Prevent Home Fires: 7 Super Simple Things You Can Do Today

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 12, 2024

As you mark this year’s Fire Prevention Week on the calendar, think about Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. Their actual role in the Great Chicago Fire will always be open to debate, but the tragedy remains a formative part of our history.

You might not have a barn or a cow here in the city, but how safe are you from the threat of fire at your home?

As Chicago’s leading fire repair contractor, we know that preventing home fires doesn’t have to be complicated. Consider the statistics, and then put simple action plans into place today that keep you safe year-round.

The Numbers Raise Alarms

You might wonder why we have a week dedicated to something as basic as fire safety. The numbers make it clear that we need to work on our awareness. More than 1.3 million fires last year represented an increase of 3.7 percent over incidents in 2014. The results were 3,280 deaths, 15,700 injuries and property damage totaling $14.3 billion.

You don’t have to be a statistic. It’s impossible to prevent all house fires, but you can take steps that minimize your risks and greatly increase the personal safety of everyone in your home.

7 Simple Things You Can Do Today

Ever since 1927, Fire Prevention Week has focused on a different theme. This year, it’s all about the smoke alarm, so this small but vital appliance leads off our list of simple things you can do to prevent home fires.

1. Do More Than Test the Smoke Alarm

Three out of every five house fire fatalities occur in homes that don’t have a working smoke alarm. It’s not enough to change batteries and test the trigger mechanism.

  • Mount smoke alarms on each level of your home including basements and attics as well as inside all bedrooms.
  • Regularly test alarms, and log battery-changing schedules on digital calendars that remind you of the dates.
  • Don’t depend on smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old. The equipment becomes less reliable over time.

Protect your home from fire by being aware of different equipment around the house that can pose hidden dangers.

• Keep up with professional furnace and heating system inspections so that equipment operates safely.
• Make sure that your home’s electrical system gets the same professional attention once a year.

2. Don’t Leave the Kitchen While You’re Cooking

Your stove and oven don’t look dangerous, but cooking equipment is statistically the leading cause of home fires, so always be very careful around open flames.

If you leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off burners, and turn on a timer to remind you that the stove’s still on. Keep dish towels, pot holders and plastic utensils away from open flames.

Never rely on water to put out a kitchen fire. Always have a fully charged fire extinguisher close by.

Power Tip: Toaster ovens can generate intense electrical heat in just a few minutes. Always keep a close eye on these countertop appliances when in use.

3. Never Crowd Space Heaters

With chilly weather moving in, portable space heaters are moving out of storage spots in closets and basements.

Treat these portable furnaces with extreme caution. Always make sure that they have at least 3 feet of clearance on all sides, and locate them away from kids, pets and fabrics.•

Turn off space heaters when leaving a room for any length of time. Don’t use them after the family goes to bed.

4. Check Cords, Plugs and Outlets

Electrical cords fray, and wires come loose. A favorite lamp with damaged connections can quickly become a fire hazard.

Check everything around the house that plugs in while making sure outlets aren’t overloaded.

Routinely check appliance cords for frays and cracks.

5. Move Cigarette Smokers Outside

Establish a no-smoking policy inside the house, and explain why it’s so important. Designate smoking zones with deep ashtrays, and insist that smokers stay away from areas where they might sleep.

This can be a touchy subject, so approach it as both a safety issue and a problem that affects everyone’s health in your home.

Power Tip: Designate smoker seating outside with containers of water nearby for safe disposal of extinguished cigarettes. This keeps the area safe by controlling dangerous litter.

6. Trade Wax for Batteries

When storms blow through and knock out the electricity, you bring out the candles. You also set up an open-flame hazard that needs to be permanently extinguished. Eliminate dangerous paraffin-based illumination by safely lighting up the house with battery-powered candles.

7. Talk to the Kids and Make Practice a Routine

If you have children at home, get them interested in Fire Prevention Week, and use it as a kid-friendly introduction to this serious subject. Youngsters enjoy learning, so let them take on a sense of grown-up responsibility as they become an important part of your fire safety strategies.

Make Plans and Develop Partners

A little due diligence makes a huge difference in your safety at home. As you include our simple steps in your overall fire prevention strategies, be sure that you also have a plan in place so that you can respond to a house fire quickly:

• Develop an evacuation plan with your family and pets so that everyone understands exactly what to do.
• If possible, designate two exits from every room, and always keep these areas free of clutter.
• Practice fire evacuation drills every six months that end at a designated safe meeting place outside.
• Make sure that everyone knows to stop, drop and roll in case their clothing catches on fire.
• Store important personal documents like medical, bank and insurance records in a fireproof container.

A fully developed fire prevention plan works best when you partner with neighbors, get to know your first responders and make fire safety a community goal. We’re proud to do our part by raising awareness across the city for Fire Prevention Week, 2016.

Secure Your Home Investment

Prevention plans are also very important to help secure the investment that you’ve made in your home. A residential fire represents a huge economic loss, but you can ease the recovery process by making sure that important records and action plans are always in place.

• Review your home insurance policy to make sure that the house is covered for its full value.
• Talk with your insurance company about the details of your fire coverage. If necessary, adjust and update terms.
• Store insurance papers in a fireproof container, and back them up with digital copies.
• Email your digital records to your online address, or store them with a cloud backup service.
• Take photos of your home’s interior and exterior every year to document its value for the insurance company.
• Talk with a professional restoration contractor about best practices for securing your home and personal property.

Stay Safe Every Day

servicemaster fire restoration truck

Preventing home fires is a big responsibility, but it’s one that’s easy to handle when you’re equipped with simple strategies. We’re committed to sharing information that helps you stay secure and protect your home. Let us know how we’re doing through our comments section.

It’s our hope that Fire Prevention Week helps keep everyone safer every day. If the worst should happen, you can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba year-round. We’re always here for you 24/7 with the very best fire restoration services available in Chicago and the Suburbs.