Home fires caused 2,565 deaths (not including firefighters) and almost $7.8 billion in damage in 2009, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). While it’s impossible to completely prevent fires, there are several measures you can take to protect your family, home and valuables from the flames.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test these devices monthly to make sure they are working properly and replace the batteries annually. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting at least one smoke detector on each level of your home. Never disable these detectors even if they go off while cooking or showering.
Install fire extinguishers. The NFAP recommends keeping extinguishers near exits of your home and in the kitchen where most house fires start. A multi-purpose extinguisher that is large enough to put out a small fire but isn’t too heavy to handle is ideal. Be sure to read all the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly operate the device.
Create a home escape plan. Draw a map of your house that includes all the doors and windows and discuss a fire escape plan with all family members. Practice the escape route at least once a year.
Keep it clean. Remove leaves and debris from around the property and clean out the gutters. It’s also important to trim back any shrubs or tree limbs that are close to your home. All of these things can be potential fire hazards.
Make sure your home is fully insured. Talk to your Trusted Choice independent insurance agent to ensure your home is fully covered for fire loss and that you have loss-of-use coverage in the event your home becomes uninhabitable.
Take a home inventory. Make a list of everything valuable in your home and document it with photos and video. Keeping a record of all your belongings will help you file a claim if you experience a fire or other loss.
Protect important documents. Keep a copy of your homeowner’s policy, home inventory, and other important documents, such as passports, legal documents and birth and marriage certificates in a fireproof lockbox or at an off-site location.
These are not tasks that are difficult to do–they just require your commitment to really do something to protect yourself and your home. I have done a lot of these things (not all). You should, too.
Dennis H. Hilton, President