Throughout your home there may be a number of common hazards that can cause destructive fires threatening your property and, more importantly, the lives of the people you love. New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association has put together this Check List to help you identify some of these potential hazards and suggested actions to correct them.
NYPIUA has provided this Check List as a starting point for better home fire safety. NYPIUA disclaims any liability and is not an insurer or guarantor of anyone regarding implementation of these suggestions. These suggestions should lessen the possibility of a fire occurring in your home, but they do not guarantee your home will be free of all fire hazards. Depending on your local building code, many of the Check List items can be safely accomplished by you, the homeowner, with the important exception of electrical work. All electrical work must be done by a licensed electrician. Please contact your local building inspector for more information.
Fire Safety Checklist
Electrical problems are a common cause of fire. The fundamental safety problem with electricity is the overloading of wires, extension cords, circuits or fuses. Some electrical hazards can be avoided by taking simple steps, such as removing an extension cord. Other hazards are best left to licensed electrical professionals with special knowledge and training. DO NOT try to do electrical work yourself.
Fuse or circuit breaker that repeatedly blows or trips; damaged or poorly maintained circuit breaker or fuse panel.
- Make sure combined amperage of appliances does not exceed capacity of circuit breaker or fuse.
- Inspect and test the breaker panel periodically.
- If a tripping condition persists or if there is discoloration or overheating, call a licensed electrician.
Misuse, overuse of extension cords; faulty or damaged extension or power cords.
- Minimize use of extension cords.
- If possible, reposition appliances to minimize the need for extension cords.
- Only use properly rated extension cords.
- If a cord is hot to the touch, unplug it immediately.
- Reposition cords to prevent damage. Never run an extension cord under a rug.
- Never use an extension cord or appliance whose cord is worn, frayed or damaged.
Portable Electric Space Heaters
Portable electric space heaters are a serious fire hazard, if not used properly. Special attention must be paid to the manufacturer's directions regarding safe operation.
Improper use of portable space heater.
- Move the heater a safe distance (minimum 3 feet) from upholstered furniture, drapes, curtains, bedding or other combustible materials.
- If the manufacturer warns against using extension cords, remove the cord.
- Turn off and unplug heater before going to bed or leaving the house.
Over twenty-five percent of residential fires start in the kitchen. A stove introduces open flame or intense heat into your family's living space.
Improper use of oven or stove.
- Remove flammable liquids (ex. solvents or cleaners) or combustible items (ex. towels, pot holders, curtains) from above or near stove.
- Do not use the stove as a counter space.
- Remove candy, cookies or other items attractive to children from above or near stove.
- Never leave a stove unattended.
- Never use stove burners or ovens as supplemental room heating.
- Never leave a stove or other heat producing appliance on when you are away from home.
- Keep a pot lid nearby to smother grease or oil flare-ups. Then turn off the burner.
Candles are often the cause of unintended home fires.
Improper use of candles.
- Extinguish or remove candles near an open window or in an area subject to drafts.
- Move candles a safe distance away from upholstered furniture, drapes or other combustibles.
- Secure candles in proper holders in a safe location away from traffic areas.
Cigarette Lighters, Matches and Smoking
Every year, lives are lost and injuries suffered in fires started by children playing with commonly accessible lighters or matches. Always keep lighters and matches out of sight and reach of children. Smoking, one of the smallest fire sources, is a significant cause of fires in the home.
Lighters and matches accessible to children; smoldering smoking materials.
- Keep lighters and matches in a childproof location.
- Teach children that lighters and matches are , "tools, not toys."
- After parties, check behind seat cushions and under furniture for ashes or un-extinguished cigarettes.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Make sure all smoking materials are extinguished before emptying ashtrays.
Flammable Liquids and Combustible Debris
Flammable liquids should be moved away from ignition sources or heat to reduce the risk of fire. Of particular importance are flammable liquids, such as gasoline or paint thinners with vapors that may be ignited by a small spark or flame that is nowhere near the liquid itself.
Improper storage of flammable liquids (ex. gasoline, alcohol, paint thinner, turpentine, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid) or oily or greasy rags; accumulation of combustible debris or rubbish (ex. old newspapers) near house or near sources of heat or ignition.
- Remove and relocate flammable liquids away from sources of ignition; store in properly labeled, tightly sealed metal containers out of reach of children. If possible, store outside of house.
- Remove paint rags and oily cleaning rags from the house.
- Remove and relocate combustible debris a safe distance away from the house. Properly dispose of material as soon as possible.
- Relocate common combustibles stored near a hot water heater, furnace or other source of heat or flame.
Smoke Detectors Save Lives!
Life Safety Actions
Losing your property to a fire is a sobering thought; your home represents an investment on your part of time, energy, and money. However, there is nothing more devastating than having a family member injured or killed in a fire that could have been avoided.
Here are some actions you can take to be "Safe at Home."
- Properly install, according to manufacturer's instructions, at least one audible smoke detector on every floor in the house near and in bedrooms.
- Test detectors monthly.
- Follow manufacturer's instructions to clean the detector. Accumulated dust or grease may cause malfunction.
- Change the batteries twice a year when you change your clock for Daylight Savings Time.
- Develop a home escape plan and have periodic exit drills involving all members of the family, including small children.
- Include a safety meeting place outside of the house to check that everyone got out safely.
- Post the fire department number on or near every telephone.
- If a fire occurs, get out of the house.
- Once out of the house, do not go back inside. Call the fire department from a neighbor's house.