Spring and summer were spent preparing the outside of your home to prevent a fire from starting or spreading. Now, safety experts hope you look closely inside your home to remove potential hazards and make sure you have the equipment you need, from the right fire extinguisher to working carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms.
Portland Fire & Rescue has a safety checklist that includes removing clutter and other unnecessary combustibles, and making sure electrical and heating equipment are in good working condition and not overheating.
It’s also important that you have an escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows how to safely exit the structure, where you will all reunite and how you will contact each other in case phones are left behind.
An escape plan saves lives, including firefighters who might take a risk to rescue someone inside who is already safe outside.
Alex Forte, the fire safety expert at The Home Depot, suggests you practice fire drills together and make sure children know what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear one.
Here are additional steps Forte recommends you take now to increase you safety at home:
Portland Fire says 65% of home fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast and and alarms can give you time to get out.
Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the right place in your home and change the batteries on these devices before they chirp or lose power, said Forte.
An easy way to remember when to replace a smoke alarm is “Toss at 10. Then start again.” The National Fire Protection Association recommends every smoke alarm be replaced after 10 years, or sooner if they don’t respond properly when tested.
If you are moving to a new home and are unsure of the age of the smoke alarm, it’s safest to just replace it.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, including bedrooms, kitchens and basements. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries at least once a year, said Forte.
There are alarms that combine smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, like the Kidde 10-Year Worry-Free Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Combination Detector with Voice Alarm (on sale at $49.97 at The Home Depot, save $10).
This combination detector has a voice warning function that will announce “fire” or “warning carbon monoxide” when either is detected.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. Portland Fire says carbon monoxide sources include:
- Heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances,and cooking sources that use coal, wood, petroleum products (kerosene, natural gas and propane), and other fuels.
- Equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as cars, portable generators, lawn mowers and power washers.
- Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts that are connected directly to a living space are also considered carbon monoxide sources.
Alarms on sale:
A fire extinguisher can be used to put out a small, contained fire or create a path to safety, said Forte.
The higher the rating of an extinguisher, the more firefighting power you will have. Different types of fire extinguishers are needed for the kitchen, upstairs and garage.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing at least a 2-A:10-B:C extinguisher for every 40 feet of your home. For garages, the association recommends using a 3-A:40-B:C extinguisher.
The Kidde Code One Fire Extinguisher with Mount Bracket & Strap, 5-B:C Rated for Basic Use is 34% off ($9.88; regular price: $14.97).
- Class A is used for fires involving ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and plastics (typical for home settings), said Forte.
- Class B is for fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, solvents and oil-based paint. These fires spread rapidly.
- Class K is a subclass of Class B and is specific to kitchen fires.
- Class C is for fires involving energized electrical equipment.
When using a fire extinguisher, stand six to eight feet away from the fire and follow the four-step P.A.S.S. technique:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
A portable fire extinguisher can help save lives but there can be a few limitations on when to use them. People should only use a portable fire extinguisher when:
- A fire is confined to a small area and is not growing.
- The fire department has been called.
- A room is not filled with smoke.
- All other residents have exited the home.
Dryer vents cause thousands of fires per year in the U.S. due to the combination of heat and accumulated dryer lint and dust, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.
Look for warning signs of lint buildup such as your laundry is taking longer to dry, dry clothes are too hot to touch or you notice a burning smell in the laundry room.
Your dryer vent should be cleaned out at least once a year to keep your home safe. Forte said to follow these steps:
Disconnect the dryer: Locate the vent at the back of the dryer. You should also locate the dryer exhaust vent at your home’s exterior. Once found, unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall. Disconnect the dryer duct from the back of the dryer.
Vacuum out the vent: While wearing safety gloves, remove lint from the hole at the back of the dryer by using the hose attachment of a vacuum. Remove lint from the duct by hand and then vacuum the inside of the dryer duct extensions (if available) to remove as much of the dust as you can. Go to the exterior vent cover next and clean out the dryer vent using a vacuum.
Brush out the vent: The best way to clean a dryer duct is to feed a cleaning brush inside and move it back and forth while slightly rotating it. Extend the brush as needed and continue until the vents are free of dust and lint.
Reconnect the dryer: Inspect the ducts to make sure that they are undamaged and then reattach the ductwork and vent cover. Push the dryer back into place and plug it in. To test the dryer, run it for 15 to 20 minutes on the fluff or air-dry setting to make sure all connections are strong and to dislodge any remaining debris.
Avoid lint buildup: Perform routine maintenance such as regularly sweeping and dusting the area around the dryer, as well as removing the lint screen and vacuuming in and around the lint filter with the hose attachment.
Portland Fire & Rescue recommends you:
- Pay attention to electrical cords, looking for signs of damage or wear.
- Clean fireplaces after each use.
- Keep children, pets and flammable objects away from space heaters and fireplaces.
- Make sure all kitchen appliances are turned off after cooking.
- Switch to fake, battery-powered candles instead of real ones.
Read more at portlandoregon.gov/fire/58348
— As told to Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
[email protected] | @janeteastman
What you need to know about home inventory and insurance after a fire or other disaster