There’s a reason spring cleaning is so popular-the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and there is a sense of newness in the air! There’s no better time to open up those windows and scrub away all signs of winter. However, spring cleaning isn’t just for dusting and decluttering. It’s also a great chance to assess and address safety issues, especially fire hazards.
Every 89 seconds, a fire department responds to a home fire in the U.S. And according to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2020, home fires were responsible for 3,500 deaths, 15,200 injuries, and $21.9 billion in property damage.
When you clean with fire safety in mind, you help protect your home and family from these often-unforeseen fire safety dangers. To help you stay safe this season, we’ve compiled the top safety cleaning tips from fire departments around the country.
Tip #1: Clear your stovetop of fire hazards.
Stovetops account for the majority of kitchen fires. Making sure that there are no flammable hazards nearby will help prevent the flames from catching and spreading a fire.
- Keep your stovetop clean between cooking meals.
- Put space between your stove and anything flammable: oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, wooden stove covers, and kitchen curtains.
- Keep your kitchen counter free of grease or clutter.
- Always stay near the food you are cooking.
- Turn pot handles inward so you can’t accidentally bump them.
Tip #2: Clean the lint trap in your dryer.
Dryers are a common cause of home fires, and too often, the lint traps are the culprit. Making sure your lint trap is not too full will help.
- Clean lint filters before or after each load.
- Remove lint from around the dryer rim.
- Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is free and clear, and that the outdoor vent flap opens when the dryer is on.
- Move flammable items like cardboard and cleaning supplies away from the dryer, especially when it is on.
Tip #3: Check extension cords, outlets, and wiring.
Damaged cords, overtaxed outlets, and old wiring can cause electrical fires. Check these items to make sure that your electrical setup is not putting your safety at risk.
- Check for frayed or damaged extension cords. If you find any, throw them out and replace them.
- Make sure your extension cords are rated for the appliances and items that they are powering.
- Do not put electric cords under carpets or across doorways.
- Check to make sure that your outlets aren’t overloaded.
- If an electric appliance smokes, smells funny, or is drawing heat when plugged in, unplug it.
- If you’re familiar with your home’s electrical system and you can take a look, check for scorch marks or frayed wires. Call an electrician to update or rewire the system.
Tip #4: Check for potential fire hazards.
As you do your spring cleaning, check your home for possible fire hazards. Then, take the steps to minimize their risk.
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can burn. Turn them off before leaving the room and before going to sleep.
- Practice safety with candle flames. Store matches where children cannot get them. Alternatively use child-resistant lighters.
- If you have a chimney, get it professionally cleaned and inspected. Chimneys can have a build-up accumulation of creosote, a flammable substance that lines the flue.
- Keep cleaning fluids away from heat sources. Many are combustible. These chemicals could even heat up to dangerous levels outside in the sun. (Consider non-toxic cleaners that are safer when heated, such as vinegar mixed with water.)
Tip #5: Remove potential hazards from the garage.
The garage is where we often store our extra stuff. That includes items that could fuel a fire. As part of your cleaning routine, declutter the garage.
- Remove stored newspapers, wrapping paper, blankets, and other flammable items that you may be storing in the garage.
- Dispose of oil or greasy rags. Never leave them in a pile. If you must keep them, store them in a labeled metal container.
- Move propane or gasoline outside your home to a shed or detached garage.
- Check your lawn mower’s gas tank for rust. Make sure the fuel line has no leaks. Check any other gas-powered tools, too.
Tip #6: Clear your outside space.
Even fallen leaves and grass clippings can become fuel for a fire. That’s why clearing your yard is so important.
- Clean away dead vegetation, fallen branches, and any debris.
- Clean leaves from your roof and gutters.
- Move trash and woodpiles at least 30 feet away from your house.
- Replace mulch, and keep it at least 3 feet from the house.
- Position your barbecue grill away from your home. Also, keep it away from windows, heating and air conditioning units, and vegetation. Clean the grease or fat buildup every time you cook.
- Make sure your propane hose has no leaks or cracks. If you smell gas when you turn it on, shut it off immediately.
Tip #7: Be prepared.
Despite your best efforts, fires can happen. Make sure you are fully prepared to know about them and to take action.
- Test smoke alarms monthly. Make sure they have working batteries. Replace batteries every six months. Replace the smoke detectors every 10 years.
- Make sure smoke detectors are on every level of the house, including the basement, and outside every bedroom. Consider interconnected smoke alarms, so if one goes off, then all will sound the alarm.
- Keep fire extinguishers fully charged and easily reachable.
- Make sure doors and windows easily open in case of the need to escape fast.
- Display your house number prominently in case you need to call for help.
- Create a family escape plan. Include a map of each level of your home. Make sure there are 2 escape routes for each room, such as a window and door. Make sure you account for pets, and also name an outside meeting place in the event of an emergency.
- Practice the plan so that everyone is ready, just in case.
For more home tips on fire safety this spring, check out our blog on The 6 Most At-Risk Fire Areas of Your Home.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.