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How to Avoid Common Home Hazards: Fire, Electrical, Plumbing

Published April 8, 2022
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This article has been reviewed by licensed insurance industry expert, Moshe Fishman.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” These are important words to live by, especially if you own or rent a home. The Boy Scouts summed up this sentiment even more succinctly with their motto, “Be Prepared.” For homeowners, the first step to protecting your investment and your family is to be prepared. By following the tips below, you can help prevent common fire, electrical, and plumbing hazards in your home. 

Smoke Detectors

In the event of a fire in your home, every second counts. Smoke detectors are essential for alerting your family to the hazard and giving them time to escape. However, not every home has enough working smoke detectors. When installing them in your home, a good rule of thumb to follow is to have an alarm on every level of your home, one in every bedroom, and one in every room where people sleep. Don’t place them next to vents or ceiling fans as this could reduce their effectiveness.

Evaluate your smoke alarms biannually to ensure they’re working properly and replace the batteries. A simple way to remember when it’s time to check your alarms is during daylight saving time. Also, consider investing in smart-technology options like Google Nest Protect which provides real-time monitoring of potential hazards.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense against keeping a fire from spreading in your home. As with smoke alarms, you should have one on each level of your house. Place them in easily accessible areas where household fires commonly start: the kitchen, near heat sources, and the garage. Know how to use a fire extinguisher and replace them every ten years.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer.” This odorless, poisonous gas isn’t usually detected until a person begins experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide leaks come from fuel-burning appliances and sources such as appliances, furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, vehicles, and more.

Unlike smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on walls about five feet above the floor so they can measure the air at the height where people breathe it. Placement of CO alarms is the same as smoke alarms: on every level of the home, the garage, in each bedroom, and near fuel-burning appliances. Test them often and replace them every five to seven years.

Maintain Appliances

Did you know that clothes dryers account for 90% of appliance fires? This is because lint is highly flammable. Be sure to empty the lint filter after each laundry load. Because lint tends to accumulate in areas that aren’t easily accessible such as the filter trap and in the ductwork, have your dryer vent serviced by an air duct and vent cleaning professional once a year. For homes where the dryer is used more frequently, twice a year vent cleaning is recommended. DIY vent cleaning kits can also be bought at home improvement stores.

Use Appliances When Home

No one wants to listen to noisy appliances when they’re relaxing at home. But it’s a good idea to only run appliances when you are home. That way, if your washing machine springs a leak or if your dryer sparks a fire, you’ll be able to mitigate these hazards before they cause excessive damage.

Water Leak Detectors

While most homeowners know about smoke and CO alarms, not as many know about water leak alarms. These smart-technology detectors sound an alert when water leaks are detected, lessening the impact of potential water damage whether you’re at home or away. With built-in temperature monitors, they can even detect if your pipes are about to freeze. Check out the Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector and the Proetus Aquo Wi-Fi Water Sensor which is also compatible with Amazon Alexa.

Home Heating Equipment

Another common cause of fires in the home is home heating equipment such as space heaters and fireplaces. In fact, home heating equipment accounts for half the number of home fires in December, January, and February. To avoid a home fire caused by a fireplace or chimney, have these inspected and cleaned annually by a professional maintenance company. Be sure to use an appropriately sized glass or metal screen with your fireplace to keep sparks from igniting a fire.

With all heating equipment, keep all flammable materials a minimum of three feet away from space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Don’t plug more than one piece of heating equipment into a single outlet. Inspect heating sources such as space heaters regularly to ensure they’re in proper working order. And unplug space heaters when not in use and don’t leave them unattended. 

Inspect Electrical Outlets 

Although inspecting electrical outlets can seem like a daunting item on your home maintenance checklist, it doesn’t have to be. For example, if you plug in a device and notice that it falls out easily or isn’t secure, this is a sign that your outlet contacts need to be replaced.

Another warning sign that calls for an inspection is if your outlets ever emit a spark. While the occasional blown circuit isn’t a cause for alarm, if it happens often, this is a sign that an inspection is due.

When should you call in the professionals for an electrical outlet inspection? The Electrical Safety Foundation recommends an inspection for houses that are more than 40 years old, those that have undergone renovations, and for new homeowners who’ve purchased a previously owned home.

Garages, Basements, and Backyards

These overlooked areas can sometimes become the places where items accumulate and clutter. As such, they have the potential to be hazardous. Be sure to keep any flammable items far away from your furnace, heater, boiler, and water heater. Keep flammable materials such as gasoline, propane, motor oil, paint, paint thinner, and turpentine tightly sealed and in their original containers. Also, keep them away from heat sources. 

Have An Escape Plan

Should disaster strike, make sure that all family members are familiar with your family’s escape plan. Come up with an escape route for every room in your home. Choose someone to aid a family member who might need extra help in the event of an emergency.

If you have a home with upstairs bedrooms, equip each bedroom with escape ladders. Once you have a plan set up, practice it twice a year with family members. 

Be Prepared

You can never be too cautious as a homeowner. When it comes to protecting your biggest investments–your home and your family. Homeowners who adhere to the “Be Prepared” motto are best equipped to prevent common household hazards. The bonus is that you may also receive discounts from some home insurance companies for the installation of security and fire prevention systems. Be sure to check with your insurer for more information.

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