3 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Fire Damage in Your Home
Don’t let your electrical cause you a shock. Keeping the items in your home that provide you power maintained, can decrease your risk of fires. Red River Mutual wants to help before trouble happens, so we’ve outlined three things you can do now to make life easier later.
1.) Check Your Batteries and Electrical
9-Volt Battery Safety
You likely have a few of these in your home in smoke alarms or toys. Most of the time you only think about them when they need replacing, but they can be a fire hazard if they are not stored safely or disposed of with care. Storing them beside the wrong item could cause them to short circuit and make enough heat to cause a fire.
Here’s a list of common household items to keep away from your 9-Volt batteries:
- Steel wool
- Aluminum foil
- Paper clips
- Other batteries
A general rule is to keep them away from other metal objects. Always keep them in the original packaging before use and keep the posts covered after they are unpackaged.
You should also avoid throwing them away with regular trash. Instead, take them to a collections site for household hazardous waste and make sure the ends are taped, just to be safe.
For more information on battery storage and disposal, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
Surge Protectors, Power Strips and Electrical Cords
You can really reduce your risk fire in your home by treating your surge protectors, power strips and electricals with care. We have a few tips to make sure your outlet situation doesn’t result in a claim.
- Be sure to use UL- or CSA-approved devices that have an internal circuit breaker. These have been tested for safety and effective electronics protection and will trip the breaker if they are overloaded or shorted.
- Only use multi‐outlet devices for computers, audio and video equipment and low amperage office equipment.
- Don’t cover these units with carpet, furniture, clothing or any other items that will limit or prevent air circulation, and keep them away from moisture.
- Don’t chain cords together. Plug each cord directly into a structurally-mounted electrical receptacle.
- Only plug one surge protector or power strip into a single duplex electrical outlet.
- Make sure ground pins on the plugs and the devices plugged into the receptacles are intact.
- Double-check that units are free of cracks, splits, fraying and other damage before use.
- Cords must not be coiled or looped when in use.
- Do not run cords through doorways, windows or holes in the wall, floor or ceilings.
- If your multi‐outlet device experiences a fault, the device should be tested by a qualified person prior to placing the device back into service.
- If at any time the surge protector or plug strip is hot to the touch, remove it and replace the unit immediately.
And remember, at the end of the day, all power strips, surge protectors and electrical cords should be treated as temporary – not permanent installations in your home. It’s important to have your home wired in a way that is safe and that works for you.
For more things to watch out for, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
2.) Watch Out for Wiring
Not every type of wiring was created equal. Older homes may have systems that could lead to an increased risk of hazard as they age. Make sure you know if you’re dealing with faulty wiring and be ready to take necessary precautions.
Two types of wiring that you should pay special attention to in older homes are aluminum and knob & tube.
If your home was built in the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, it may contain aluminum wiring and it may be a fire hazard.
The Danger: Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than homes wired with copper. To check to see if you have aluminum wiring present in your home, go to a spot where wiring is visible in your home and examine the insulation for markings that indicate the use of aluminum, such as “KAISER”, “ALCAN”, “ALUMINUM”, “AL”, “ALUM”, “AC” or “ACM”.
How to Prevent a Loss: Look for warm cover plates, discolouration of switches or receptacles, flickering lights or the smell of hot plastic insulation as evidence of problems related to aluminum wiring. If any are present, it’s important to upgrade your home. You have three options:
- Rewiring: Completely rewire the home with copper. This is strongly recommended as the best and most permanent solution.
- “Pigtailing”: This eliminates the aluminum wire connection to switches and outlets by splicing in a short length of copper wire. A certified connector must be used. A COPALUM crimping system creates a cold weld between copper and aluminum wire and is regarded to be a permanent, maintenance‐free repair.
- CO/ALR Outlets: Replace all outlets and switches with those marked with the letters CO/ALR. This greatly reduces the most frequent failures.
Regardless of the method chosen for dealing with outlets and switches, contact a licensed electrician to inspect the aluminum connections in the circuit breaker panel and at all junction boxes and receptacles. For more information about aluminum wiring, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
Knob & Tube
If you live in a home wired between the 1920s and 1970s, there is a chance that you have knob & tube wiring. It relied on the fact that wires were generally routed through the air, suspended by knobs and protected by heavy ceramic tubes when passing through wood. They are less safe than modern electrical circuits because there is no ground wire.
The Danger: Knob and tube wire may become damaged by age, deterioration, or rodent or human interference. It’s safety can also be affected by building changes that incorrectly extend the original circuit and increase the load, or added insulation. Both these changes can also cause the wires to overheat increasing the risk of fire.
How to Prevent a Loss: To prevent a loss, you should get your wiring inspected by a licensed electrician and replace any bad circuits. You can also add ground fault protection and arc fault protection to reduce the chances of electrical shock or fire. However, the safest option is to rewire, as many problems with knob and tube wiring are buried behind walls and in ceilings.
For more detailed information about knob & tube wiring, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
3.) Make Sure You’re Ready
While checking your wiring frequently and removing fire hazards in the home can help prevent a loss situation, it’s still important to be prepared for something to go wrong. Taking fire safety seriously in your home and attached buildings can lessen damage and save lives. Here’s a few tips to keep your loved ones and property safe in a fire.
Kitchen fires are a leading cause of property damage and personal injury. By following a few safety tips, you can prevent most cooking fire incidents.
- Never leave the kitchen unattended when frying, grilling or broiling food.
- Use a timer when simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food and check the kitchen regularly.
- Always turn the oven and burners off when finished cooking.
- Stay alert and avoid cooking when under the influence of medications or alcohol.
- Prevent burns and stovetop fires by turning pot handles toward the back of the stove and use the rear burners when children are in the kitchen.
- Keep all cooking appliances clean and free of spills and grease that may catch fire.
- Keep all combustibles including oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, pot holders and curtains away from hot surfaces.
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many kitchen appliances and ensure electrical cords are not frayed, cracked or damaged.
- Be sure to test smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Keep a class ABC general purpose fire extinguisher in the kitchen or pantry for emergency use and inspect it monthly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For more information on how to prevent and respond to kitchen fires, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
Fires that begin in attached garages are more likely to spread to living areas than fires that originate in detached garages. For this reason, combined with the increased risk of severe fire due to the multitude of flammable materials commonly found in garages, attached garages should be adequately sealed from living areas.
Several measures can be used to properly seal, separate and protect your living space from a garage fire:
- Make sure your walls or ceilings have the recommended drywall.
- Make sure all flammable items are properly stored and remove any unnecessary hazards like faulty extension cords or oily rags.
- Make sure your door is properly equipped to stop a fire and pet doors don’t compromise their safety.
For more details and further instructions to increase the safety of your garage, check out this full Loss Prevention Tip.
Power Your Home Safely
Keeping the wires in your walls and the batteries in your drawers in tip top shape might save you more than just property. Keeping your home safe, keeps your loved ones safe too. For more safety tips for your home, head over to our Loss Prevention Tips Archive.