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In an instant, a fire can turn from a controlled flame to an out-of-control fire that destroys a home. That’s why the time to take action for an unexpected event, or to ward one off, is before it ever starts.

According to Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA), 78 percent of all structure fires occur in residences — both apartments and single-family homes. Nearly all fires are accidents and most are preventable — with fireproofing.

But there’s more to fireproofing a home than keeping a fire extinguisher on hand and testing fire alarms. To keep your home safer, consider a few these tips:

Kitchen

  • According to FEMA, the greatest cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. The best defense is to never leave things unattended — especially on the stove top. For things in the oven, set a timer if you have to leave the room. Regular oven checks are also a good idea.
  • Kitchen counters are often cluttered with flammable items: paper towels, oven mitts, papers. Keep clutter to a minimum, especially near stove tops.

Bedroom

  • Only use electric blankets and space heaters that have been approved by nationally recognized testing laboratories.
  • Do not trap electric cords against walls or under the bed where heat can build up.
  • Piles of old clothing and papers can create a flammable hazard that spreads fire quickly. Clean out closets and storage places regularly.
  • Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard, which requires higher safety standards for manufacturers.
  • Do not drape clothing (scarves, hats) on top of lamp shades. It doesn’t take much for the clothing to ignite from the heat of the bulb.

Electrical and Appliances

  • We all do it occasionally, but leaving an appliance on — even the dishwasher — greatly increases the chances of a fire. The appliance can short out and spark, which can shortly turn into a disaster if you’re not home.
  • Check appliance and fixture cords for fraying.
  • Never overload an outlet with too many things plugged in. If you continually trip a circuit and blow a fuse, you’re increasing your fire risk. Call an electrician to get to the bottom of the problem.
  • Never leave your home with the clothes dryer running.
  • Clean out dryer lint traps, stoves, and replace filters on your vacuum and furnace.
  • Have your wiring checked out, especially in older homes, and in crawl spaces and attics where sparks can ignite dry insulation. Older knob-and-tube wiring can deteriorate over time and the wires can become exposed.

Insurance

Despite your best efforts, no home will ever be completely fireproof. Make sure you’re familiar with your home insurance or renters’ insurance policies in case of a fire.

 

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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