October 4-10 is National Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention Week has been an annual event in the U.S. since 1925 and it was President Calvin Coolidge that made the first proclamation. The week is held in October to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Fire Prevention Week is dedicated to asking those questions and taking actions we don’t normally think of. Is my fire extinguisher up to date? Does everyone in my house know the best way to put out a kitchen fire? Are flammable items in the garage or basement being stored properly? When was the last time the dryer hose was cleaned?
BBB encourages everyone to take the time this week to address those areas of your home that could pose a fire risk. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 354,400 from 2013-2017, resulting in $6.9 billion in direct property damage. NFPA is a great resource that addresses the importance of fire safety, the history of fire prevention week, and articles and tips on how to prevent a house fire.
The American Red Cross (a BBB Accredited Charity) also provides fire safety tips.
To ensure fire safety in your home:
- Clean your chimney. Before the cold really hits, contact a chimney sweep or chimney service company for a professional cleaning. BBB.org can provide a listing of BBB Accredited Chimney Sweeps in your area. Find a Chimney sweep or chimney service near you.
- Check those cords. Inspect all electrical cords not only in the living quarters, but those outside the house and in the attic, crawl space and basement. Get rid of any cords that are frayed, taped, or feel hot when in use. Do not run cords under rugs.
- Inspect your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Neither of these items last forever. Smoke detectors should be tested every month and replaced every 10 years. Fire extinguishers should be tested yearly and replaced or serviced based upon the date stamped on the extinguisher. Make sure all those in your household know how to use the fire extinguisher in your home.
- Clean your dryer vent and ducts. It’s surprising how quickly lint can build up in the vents and ducts. Replace any plastic venting items with ones made of metal. If you need help with this type of maintenance, a BBB Accredited Heating Contractor can assist. Find a heating contractor near you.
- Take inventory of flammables. Know what flammable items and chemicals are in your garage and basement. Make sure they are sealed properly and stored away from things that could ignite them.
- Visit your local fire station. Fire departments are a great community resourse that can offer practical advise and statistics about fires in your community. Many offer free smoke detectors and targeted fire prevention education.
- Plan your escape route. Even after making preventive safety measures, the unexpected can still occur. During a house fire, residents may only have one to two minutes to exit their home. Having a plan and practicing it can help eliminate panic should an emergency arise. Try to have two ways to exit out of each room.
- Know when to ask for help. There are some types of repairs or maintenance that may require the help of a professional. To get a listing of trustworthy businesses or to check out a business you are considering hiring, visit BBB.org.