National Fire Prevention Month: Ideas for Safety

October 25, 2019

It's a good time when we should all be aware of ways to help learn fire safety and prevention.

According to the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), most Americans underestimate their risk for fire and many either lack emergency response plans or fail to fireproof their homes.1 California is particularly known for its propensity of wildfires, which in recent years have become deadlier and more destructive. However, over 60 percent of the home fires nationwide actually start in the kitchen. Read more to learn about the things you can do to increase your home’s fire resilience, prevent costly repairs and tragedies. 

Home fires are a big problem in the United States. Sadly, most Americans underestimate their risk of fire, especially if they live in areas that are not prone to wildfires. However, over 60 percent of the home fires nationwide actually start in the kitchen and they generally increase during the fall and winter, with December and January being the peak months. The second leading cause of home fires is heating sources like wood stoves, and fireplaces.2

No home is fireproof, but by taking precautions, you can help prepare your home. Below is a list of suggested things you can do to increase your home’s fire resilience, prevent costly repairs and tragedies. 

1. Install fire hardening upgrades

If you live in an area prone to wildfires, Farmers Insurance recommends upgrading your home with non-flammable materials such as:3 

  • Fire-resistant roofing material,
  • Double-paned and tempered windows,
  • Box in eaves, fascias, soffits, and subfloors with fire-resistant materials like treated wood, reducing the vent sizes.
  • Apply ¼” non-combustible screening to all vent or eave openings.
  • Install spark arresters in chimneys.
  • Enclose undersides of decks with fire-resistant materials.
  • Cover exterior walls with fire-resistant materials like stucco, stone, or brick. (Vinyl siding can melt and is not recommended).
  • Install noncombustible street signs

Some of these fire-hardening upgrades may be eligible under PACE for 100% financing, click here to request more information.

2. Install smoke alarms

Install some alarms outside each sleeping area and on each level of your home. If you and your family sleep with the doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas too. Make sure they work properly and are often maintained. According to the American Red Cross, NFPA reported that 74 percent of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms.2

3. Get a fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is a great tool, but like any tool, you have to learn to use it properly and safely. Extinguishing even a small fire takes practice and quick thinking. You can learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher by contacting your local fire department to get training.

4. Create an escape fire plan and put together an emergency kit

Fires can ignite very quickly and without warning, leaving you and your loved ones with little or no time to escape. Become familiar with your community’s disaster preparedness plans and create a plan for your family, it is recommended that you practice the plan with your family members at least twice a year.2 If you live in California we suggest downloading the wildfire readiness app. 

In addition, put together an emergency kit that includes first aid supplies; a portable NOAA weather radio; basic tools; emergency water; canned food; hygiene products; a flashlight; fresh batteries for each piece of equipment; clothing: blankets; baby items; prescription medications; extra car and house keys; extra eyeglasses; credit cards and cash; and important documents, including insurance policies,

5. Take precautions against kitchen fires, and against fireplace hazards

Keep children and flammable items such as kitchen towels and grocery bags away from the stove and oven. Quickly clean up greasy spills to remove another fire hazard. Don’t leave cooking food unattended. If you become distracted or need to leave the room for any reason, turn off the cooking appliance and remove the food from the heat source. This is the number one cause of kitchen fires.4

Properly maintain your wood-burning appliance to prevent potential problems like overheating, which could lead to fires. Keep an eye on your wood stove doors’ seals to ensure they aren’t crumbling. Also, monitor your chimney for wear and tear on pipe, stone, mortar, or chimney bricks that could pose a fire hazard.5

Don’t let the ashes from previous fires build up in the bottom of your fireplace or your wood stove. Anything more than one inch of ash could lead to smokier fires, as it becomes more difficult for oxygen to find its way to the wood. It is recommended to schedule annual inspections and cleaning of your chimney by a qualified technician.5 
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1 FEMA. October Is National Fire Prevention Month
2 American Red Cross. Home fires: America’s Biggest Disaster Threat. 

3 Farmers Insurance. Wildfire Defense To Help Your Home.
4 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Cooking.
5 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wood Burning Installation and Maintenance.