While fire hazards around the home haven’t changed since the start of the pandemic, they’ve increased in number, according to Canada’s fire services — thanks to the fact we’re spending a lot more time at home these days. And with the rise of hybrid workforces, it’s likely this will continue to be a concern.
Here are some of the most common fire hazards around the home, how to extinguish different types of fires, and a list of tips to keep your family safe.
Kitchen fires are the most common fire hazard in the home—after all, this is where you’ll find a ‘perfect storm’ of heat, grease, water, and electricity. Grease fires can be extremely dangerous and usually occur when someone leaves a frying pan unattended on the stove or overheats it during cooking. And against what you might think instinctually, this type of fire will spread if you throw water on it.
Appliances can also be hazardous if used incorrectly. For example, you can start an electrical fire if a kitchen appliance comes into contact with water, which isn’t great news for messy cooks or those prone to spilling.
If you’re working at home more often, it’s also likely that you’re plugging in more electronics, especially if you have kids in the house. Older homes may not have proper wiring to handle the sheer number of appliances and electronics we use today, which could cause shorts and sparks.
Leaving your laptop on combustible surfaces (like the couch, bed, or another soft surface) is another fire hazard since it can block airflow vents. Once lithium-ion batteries reach a certain temperature, they can short-circuit or spontaneously combust, causing an electrical fire.
But electrical fires can also result from faulty products that short-circuit.
Having proper insurance can help to mitigate financial losses from a house fire, but it can’t replace any objects of sentimental value—so it’s always better to prevent a fire or, at the very least, put it out properly before it can spread and cause more damage. Here are some other culprits that can easily start house fires:
Smoking: A number of fires are caused by partially extinguished cigarette butts. Of particular concern is potting soil, which is much more fibrous and dry than natural soil, so it can turn a planter into a fire pit. Fires can also spark if people throw their cigarette butts—which they think are extinguished—over their condo or apartment balcony. During particularly hot, dry weather, this is even more of a hazard.
Barbeques, fire pits and portable heaters: Over the past year, more people have invested in barbeques, as well as fire pits and portable heat lamps, to spruce up their outdoor spaces and make them usable year-round. But if a barbeque is too close to a wooden fence or an exterior wall, especially one with vinyl siding, it could start a fire. In colder weather, space heaters can easily overheat, especially those with heating coils.
DIY reno projects: More people are also tackling their own reno projects around the home, which can cause a garage or house fire. If flammable liquids reach their flashpoint and combine with oxygen, they form a concentration of gas that could combust. Certain tools could also cause sparks to fly and ignite nearby materials.
If you knock over a candle and start a fire on wood, paper, cloth, or plastic, you can use water to put it out. But in many other cases, water will make a fire worse. If any type of fire is burning out of control, get out of the house and call 911.
For grease fires: Never use water—this can cause the grease to explode and spread even further. Instead, cover the flames with a metal lid (to suffocate the fire) or smother it with baking soda or salt. For larger grease fires, use a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher.
For flammable liquids: For gasoline and other ignitable liquids (like propane, alcohol, or paint), smother the fire with a blanket, or use a Class B fire extinguisher, which uses foam, powder or carbon dioxide.
For electrical fires: Never throw water on an electrical fire — water is a conductor of electricity, so you could shock yourself. If an electrical appliance is on fire, unplug it (if safe to do so). For a small fire, smother it with baking soda. For a larger fire, you’ll need a Class C or ABC Class fire extinguisher (don’t use any other class, since it could conduct electricity).
To ensure your space is safer, follow this list of action items:
It’s also important to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage before any incident, so you will have a safety net if a fire occurs in the future. Our advisors are here to help review your policy and discuss whether you need to add protection for your property and belongings.
By spotting the fire hazards in your home, making adjustments where possible, and educating yourself and your family, you’ll be less prone to risks. And if a fire does happen, you’ll be more prepared to deal with it and escape unharmed.
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