5 Ways to Prevent Fires (and How to Respond to a House Fire Appropriately)

House fires are a possibility even in the safest environment, but if you invest in the right prevention strategies and know how to respond to a fire that’s in progress, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of survival.

With nearly 1,000 house structure fires every day, and the possibility of total home destruction on the line, this isn’t a subject you can afford to take lightly. Thankfully, the strategies necessary to improve your family’s fire safety are simple, inexpensive, and accessible.

Strategies to Prevent House Fires

Your first line of defense is preventing fires from occurring. While some fires (like those due to lightning strikes) are almost completely unavoidable, the majority of fires are entirely preventable with these five strategies:

  • Manage your fireplace appropriately. Fireplaces are fantastic for keeping your home warm and creating a cozy environment, but they can also increase your risk of experiencing a fire. That said, there are easy preventative measures you can take to minimize those chances. For starters, you can invest in an electric fireplace, or another fireplace with lower risks of an outbreak. You can also purchase a high-quality fireplace screen to block embers and debris. Even more importantly, you’ll need to ensure your fireplace is installed properly, and invest in periodic cleaning and maintenance to keep it in good working order. Improper steps here could lead to a disaster.
  • Understand (and potentially upgrade) your house’s electricity. Electrical fires are incredibly common, especially in older homes with nonstandard or antiquated wiring, like knob and tube. Make sure you understand which electrical risks you face, and consider circumventing them. For example, you may be able to upgrade the wiring in your home, or at least invest in protective circuits and outlets designed to keep your home from becoming overloaded.
  • Eliminate unsupervised flames. Another common source of house fires is unsupervised flames. Many people like to burn candles, light cigarettes, or burn incense. While these activities are low-risk on their own, they become incredibly dangerous once a human supervisor leaves. Keep an eye on these open sources of flame, and if you have to leave the room for any reason, or if you’re going to sleep, extinguish them.
  • Monitor space heaters and appliances. Space heaters are useful for increasing the temperature in a specific area, but because they generate heat and consume lots of electricity, they can be dangerous sources of house fires. Certain other appliances, like dryers, also carry an increased risk of house fire. Keep an eye on these appliances when you’re using them, and take note of any irregular increases in heat output. It’s also important to maintain these appliances, like cleaning out your dryer vent.
  • Educate your family on the importance of fire safety. The adults in your home likely have a preexisting understanding of how fires work, and the importance of fire safety. But children generally struggle with the concept. Make sure you take the time to explain to your children how dangerous fires are, the importance of not playing with open flames, and the need for supervision when using appliances like a stove, oven, or space heater.

Additional Tips for Fire Safety

In addition to preventing fires, homeowners should follow these tips to improve the safety of their home:

  • Keep your doors closed at night. It’s a small step, but an important one; keep all your bedroom doors closed at night. Fires can spread easily through open doors, but struggle to get past a closed one. A closed door could buy you enough time to wake up, realize what’s going on, and get out of the house before you’re under any real threat.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors. Most people realize the importance of installing and maintaining smoke detectors already, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure you have a smoke detector on every floor, and one outside of every bedroom. Test them regularly, and install fresh batteries and/or replace them as needed.
  • Purchase fire extinguishers. In certain areas (like the kitchen), it pays to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Invest in a handful of fire extinguishers for your home, and make sure you understand how to use them—including what types of fires for which they’re appropriate.
  • Have a plan. Finally, make sure you and your family have a firm plan for what to do in the event of a fire. Know basic tips (like “stop, drop, and roll”), and have an escape route from every room.

You may not be able to prevent every possible fire, but you can radically increase your chances of surviving one. Make sure you follow these tips to prevent the majority of fires and keep yourself better protected from the remainder.