especially in the middle of the night. One of the first questions asked by a responding unit is “are there any persons in the house?” If there is a designated spot than a head count can be quickly made and individuals accounted for.
Additionally, the location associated with a quickly identifiable feature or landmark makes it easier for an older person or child to remember.
Second, all smoke alarms have a 10 year life. After 10 years the detector is no longer certified as being workable. They MUST be replaced after 10 years.
Thanks for tips. I have some upgrading to do.
Thank for the tips
thanks for the tips
Thanks for the refresher course.
It is good to review these safety rules as we get older
You have my email listed incorrectly.
Betty – Unfortunately we are not able to change it unless you login in to your account or call us to change it. You can reach a customer service representative at 800-423-6789. Someone would be happy to help you M-F: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET and Sat: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
Great tips and reminders, especially about keeping the area around the stove clear. Most stoves have counter tops to either side. It pays to keep those areas clear of flammables. I have fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage, upstairs and in rooms where we use lots of electronics. I check the status of each extinguisher when I change the batteries in my smoke alarms. We also have smoke alarms monitored by the security system.
Having lived in apartment buildings where there were fires in other apartments, I have always had a fear of fires and rightfully so. All fuel should be stored in a shelter outside of the house and attached garages.
Thank you for this life saving information. I am living in a Senior Apartment now but, I still have my own fire extinguisher under my kitchen sink.
Fire extinguishers: Put in a place where you are exiting the room, not in a place where you might be trapped by a fire that gets out of control. That way you can keep going to safety if it is not a fire you can safely fight.
We purchased a new range. Best advice, read all the directions and alerts. Oven shelves even have specific uses.
Thanks for reminder and upgrade.
Thank you for the information and reminder. Our electric and gas service company just performed an audit on our house for efficiency. The technician changed our light bulbs in our kitchen overhead light fixture to LED bulbs. They are wonderful and will save us money.
People also need Carbon Monoxide detectors near fireplaces and the furnace, especially if they are on different floors.
I appreciate the newsletters and compare the tips to current conditions in my home. I must have received this info before because I have a 10 out of 10.
Thank You for the information to prevent fires!
We replaced our gas range with a induction last year for the reasons above
Fantastic reminder to everyone. Time to check the fire extinguishers!!
Need recommendation for a good ABC fire extinguisher?
Thank you for your prescience.
I live in a Historical Home over 200 years old. All lighting, heating, plumbing etc. are kept up to date. I am now having all old lamps rewired for safety also.
Thank you for the information
I recently removed my batteries from my smoke detector because my dogs freaked out when the batteries went dead and forgot to replace with new.
Don’t forget *candles*
Great reminders. Added more extinguishers and and a couple upgraded detectors. Better to be over protected.
Thank you. Appreciate your reminders!
Thanks for all the reminders. I read that flour is a good fire extinguisher for the stove, and that is close at hand. Thanks for mentioning the lid.
Flour should not be thrown on a flame it is fiber/grain and burns.
Salt can be used for a fat fire if you understand that it gives off chlorine gas and you need to keep away from the gas.
I have a fire blanket in a case in the kitchen along with a fire extinguisher, smoke, carbon monoxide and propane dectectors in every room with a gas run appliance.
Our local fire and safety departments will make a home inspection and tell you what you need and often times supply monitors.
Thank you very much for this information.
It will save lives and one’s home.
One hint: Baking soda worked INSTANTLY on a grill fire I had years ago. It was a propane grill, but the meat was extremely fatty which I couldn’t see. It was pre seasoned so I put it right on the grill and covered it . When I lifted the cover the flames were high! So I dropped the lid back on it. I was running for water BUT decided it was a grease fire. AND grabbed for the baking soda!! It worked INSTANTLY.
So, was this a grease fire from the whole chicken or a propane fire?
Thanks for the info…………………Didn’t realize that gas containers would be ok in the garage. I guess not. Thanks for the information
Thanks for the important information.
Thanks for the tips I’m on it
Thanks for the refreshing tips on fire safety. We have been in our new house 7 months.
Thankfully we can check all the boxes in the review as our builder finished our in June 2021.
Thanks for the safety tips. I keep a fire extinguisher on the floor next to my stove.
Thank you for the “10 Tips”. This is very important.
Thank you for this excellent reminder for a fire-safe home! I never miss a chance to be aware of new ideas and practices for possible fire safety situations. One can never be too careful or too aware when it comes to home and family safety. This review was much appreciated.
I believe the small hand held fire extinguisher should be in all cooking areas and also all bedrooms. They are easy to grab quickly. Thank you
I made it a goal to unplug my toaster plug after each use and I do not use a toaster cover.
