Tips for Keeping Your Home and Family Safe from Fire

Category: Personal Insurance

According to, more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires each year in the United States. An estimated $7.3 billion in property losses each year are due to home fires. Many of these dollars come out of homeowners’ pockets, and insurance companies pick up a large share of the costs as well. While protecting you in the event of such a disaster is the reason for having homeowners insurance in the first place, you should take every precaution in order to prevent household fires. Your property and your life depend on it!

Remember that fires spread quickly; a fire can become life threatening in just two minutes, and in five minutes your entire residence can go up in flames. Heat and smoke can often be even more dangerous than the flames. In fact, asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths.

Here are some basic tips on how to avoid some of the most common causes of home fires, from


  • Never leave food on the stove unattended. If you are going to leave the room, turn off the stove.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting or long, hanging sleeves while cooking.
  • Keep children and pets away from the stove.
  • Keep outdoor grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from underneath leaves and branches.


  • Smoke outside whenever you can. Extinguish your cigarettes in a can filled with sand.
  • Make sure cigarettes are completely stubbed out in an ashtray. Soak the butts and ashes in water before putting them in the trash. Never put hot cigarette butts or ashes in a trash can.
  • Don’t put ashtrays on chairs, sofas or any furniture made of fabric.
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if the tank is turned off. Oxygen is explosive.
  • Never smoke in bed!

Electrical and Appliances

  • Don’t run cords under rugs or furniture, and replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords.
  • Never force a three-pronged plug into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Never overload extension cords or wall outlets.
  • Shut off and replace light switches that are hot to the touch.

Space Heaters, Fireplaces and Woodstoves

  • Keep flammable and combustible items at least three feet away from portable heaters.
  • Portable heaters should have a thermostat control, and should switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys every year. Check regularly for damage and obstructions.
  • Don’t burn trash, paper or green wood.
  • Use a strong fireplace screen that will stop rolling logs and that covers the entire opening of the fireplace.
  • Put all fires out completely before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.

Parents should make sure that children are well-educated about fire and fire dangers. Never store matches or lighters where children can reach them, and teach children never to pick them up or play with them. Children should never be left alone near stoves, fires, grills or even burning candles, and be on the lookout for evidence that a child has been playing with fire (e.g., burned matches).

Your home insurance protects you financially if you have a fire in your home. But nothing can protect you from the loss of property and even life once a fire begins. Everyone in your household needs to be aware of fire dangers and fire prevention techniques to keep the risk of fire in your home to a minimum.

What are some of the fire prevention techniques you use in your home? Have you ever experienced the devastation of a home fire? Tell us about your experience and what you learned.

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