10 Fire Prevention Tips

A green paper house with flames in the background.

Preventing a fire in your home isn't always possible, but there are many things you can do to make it even less apt to happen. To help you out, we've come up with a list of some of the best ways of preventing a fire. But don't keep these to yourself—share these 10 fire prevention tips with your family so that a home fire is something they will hopefully never have to deal with.

1. Find the Off Button

Have you ever worried about leaving home and forgetting to turn off an appliance? You may be one of the few, because many have become complacent over the years thanks to automated appliances that are made to shut off after a certain time. But according to Consumer Reports, that's not enough to make us feel safe. More than 15 million appliances were recalled between 2007-2012 for defects that could cause a fire, and nearly 2,000 of them actually did. Recalled devices weren't the only issue; there were 69,000 fires caused by appliances that didn't even have a recall. So if you still worry, you're right to do so. Thankfully, there's a lot you can do these days to prevent an appliance fire if you forgot to unplug it or shut it off, and that's by purchasing a smart plugin that allows you to remotely power the appliance off from anywhere.

2. Give Your Appliances a Physical

A broken iron on a floor.

Speaking of electrical appliances, another way to prevent a fire is to give them each a little checkup. Just pretend that you're the doctor, and they're the patient and they need their wiring checked out just like you do once a year. Set a reminder either electronically or on your paper calendar and then go through your home checking each device for frayed or worn cords and replace them as needed.

3. Smoker Beware

Never smoke in bed. Everyone knows this, but it's still a large cause of house fires. Worse yet, smoking-related house fires are also costing the life of at least one person a day in the U.S. Smoking-related fires are not just from the cigarette smoker in the home, so be sure to consider all smoking materials such as cigars and pipes when you get ready for your home safety lecture. Remind smokers that smoking outside is best, and when outside, be sure the smoking material is completely put out by sticking it in a cup of sand or pouring water over it.

4. Watch Your Wattage

Someone screwing a lightbulb into a lamp.

Did you know that installing a light bulb into a lamp or fixture with a wattage that is higher than the fixture calls for can cause a fire? It's true. So if you use a 75 watt bulb thinking it will give you extra light from a fixture that's labeled for only 60 watt bulbs, you will want to go back and fix that. Only use the recommended wattage.

5. Don't Overheat

It probably comes as no surprise that most electrical fires start in the winter months, which is usually due to the increased use of heating appliances. To prevent this type of fire, make sure to check out your heater thoroughly, especially if you're using a space heater. If it's old, consider replacing it, but at the very least check the cord for any fraying or bare wires and replace them if needed. Also, keep any heat source clear of any materials that are combustible such as blankets, curtains, clothes (on or off of the people wearing them) and furniture.

6. Don't Overextend

A jumble of cords in an electrical outlet.

Many of us have areas of our home that just do not have enough outlets for the amount of things we need to plug into them. That's when we get creative and start running extension cords under carpets or plugging way too many appliances into a multiplug adapter and hoping we don't trip the breaker. If you want a fire, this is the way to do it. If you don't want a fire, you can still add more plug-in space by using a surge protector. Again, just be careful to not use more power than the amperage allowed for that outlet.

7. Walk it Out

Before you go to sleep or leave your home in the morning, it's good to do a walkthrough of your home to be sure that everything is as fire-safe as possible. On your checklist (which you can keep in your head or on a piece of paper) should be all small appliances, and the stove and oven. If there's not a smoke or fire alarm in each room, make sure that each door is at least slightly open so that if a fire is happening, it can be picked up by the closest detector.

8. Know How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A close-up of a fire extinguisher.

To prevent a small fire from becoming a bigger one, be sure to have a fire extinguisher in your home. One in the kitchen and one near an exit is best. Even better, learn how to use it! Learning how to use your fire extinguisher when a fire is burning will not likely produce a good outcome, so be sure to read the directions on yours now and have everyone in the house know how to use it as well. For basic instructions, remember this acronym when operating a fire extinguisher: PASS. This stands for:

Pull the pin.

Aim low (at the base of the fire)

Squeeze the lever, slow and steady

Sweep the nozzle from side to side

9. Prevention Talk

One of the best ways to prevent your family from ever having to deal with a fire is by talking about it. Children are never too young to learn about safety, so include even the youngest in your plans. Go over with everyone in the home each item on this list, and any others that you may have concerns about. They can also be included by being responsible for their own rooms when you have your yearly or bi-annual home inspection. It's at this time that you will check or replace all the smoke detector batteries, and look for frayed cords, overloaded plugins, or high wattage light bulbs.

During your family fire prevention meeting, be sure to set up a plan so that each person knows how to best exit their room and where to meet up once they've done so. Then, practice it. By being diligent about preventing a fire, you'll hopefully never have to put your plan into action, but should it be needed you'll rest easier at night knowing everyone knows what to do and where to be.

10. Don't Leave the Cooktop

You may think that homes with small children or senior citizens are the only ones that need to be reminded not to walk away from a stovetop when a burner is on, but you'd be wrong. According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, most cooking fires are actually caused by men and women between ages 19-49. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of injury from a fire, so it's definitely a potential problem for any home. To help you remember that you've got something on the burner or in the oven, use a timer and set it for six minutes, or get a smart stove monitor that will shut the stove off for you.