I greatly enjoyed the information shared in the 10 Tips for a Fire Safe Home. Thank you.
I enjoy all the tips you give for everyday life on safety. My son is an electrician, and he just checked all my sockets as one was loose.
Thank you for the “10 Tips”. This is very important.
thanks for the tips
Thanks for the info
Thank you for the very important home fire-safety information, this should be circulated every couple years.
Also Safe Driving tips should also be circulated every couple of years, as a lot of people forget a lot of
important rules of daily driving safety, and drive as they are the only important ones on the road.
I have done all of the suggestions in your article. Safety is a must not and after thought.
If a plug gets warm when plugged into a socket to power something, is that dangerous?
Always a good review of fireproofing tips. I also keep a box of old baking soda nearby in the kitchen. Store5 volt batteries safely and keep the ends taped.
Thank You for the upGrades on Fire Prevention. I am buying new Fire extinguishers for each Level of my House. One of these saved a Kitchen fire from an toaster Oven that had a short in it. Near caught our cupboards
But Bricks on the wall slowed it, for time to put the fire out. But first unplugged the unit.
Thanks for reminding us to purchase Fire Extinguisher for all levels of house.
What should I do with a very old fire extinguisher???
Check with your local fire department. Ours takes them and disposes of them.
Thank you, this was a nice reminder.
Are ABC fire extinguishers available.
Way to go Hartford
Good to know information
Good to know about home safety ideas. Thanks
This is a very good article every one should read, not just a home owner.
Thanks for important fire safety information.
Thanks for the Fire Safety Tips, very informative.
Excellent information, Thanks!!
I see you included many different extinguishers for different types of fire. Afterwards, you mentioned that kitchen fires are the most common. The best extinguishers for kitchen fires is a K-type. That will also cover grease and oil fires.
Good points have been brought up here. I’m already doing all of them now except the
changing of the batteries twice a year. I’ll start doing that though.
Yes, all new electrical outlets are important. Loose plugs heat up, tight connection in a new outlet will not heat. Circuit breakers should be changed out and all connections made tight. These moves will prevent possible trouble. Electric heaters should have a separate circuit most draw a high amperage which can cause heat.
Very helpful always good to review any safety information so it is always fresh in your mind
I was wondering…I don’t have a fireplace or use space heaters, my heatpump w/additional electric furnace is located on the second floor and I have a fire extinguisher there and I have the new lithium battery/10 year smoke detectors on the main level and on the second floor (put them in last year). My townhouse is on the small size (1247 sq. ft.) and is only on these two levels as it is built on a slab. My daughter was asking me if I have coverage for if there were to be a fire, would my home and belongings be covered by water damage if I have to call 911. Could someone look at my policy to see if the Hartford would work with a mitigation and restoration group should fire touch my life? I look forward to talking with you soon.
Valerie – Thanks for reading Extra Mile and for being a customer of The Hartford. For specific questions about your policy, please call our customer service reps at 800-423-0567. We are available M-F: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET and Sat: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
My home has residential fire sprinklers. Yet they are not on your list. Why not? They are instant firefighters.
Thanks for the tips. Very helpful
These are all good tips. Even though we may know these tips it is always good to be reminded of them. Thank you.
Very helpful reminders!
Thank you The Hartford. The tips and info are informative and add to my home’s safety.
Thanks for these tips. I already practice them!
I have done all of these suggestions to protect my home. Thank you for informing me of them.
Great tips thanks for sharing you might want to add something about the outside of the house for some rural areas to ensure you have a fire buffer around your house. As the wildfire in Colorado shows grassy areas nearby homes can be devastating.
Always use a licensed electrician for wiring issues in your house.
Yes, very common-sense tips. I must admit that changing smoke alarm batteries TWICE a year (rather than once) is a new one to me.
Thank you so much!!
With most homes finishing basements and local codes requiring egress windows, you might consider mentioning them in your “plan an escape route” or some other portion fire safety tips.
Thanks for the checklists. I will add another fire extinguisher to our home.
What a great reminder. Thanks so much.
Thank you for these helpful tips! With aging it helps to follow a plan.
THANKS for info. I was aware of most.
I will pass on to my daughters. Also
Saving in archives for other people who
I think need info. THANKS AGAIN!
Thank You for the reminder!
Especially thanks for the fire extinguisher classes!
Thank You for the reminder!
All excellent advise, I follow this everyday
Professional Firefighter for 30 years; Good & Easy checklist to follow
But what”s the story on electric battery powered autos?
Are they safe to park in a garage attached to your home?
Nice of u to share all of this.
Thank You! All great points.
thanks for the tips. Keep up the good works.
Thank you for this important information.
Excellent checklist, thanks.