Winter is going strong here at the onset of February, including in Greater Vancouver where our temperatures continue to drop below freezing in one of the coldest winters on record. That’s what makes this piece so timely. According to Fire Prevention Canada, winter is the worst season for residential fires.
Your household knows to be mindful of the threat. But all too often day-to-day responsibilities and activities sidetrack you from taking the necessary precautions. For instance, if you reside in an older home, it’s a good idea to have your property inspected by an electrician to ensure that wiring does not pose a threat. However, while doing so is a good idea, it is often the daily preventative measures that can make the biggest difference.
Today, Park Insurance is here to guide your household with practical tips to keep you, your family, home, and valued possessions safe from fire.
5 Common Sense Ways to Protect Yourself from the Threat of Household Fires
1. Cover All Electrical Outlets
Family households commonly cover their electrical outlets when they have small children. However, once the kids are big enough to know not to mess around with these electrical outlets, the covers come off. Bad idea. An exposed lower outlet (at the base of your wall, on extension cords, or on power bars) is susceptible to liquids and debris, both of which can cause a spark. If you have a household pet, the threat increases exponentially as they may choose to release their bodily fluids on the area. Keep the covers on all outlets that are not in use.
2. Keep the Stove Area Clean and Clear
Activities surrounding cooking are the leading cause of household fires in Canada. Thankfully, this culprit is one of the most preventable. For starters, remove all combustible and flammable items from the counter surrounding your stovetop. This includes your paper towel roll/holder, cookbooks, recipe cards, dish towels/rags, bottles of cooking oil (especially aerosol spray cans), and decorative accents that can catch fire. Wipe your counter clean with a non-flammable cleaner to remove oil and grease residue before cooking, and do so again after cooking.
3. Keep Combustibles Away from Heaters
Do you leave your heaters on through the day and/or night to keep your home warm, without inspecting the area around them? Baseboard heaters are often blocked from view by sofas for aesthetic reasons. However, the sofa (and hanging throws) may be positioned too close for comfort near the heater. When someone sits down or moves the sofa for any reason, the flammable fabric may touch the heater. If left in that position for an extended period of time, the sofa (or throw) can be engulfed in flames. Move sofas, love seats, and lounge chairs away from heaters. Also be sure to keep plants (real and artificial), hanging drapes, cushions, rugs, and any other furnishing a minimum of 12-inches away from baseboard and/or portable heaters. Portable heaters should never be left on through the night.
4. Never Leave the Room with a Burning Candle
A burning candle is a direct fire hazard. Keep them away from flammable objects (curtains, plants, towels, napkins, papers, magazines, etc.). Exercise additional caution by pledging to never leave an unattended candle for a significant period of time. Even 15 minutes can be too long. Never leave a room where candles are burning when there are young kids or pets in the room.
Also be mindful of the match you use to light candles. Once you’ve lit a candle and extinguished the matchstick flame, run it under water before disposing of it. Otherwise, the match may still be hot enough to ignite a combustible item in your garbage bin.
5. Mind Where You Charge Your Web Devices at Night
This is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to household fires. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) has taken over many homes. Your entire family is plugging in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other portable devices that require frequent charging. The routine is a common one. As your family retires for the evening, everyone connects their respective device to a cord and outlet to charge overnight. But with electronics being electronics, nothing is foolproof. A device can overheat and a weathered cord or poorly connected adaptor can spark, resulting in a fire. Charge your devices before heading off to bed, unplug, turn them off, and put your head on the pillow with peace of mind. The same rule applies when leaving your home for the day.
It goes without saying (but we’ll say it) that one of the most important steps you can take in keeping yourself protected from residential fire damage, is to secure the right insurance. That protection should come from an independent insurance broker who will provide an honest accounting of your existing policy, identifying any holes that may leave you exposed. Learn more about homeowner’s insurance and follow up by contacting Park Insurance today.