While we all hope it will never happen to us, it is estimated that there are over 300,000 residential fires each year in the United States. The fall and winter holidays always correlate with an increase in the number of fires, so it’s important to know what you can do to prevent this tragedy from occurring. Here are a few fire prevention tips to keep in mind:
Use caution when cooking.
Cooking tops the annual list as the leading cause of home fires and related injuries in the United States and Thanksgiving is historically the top day each year for these accidents. Unattended cooking is one of the biggest contributors to residential fires. If you’re frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen while it is cooking. When simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it often and never leave home while it’s cooking. Another important safety tip is never to throw water on a grease fire. Instead, keep a lid within arm’s reach and place it over the pan if a grease fire starts. Then turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is cool. Also, be aware of flammable objects near the stovetop, such as towels and loose clothing. Lastly, teach small children the dangers of a hot stove and the importance of keeping a safe distance while food is cooking.
Be aware of heating sources and open flames in cooler months.
While heating your home during cooler weather is necessary, heating sources can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. Space heaters are one of the leading causes of fires each year. If you have to use portable space heaters, place them on level non-flammable surfaces, like ceramic tile, rather than rugs or carpet. Be sure to keep flammable items, such as clothing, rugs, drapes, and blankets at least 3 feet from heating sources. Always turn off any portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Utilize safe smoking practices.
Another leading cause of residential fire deaths in the United States is smoking materials. If anyone in your home is a smoker, it’s imperative that they follow safe smoking practices. The safest choice a smoker can make is to smoke outside and douse cigar or cigarette butts with water before disposal. If smoking outside is not an option, be sure to never smoke in bed or while drowsy, and definitely do not smoke in the presence of anyone using portable oxygen.
Perform routine maintenance checks on your home heating sources.
Many residential fires are caused by poorly maintained furnaces, chimneys, and other heating sources. These incidents can be prevented with a little routine maintenance. Before cool weather arrives each year, make sure your furnace is clean and in good working order. Look for any cracked or rusted parts and consider having a professional inspection yearly. Also, check your chimney before lighting that first cozy fire. Creosote buildup is incredibly common and extremely flammable. It’s recommended to have a professional chimney sweep inspect your fireplace yearly, and remove any buildup.
Prepare your home and family in case a fire occurs.
While no one wants to think about a fire occurring in their home, advanced preparation can save lives and lessen property damage. First, be sure to have smoke alarms in every sleeping room and on every level of your home. Also, test each smoke alarm monthly using the test button and replace batteries as needed. Next, be sure everyone knows what to do upon hearing a smoke alarm go off — this is especially important with small children. Make an emergency plan, and practice it with your family. Think through things like escape routes from various rooms, a family meeting place once safely outside, and which family member will be responsible for getting small children and any pets to safety.
As many homeowners know, mold is one of the most unwelcome visitors and can bring health problems with it. Mold can show up in unlikely places and is easy to miss unless you know the tell-tale signs to look out for.
One of the most obvious warning signs for mold growth is water damage, whether it’s recent or from a past incident. If you have a leaky roof or dripping toilet that you’re putting off fixing, they can create the perfect environment for mold growth. But people often overlook the possibility of mold in areas of past water damage. Don’t assume that just because visible water from a burst pipe or stormwater flood has been cleaned up that there is no longer a risk of mold growth. Water from these types of events can seep under flooring or behind walls and lead to mold growth that isn’t visible without further investigation.
Ask anyone who owns an older home and they’ll tell you that odd odors come with the territory, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Often times a musty odor is the only sign of mold that is growing in places you can’t see. If the musty odor in your home is persistent and stronger in one specific area, it may be time to call in a professional to take a closer look.
It can be difficult to distinguish between health problems caused by mold and seasonal allergies because the symptoms are so similar. Common symptoms of mold exposure include sneezing, itchy eyes, and nasal congestion. When trying to determine the cause of your symptoms, consider when and where your health issues are at their worst. If sneezing and itchy eyes are only happening when you’re inside your home, there’s a good chance that mold could be the culprit.
Condensation is moisture and moisture is fuel for mold growth. If you’re seeing condensation more often than simply in the bathroom after a hot shower, it may be a sign of a high humidity level in your home. Purchasing a dehumidifier is a simple way to correct the issue before it leads to mold growth. You may also notice condensation on metal pipes, which can be rectified by wrapping them with added insulation.
Hidden Home Warnings
Water damage and mold don’t always show up with clear warning signs. Instead, some of the quirky things that you’ve noticed in your home could be telling you about a bigger problem. Is there a section of your floor that feels squishy? It could be more than just your home settling – there’s a chance that the subfloor has water damage and/or mold growth. Have you noticed bubbles in the paint on your walls, particularly in the bathroom or near a window? One of the most common causes of paint bubbles is moisture, and as you know, moisture often leads to mold growth. It’s important not to overlook or put off these seemingly small issues and bring in an expert to take a closer look before it turns into a much bigger problem.
Do you know where your home’s water shut off valves are located? In the event of a water emergency, being able to locate these valves quickly can make a huge difference in the amount of damage your property sustains. There are typically two different types of valves located in different areas throughout your home.
Main Water Shut Off Valve
The first valve you want to locate is the main water shut off. As the name implies, this will stop all water from flowing through any pipes in your home. These valves are usually located near where the water enters your home, so you’ll want to look on the perimeter of your home closest to where the water line enters from the street. It may be in your basement or even on an outside wall of your home.
Once you locate the main shut off, you’ll see that it can be either a gate valve, which looks similar to an outdoor faucet, or a ball valve, which some people refer to as a knife valve. Now is the time to give it a try and be sure that you’re able to turn it off. If the valve is stuck, it’s worth a call to a plumber to replace it before you find yourself in a situation where you need to use it.
In addition to the main water shut off valve, most homes are equipped with supply valves to turn off the water locally in bathrooms or kitchens. These are commonly located near toilets, under sinks, near water heaters, and washing machines. They look like a small round or oval knob and you turn it clockwise to stop the flow of water. Supply valves are incredibly helpful in allowing you to work on one isolated problem area without turning off the water for your entire household.
Familiarizing yourself with the location of your home’s water shut off valves before an emergency happens is key to being an informed homeowner and avoiding excessive damage if a crisis occurs. If you notice water in your home, Delta Restoration Services of South Coast can help. We’re just a phone call away, available 24/7 and offer a 2-hour or less guaranteed emergency response time to be on-site and begin helping you get your life back to normal as soon as possible.