Buying that very first home is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is an exciting and overwhelming experience as well, making it easy to forget key things or make unwise decisions. If you have plans to buy a first house in the near future, would you do yourself and your family a favour by making fire safety a priority? Getting into the habit of practising fire safety in your first house will translate into your second, and third, and so on.
Fire is something we are all aware of. But for some reason, few of us stop to realise how easy it would be to fall victim to a residential fire. We tend to think that those sorts of things only happen to other people. But if the house down the street can catch fire, so can yours.
In England alone, local fire services attended more than 539,000 incidents in 2020. Approximately 28% of them were fires. The good news is that the number of fires in England was down seven percentage points from a decade ago. But still, hundreds of thousands of fires every year means hundreds of thousands of opportunities for injuries and deaths.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
We hear about smoke detectors and their carbon monoxide counterparts all the time. Local fire services talk about them. So does the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other government entities. And in fact, most of our homes are equipped with them. Yet having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home doesn’t help if they aren’t working.
When you buy your first home, make sure there are adequate detectors throughout. Also, make sure they work. If they do not, replace them. And once you move in, make a point of regularly testing them. It only takes a few seconds to test each one. That’s not a lot of time when you consider that a working detector could save your life.
Just remember that smoke and carbon monoxide are both considered silent killers. Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous because it is odourless and colourless. You and your family could be overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning before you had time to know what’s happening.
A Fire Extinguisher in the Kitchen
A fair number of residential fires start in the kitchen. They are often cooking fires that quickly got out of control. Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to minimise the risk of kitchen fires: keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. The one caveat here is that you choose the right model. There are distinct types of fire extinguishers classified according to the type of fire you are fighting.
Experts used to recommend a basic water fire extinguisher for home use. However, water extinguishers are not very useful for kitchen fires. But no worries. There is now a new kind of all-purpose fire extinguisher appropriate for almost any minor fire in the home. It is known as the water mist extinguisher.
You can buy fire extinguishers online from companies that specialise in safety products. Likewise, you might find general-purpose extinguishers for the home at DIY stores and other outlets. You can always check with your local fire service for more information as well.
In closing this particular section, remember to have your fire extinguisher inspected on an annual basis. Your local fire service may be able to do that for you. If not, you will have to contact a local company that offers inspections. At any rate, an annual inspection ensures that your fire extinguishers are always in good working order.
Formulate an Exit Plan
Your new home is going to be somewhat unfamiliar to you for the first few weeks you live there. This is the most dangerous time in terms of escaping a fire. Within your first day or so, take a few minutes to formulate an exit plan. Figure out how you and your family will escape in the event of a fire.
Once you have a plan, write it down. Then share it with your family. Make sure every family member understands where to go and how to get out. In the event that you have young children in need of assistance, other family members should understand how to provide assistance in the event of an emergency.
Also, note that you may need more than one exit plan. Why? Because fires can break out in any section of a home. You and your family might not be able to get out the front door. Your kids might not even be able to escape their rooms. They may have to use a window. These are things that should be covered in your exit plan.
All of the advice given so far relates to how you react once a fire begins. But wouldn’t you rather prevent fires in the first place? It’s possible. Just by employing some common-sense practices, you can greatly reduce the risks of a fire breaking out in your new home.
- Safe Cooking – For starters, practice safe cooking. Never leave food unattended on the stove. If you are using hot oil, be extremely careful. Never utilise more than you need in a pot or pan.
- Using Candles – Be very cautious when using candles. A lit candle should never be left unattended in a room. It should never be placed anywhere near flammable items, including draperies, clothing, upholstery, etc.
- Electrical Cords – Regularly inspect any electrical cords that remain plugged in all the time. Check for fraying and breaks. If you see any damage, unplug the cord and repair it. Also, avoid extension cords when possible. Extension cords should never be left plugged in long term.
- Tobacco Use – Careless smoking is one of the most common causes of residential fires that do not start in the kitchen. If you use tobacco, do so safely. Never smoke in bed. Likewise, do not sit in a chair and smoke if you are drowsy. Falling asleep with a lit cigarette is a recipe for disaster.
It is exciting to buy that first house. Buying a house is an opportunity to settle down and build a life for yourself and your family. Increase your chances of making it your best life possible by doing everything you can to avoid house fires. And should a fire start anyway, be sure you are prepared for it ahead of time. The more seriously you take fire, the less likely it will victimise you.