As a homeowner, you hope never to encounter a fire on your property. Home fires are a common occurrence, taking place about every 93 seconds. Therefore, it is vital to prepare a fire safety plan, should the unexpected arise. Here are a few tips to ensure you and your family are ready in the event of a fire and have the proper insurance to cover the damage.
1) Fire Detectors
While it may seem like the obvious first step, installing fire detectors throughout the first level of your home is vital to your fire safety plan. Although most home fires start in the kitchen, they can truly occur in any room due to electricity shortages, candles, general accidents, and more. Installing fire detectors throughout your home, especially on the main level, will help provide early alerts to your local fire department. Be sure you conduct monthly battery checks on all fire detectors, and replace all units that are more than 10 years old.
2) Communication is Key
You and your family must determine a clear and simple plan for evacuation in the case of a home fire. Select a meeting point that is easily accessible but away from the potential heat of a burning house. Ensure all family members understand that their only priority in the case of a fire is to get out of the home as quickly as possible and not return inside for any person or possession. If you have young children, communicate their exit strategy and practice this with them a few times. Communicate this plan regularly.
3) Identify Potential Fire Hazards
After confirming you have the proper fire detectors and evacuation plan, the next step is to identify and remove all possible fire hazards from your home. Consider all electronics that produce heat, including clothing irons, hair styling tools, portable heaters, and more. These should be stored away from highly flammable materials such as wood, and they should also remain unplugged when not in active use. Allow all furniture and possessions to maintain at least three feet of space from any heating element such as a stove, fireplace, or portable heater. If you are a smoker, it is never advised to smoke in your bedroom near highly flammable objects such as drapes and bed linens. Finally, use safety precautions when lighting candles and ensure they are always visible and never placed on flammable surfaces.
4) Know Your Response
Understanding how to react in the moment is the final step in any fire safety plan. As with your exit strategy, it is important to also plan your responses for while you are still within your home if it catches on fire. First, check the heat of a door with the back of your wrist. This area is highly sensitive, and if the fire behind a door is too hot, you will be able to determine this without causing serious nerve damage to your palms. This will also prevent you from entering a room that is filled with unbreathable air. Next, stay low to the ground to avoid breathing smoke. Heat rises, and the higher you are to the ceiling, the more difficult it will be to breathe with ease. The final response strategy is to know all possible exits, including windows or second-story escapes, and how you will get out if a door is too hot to touch. Collapsible ladders are an excellent item to keep stored in all second-story bedroom closets, and children should be educated on how to employ these in the case of an emergency.
5) Take Inventory and Appraise Annually
In order to protect your valuables, you should conduct an annual inventory of all possessions and valuables. Using your insurance agent’s recommended appraiser, you can also determine the appropriate value of your home along with the cost to rebuild in the current market. If your home is not appraised at the value of homes today, you may find that your insurance policy will pay you less than the price to rebuild. This will leave you with large out-of-pocket expenses in order to rebuild your beloved home. Speak with your local insurance agent to determine both the appropriate home appraisal schedule and fire protection policy that is right for you.
Fire preparation and safety can make a vital difference for you and your family. The main priority is to ensure that each family member understands how to escape your home if it is burning and that they are not to re-enter for any reason. However, this may mean that many of your possessions and valuables could be permanently damaged. Your local insurance agent will be able to determine if your standard homeowners’ policy will cover these damages and also suggest additional coverage policies if needed to protect your possessions. Speak with your agent today about conducting a thorough inventory of your valuables and ensure your home is protected in the case of a fire.