This Thanksgiving, thank goodness that fires are covered in a standard Homeowners Insurance policy, right? Well, if you consider the fact that a Homeowners Insurance claim will only cover rebuilding your home, not its current value, you may decide to be a little more careful when it comes to fire safety. Accidents and mishaps happen more often around this time of year, but fires in the home also happen far too frequently around the holidays. We’ve made a list of the most common holiday disasters, along with a list of do’s and don’ts. We hope we can help you prevent a fire this year and wish you and your friends and family a happy and safe holiday. Make sure to share these important tips with everyone near and dear to you.
Call an Insurance Specialist if you have questions regarding Homeowners Insurance or the limits you should have on your policy for fire protection, call (855) 919-4247.
Kitchen Safety and Kitchen Fires
Novices and experienced cooks alike have experienced kitchen fires. Don’t panic if a grease fire starts. Just take proper steps to contain it, even though fire is a covered peril in a Homeowners Insurance policy.
- Make sure smoke detectors are working but don’t expect them to do all the work. Don’t leave food in the oven or on the stovetop unattended. No, not even while it’s simmering.
- Make sure the oven is clean of food particles that may catch fire before you preheat the oven.
- If you’re deep frying, take your turkey outside. Do your deep frying on a flat, level surface that is not too close to your home (at least 10 feet away).
- If there’s a kitchen fire, turn off the stove, microwave or oven. Remember that cutting off oxygen is the best way to suffocate a fire. Close the oven door if something’s burning or cover the stovetop fire with a lid if possible – but only if the lid is not hot.
- If the fire won’t go out, grab the fire extinguisher. If you never thought to have a fire extinguisher in your home, you really should consider one. If you’ve had the extinguisher for a long time, make sure it has not expired. While one fire extinguisher cannot contain a fire that has spread, it is handy to keep in the kitchen in case there is ever a small grease fire, the culprit of most kitchen fires. Always activate the extinguisher from a safe distance.
- If the fire is spreading, make sure to evacuate everyone from the house and call 911 from a safe distance.
- Make sure that you not only have Homeowners Insurance but also that your limits are sufficient. Fire is always included in a standard Homeowners Insurance policy, but if you have built additions to your home or made expensive renovations or purchases, you may not be covered for the improvements without proof.
- Don’t leave ovens and stoves unattended for more than a few minutes at a time. A fire can escalate very quickly and without much warning. A fire may be burning and spreading for quite some time before you smell smoke.
- Don’t try to douse a fire in water. It will cause the oil to spray and the flames to spread to other surfaces.
Votive candles, decorative candles, candles scented like vanilla and Cinnamon – We love lighting them all during the holidays, but they can be dangerous when left unattended. Remember, the fewer claims on your Homeowners Insurance policy, the less you pay for coverage.
- Always leave adequate space between a candle and anything that can burn.
- Consider using flameless LED candles, which are much safer, especially if there are children and pets around.
- Keep an eye on any candles that are burning. Never leave the room for more than couple of minutes.
- Never use real candles as ornaments on trees, wreathes and other decorations.
- Don’t leave candles lit in an unattended room. Make it a habit to blow them out when exiting a room.
- There are very few things as flammable as a dry Christmas tree, so you never want to leave one near any outlets, plugs or flames.
- Lighting or string lights with frayed wiring or broken sockets can be enough to turn your tree into a fireball faster than it takes to call the fire department. Avoid using electrical decorations/lights and get more creative with your ornaments.
- Buy a fresh tree that is too hydrated to catch fire. Ideally, you’ll water it every day to keep it fresh and impossible to ignite. After a month, it will be a dry tree, no matter how much water you give it, so take down the decorations and throw the tree away.
- If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant. Even still, avoid using electrical ornaments and choose LED string lights over other types.
- Turn off electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.
Outdoor Decorative Lights
- Inspect all the string lights you plan to hang outside. Make sure there are no frayed wires or cracked/broken sockets.
- Only use extension cords and decorations meant for outdoor use.
- Make sure you only buy decorations that you can power electrically. Match the power needed by your electrical decorations with the amperage rating of your extension cords. Otherwise, they can overheat and cause a fire.
- Turn off electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.
- Don’t string more than three strings of lights together, and make sure extension cords are working properly and are not damaged.
- Don’t leave lights hanging outside all-year round. Take them down within a couple of months after the holidays to prevent damage from the elements and wildlife. It only takes one small problem in the wiring to create a spark that leads to a fire.
- Have your chimney walls cleaned out before using your fireplace for its first use of the year. Soot hardens and can prevent proper ventilation. It also turns into a flammable substance.
- Install a screen to the fireplace if you don’t already have one. Not only will the screen prevent flying embers from catching fire on the floor or carpeting, it’ll also keep pets and children away. However, pets and children still need to be attended near a working fire.
- Never throw paper or scraps in the fire. Only burn wood that is specified for use in a fireplace (seasoned wood).
- Don’t throw the embers from the fireplace outside or in the trash. They need to cool for 24 hours to no longer be flammable.
- Don’t leave pets and children unattended near a fire.
- Check your electrical outlets and make sure any holiday lighting you’re using is frayed or damaged at the connection. Loose terminals or crushed cables are fire hazards. Faulty cords can start a fire when they come into connection with rugs, curtains, floors and flammable objects. The source of an electrical fire can also be a faulty appliance.
- Check for problems in the wiring in your house. If you live in an older home, make sure to learn what the maximum amount of electricity is that your wiring can take. Otherwise, you’re at risk for a fire.
- Check your breaker boxes. Old connectors can easily start electrical fires with an overload of electricity. Make sure to have them replaced, especially if you live in an older home and the connectors look worn.
- If your home is more than 50 years old and has never had the wiring updated, your house is a major fire risk. An older home’s electrical system cannot handle the electrical loaded needed for today’s home appliances. You need to hire an electrician to rewire your entire home.
- Do not attempt to control or put out the fire yourself. It’s the job of an expert to figure out what the exact source of an electrical fire is. Get yourself and everyone else, including pets, out of the home immediately. Call 911 as soon as you are in a safe place.
- Don’t remove the grounding plug from a cord to use it in a two-prong electrical outlet. Only outlets that can handle the amount of electricity the appliance requires have three prongs. Don’t try to trick the outlet or else you may start a fire.
- We rarely think of bulbs as safety hazards, aside from scenarios of draping fabric or paper over the bulb. However, there is also a maximum recommended bulb-wattage on most lighting fixtures and lamps. Follow them!
- Heating appliances and lights are the usual suspects for electrical fires. Don’t leave space heaters close to anything that may catch fire from the heat. The coiled space heaters tend to be more dangerous than the kind that radiates heat from a surface.
- Don’t become overly reliant on extension cords. They often cause sparks that catch fire, especially when they are overloaded.
What Are the Signs of an Electrical Fire?
- If your circuit breaker keeps tripping or if there’s a lingering smell of smoke without an obvious source, you should have the electrical system in your home checked out.
- Don’t keep resetting the breaker because it may overheat and cause a fire. If it keeps tripping you may be at risk for an electrical fire. The older your home is, the more prone it is to one.
- A burnt smell may be coming from a short circuit. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, short circuits are the number one cause of electrical fires.
- Check for discolored outlets and switches.
- It’s always best to consult an electrician if you have recurring problems with a circuit breaker, see discoloration near outlets and switches, or if burnt smells persist.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.