turning on gas stove

When we’re safe at home, the last thing we want to think about is the possibility of disaster. But the only way to prevent tragedies like house fires is to take steps to eliminate the risk. Every year, hundreds of thousands of homes in the US catch fire, resulting in thousands of lives lost and thousands more injured. 

Here’s what you can do today to prevent a fire at your Indianapolis-area home …

First, How Do Most House Fires Start?

Cooking is the number one cause of house fires in the United States, accounting for nearly half of the fires from 2016–2020. It makes sense, as the kitchen is the room with heating elements, hot oil, literal flames in the case of gas stoves, and numerous appliances that heat up as part of doing their job.

By the numbers, these are the top causes of reported home fires in the US from 2016–2020: 

  • Cooking (49%)
  • Heating equipment (13%)
  • Electrical and lighting equipment (9%)
  • Intentional fires (9%)
  • Smoking (5%)

6 Ways to Prevent a Fire at Home

1. Put up smoke detectors and maintain them

While smoke detectors don’t necessarily prevent a fire from starting, they do help you catch fires right away so you can put them out before they spread. Ever find yourself wondering, “How many smoke detectors do I need to stay safe?” According to Indiana law, your home needs at least one smoke detector in it and should have one outside each sleeping area and one on each floor, including basements and habitable attics. We also recommend keeping one in the kitchen, a room where fires are more likely to start.

You should change the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year, even the backup battery in a hardwired smoke detector. The detector itself should be replaced every ten years. If you need new smoke alarms hardwired into your home, trust our friends at Mister Sparky Electric for smoke alarm installation.

2. Learn where to store flammable liquids at home

Flammable chemical storage isn’t a thing most people think about too hard. After all, can’t you just toss it in the cleaning cabinet or the garage?

Nope! You need to be deliberate about where you store your chemicals. Cleaning chemical storage should be secure and impossible for children to get into. All flammable liquids should be stored away from equipment that could spark, including a gas stove or the power tools in your garage or workshop. Store flammables in their proper containers in a well-ventilated area, with a fire extinguisher nearby.

The best storage place for flammables is a space that is well-ventilated, climate controlled, and detached from your home.

3. Practice safe cooking habits

As we mentioned above, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. That’s why kids should never be cooking alone. There should always be a responsible adult in the room while the stove is on and a timer set to remind you that something’s in the oven. Adults should also never cook while intoxicated. It’s much harder to notice or react to hazards while under the influence. Keep the stovetop clear of flammable items like paper towels, oven mitts, hot pads, towels, and wooden utensils. Finally, keep a kitchen fire extinguisher within reach to handle any accidental blazes that crop up.

4. Keep electrical equipment up to date

Don’t risk it: If you’re not sure an appliance, heater, lamp, or other piece of electrical equipment is safe to use anymore, assume it’s not. Replace old space heaters with newer models that turn off when they begin to overheat. Never use any appliance with a frayed electrical cord or exposed wiring.

5. Monitor potential fire sources

The worst thing you can do is leave a fire hazard unattended. Don’t leave fires burning in the fireplace without an attendant (and get those flues cleaned regularly)! Stay in the room when you have a candle burning or a heater on. Don’t leave a burning cigarette anywhere, even in an ashtray. Turn the Christmas tree lights off when you leave home and when you go to bed. Make sure the curling iron, clothes iron, heating pad, or any other item that heats up is off before you walk away.

6. Trust your electrical work to the pros

Your home electrical systems aren’t the place to practice being a DIY electrician. Leave the professional jobs to the professionals.

If Disaster Strikes, We’re Here to Help

Sometimes, no matter how careful we are, accidents happen. If you’ve suffered from a house fire, help is only a phone call away. The IICRC-certified technicians at DRYmedic® of Indianapolis fully remediate fire and smoke damage, restoring your home so you can live in safety and comfort again. Call (317) 759-8432 for immediate help, any time day or night.