According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 2,385 Americans died from residential fires in 2012. In addition, over 20,000 people are poisoned by carbon monoxide each year and an unknown number of Americans become ill from toxic molds, often without a diagnosis. Fortunately many of these types of disasters are preventable if homeowners take simple precautions. Follow these tips (and view the infographic below) to keep your family safe in your home year-round.
Fend off fires. Seven people die every day from house fires, most commonly caused from accidents when cooking or smoking, according to the American Red Cross. Here are the top causes of house fires and how to prevent them.
- Cooking – Never leave your kitchen unattended while cooking, especially when preparing meals using hot oil or any time an open flame is involved.
- Electrical Wiring – Take note of power surges or flickering lights in your home. These could indicate issues with your electrical system, so get it checked out as soon as possible. Another common cause is the over-use of extension cords. Outlets can only safely pull so many watts before becoming overheated or damaged. Use extension cords sparingly as a temporary fix until your electrician can install permanent wiring.
- Decorative Lighting – Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of that holiday spirit, but seasonal decorations, such as Christmas trees and general lighting such as candles can be very dangerous. Get rid of your tree as soon as the leaves become dry as at this point it can be highly combustible. Lit candles should never be placed near flammable objects such as curtains. Also, candles must not be left unattended, particularly if children are present; unsupervised children are responsible for 20 percent of house fires caused by candles.
- Smoking – Avoid smoking in bed or indoors in general and always put cigarettes out in an ashtray.
Keep an eye on carbon monoxide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning each year. This potentially fatal gas is odorless, tasteless and colorless, and often found in fumes produced by stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces and cars. Carbon monoxide can build up indoors, poisoning the people and pets that breathe it. Here’s what you can do to avoid this silent killer:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and don’t forget to check the battery regularly – at least every six months.
- If your fireplace is clogged by debris, using it could put you and your family in danger. Have an expert check your chimney annually, no matter how often you use it.
- Your heating system should be tested every year to make sure that contaminated air is not entering your home due to clogs or cracks.
- Never run your car inside your garage, even if the garage door is open.
- If you feel light-headed, dizzy or nauseous and there is any chance you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Stop mold in its tracks. Toxic molds, such as black mold, can cause everything from headaches to cancer to severe lung infections and even depression. Here are some tips to prevent mold from developing and becoming a serious problem:
- Monitor your home’s humidity. Mold thrives in high humidity, so use air conditioning or dehumidifiers when necessary to cut down on moisture.
- If you see condensation on windows or walls, this is an indication that humidity levels are too high. Immediately dry the surface and work to reduce the dampness in your home.
- Turn on the vent fan during showers and kitchen vents when you cook. This improves airflow and prevents moisture build up.
- Regularly clean the surfaces of your bathroom, particularly the shower or bathtub, to cut down on mold growth. Use cleaners specifically formulated to fight mold and mildew.
- Clean your roof gutters on a regular basis and watch for water stains after a storm. This could be a sign of a leak.