Before you have a house fire, you need to have a escape plan and a prevention plan. You won’t have time to stop for your wedding photos or important papers; you need to get your family to safety. According to a segment on the TODAY Show, you have even less time to get out that you thought.
Newer homes and furniture burn faster, giving you less time to escape a fire
Research shows that 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a house fire.
Today it’s down to three or four minutes. The reason: Newer homes and the furniture inside them actually burn faster. A lot faster.
To demonstrate, Rossen Reports went to Underwriters Laboratories in Chicago, where two rooms were built side by side: one a flashback to the ’70s or ’80s with real wood and many natural materials, and the other a modern one with a lot of synthetic fibers, from the curtains to the couch to even the coffee table.
As firefighters stood by, a fire set to a sofa pillow in the modern room quickly spread across the sofa and jumped to other furniture: a lamp, an end table, a chair and coffee table. Within 3 minutes, flames were going through the roof.
“The backing of your carpet is synthetic, your drapes are synthetic, the couch, the pillows are synthetic,” explained John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL. “They burn hotter and faster than natural materials do.”
A similar fire set to the sofa pillow in the room simulating an older home burned for several minutes without even catching the rest of the sofa. At 15 minutes the room was still intact; it wound up taking 30 minutes for the room to burn.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance, an industry group, told NBC News it supports a federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture, but only if product changes are safe, effective and affordable.
Until then: “When your smoke alarm goes off you don’t have time to look around, get your wedding pictures,” Drengenberg said. “You get out as quickly as you can.”
The National Association of Home Builders, another industry group, told NBC News that new building codes make houses safer. But fire experts say to have a fire escape plan for your family. The Red Cross has an easy worksheet to help you create one.
As you make your escape plan, you also need to consider other things you can do to prevent the need for an escape plan. Some of these things are just simple everyday things, others are more intensive or should be part of our yearly maintenance. Travelers Insurance has a page listing items that we can address in our homes.
How to Help Prevent House Fires
Using our claim data, we have developed a list of the most common causes of fire-related losses as well as some things you can do to help prevent them.Faulty Wiring and Outlets Are One of the Top Causes of House Fires.
- Check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying, and replace all frayed wires.
- Do not pinch or cover electrical cords with items such as rugs.
- Be aware of the capacity of your home’s electrical system. Do not overload your circuits. If you have questions about your home’s electrical system, you may want to consult a licensed electrician.
- Understand the difference between surge protectors and power strips—both allow you to plug in multiple electronic devices, but only the surge protector will help protect these devices from a power spike. Use surge protectors to protect valuable electronic devices, such as computers and televisions.
Carelessness in the Kitchen May Also Lead to a House Fire.
- Never leave your pots or pans unattended on your stove.
- Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it.
- Keep your stove and oven clean. Built up food splatter or grease can later ignite when the stove or oven is turned on for cooking.
- Read more tips to help prevent cooking fires, and what to do if one occurs.
Clothes Dryers Are Another Common Source of House Fires.
- If you are installing your own dryer vent, follow the directions in the manufacturer’s installation instructions, using the recommended duct material. If you are unsure about how to properly install the vent, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
- Clean out the dryer vent regularly.
- Clean out the lint filter after each load.
- Lint may also collect under and behind your dryer, so do not forget to clean these areas.
Alternative Heating Sources May Also Create a Fire Hazard.
- Avoid using an older space heater, as it may not have adequate safety features compared to newer units. When purchasing a new space heater, ensure it is UL Listed and pay attention to the safety features.
- Do not place a space heater near furniture, curtains or other objects that could easily catch fire.
- If you plan to install an alternative heating system, such as a wood or pellet stove, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are unsure about how to properly install the system, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
- Before installing a wood or pellet stove, check to ensure it complies with the laws of your state and municipality.
Dirty Chimneys Also Pose a Fire Hazard.
- Have your chimney inspected annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweep. Have a professional clean and repair the chimney as needed, especially before the cold months, when you will be using it frequently.
- Use seasoned wood only. Never burn green or damp wood.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace—these can all spark chimney fires.
Every homeowner needs to have a reliable, experience home service company. Annual inspections of a home’s HVAC system, Electrical system, and plumbing need to be performed to keep these systems regularly maintained. Proper maintenance can prevent fires and keep your systems running efficiently.
Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrical is a full service residential contractor that has been serving the greater Houston area for over 50 years. Abacus is a member of the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce and has an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau of Houston. Abacus is licensed and insured and offers 24/7 emergency service. To learn more about Abacus Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, visit www.abacusplumbing.net or call (832) 554-9951. License Numbers: ALAN O'NEILL M-20628 | TACLB82488E | TECL 30557
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