Home fires aren’t always caused by arson or foul play. There are plenty of hidden hazards that increase the risk of a house fire. The majority of fire-related injuries and deaths are caused by house fires. They often happen suddenly and aren’t always triggered by an accident while cooing or using fire. Electricians and firefighters list all the hidden dangers homeowners should be aware of to reduce the risk of house fires.
This is one of the leading causes of house fires. When cooking, especially with oil, it’s easy to leave whatever you were making to simmer or fry until ready. This can easily lead to fires because small fires escalate quickly in a kitchen. When deep frying, ensure what you’re dropping into the hot oil contains no water. When boiling liquids, ensure you remain within sight of the kitchen. A flame can leap out and land on a kitchen towel and this can easily spread a disaster.
If a grease fire happens, try to put it out as quickly and safely as possible. Grease fires occur when you add wet food or water to hot oil, making the grease overflow. When the oils touch an open flame, this can lead to the spread of the fire, especially if there are flammable materials nearby. Hot cooking oil can also auto-ignite when it reaches very high temperatures. If left for up to 20 minutes, cooking oil can catch fire by itself.
How to safely put out a grease fire
- Turn off the cooker.
- Don’t move the pan.
- Cover the fire with a lid or tray big enough to cover the pan. You can also use a plate.
- Don’t remove the lid until the fire is completely smothered and the pan is cool enough to handle.
- If the fire doesn’t go off, evacuate the house and contact emergency services.
You can also use a fire extinguisher or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to put out a grease fire. Do not pour water on it. You should also not pour flour or baking powder; these are highly flammable and can worsen the situation. Do not use a wet towel, it can dry out and still catch fire.
To prevent cooking fire accidents, always watch your pot when it’s cooking on a stovetop. When cooking with a jiko or a charcoal stove, always ensure it’s kept at least three metres from any structure.
2. Lithium batteries
Devices with lithium-ion batteries such as e-bikes, laptops, or phones can still pose a fire hazard. When they’re plugged in, ensure you can monitor them. They can become hot when left on power for too long. If your battery is swollen, this could be because of overuse, heat, or energy density. When the battery degrades, the material that separates the layers between the battery cells degrades and turns to gas. This erodes the insulation and creates a hot spot that can lead to a fire.
Change your laptop battery when it swells. If your phone’s battery is also swollen and can’t be replaced, stop using that phone and get another one. This happens when you overcharge your devices. Also, ensure that your devices don’t overheat. You can avoid overheating by switching them off when they’re not in use and not using them when they are charging.
3. Extension cords
When buying extension cords, ensure that they’re up to standard. They are a shock and fire risk especially when they’re left running all the time. Don’t put them under carpeting or where there is a lot of foot traffic. This can damage their insulation.
Clutter can become a nightmare in the event of a fire. Flammable items like plastics, clothes, or paper are an easy way to feed flames. They can also block exits during a fire and make it difficult for first responders to enter a building. Removing excessive clutter and ensuring that items remain organised reduces the risk of fire. Lifestyle: 15 Easy Habits To Help Keep Your Life Free From Clutter
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5. Exposed wiring
Exposed wires are some of the leading causes of electrical fires. Whenever you plug a device to power, ensure nothing is exposed. Prevent electrical fires by remaining alert. Unplug your cables when you smell plastic burning, hear a buzzing sound, or if the brick feels warm. If your lights keep flickering, this could be a sign that your house has faulty wiring or a problem with the main grid. If your house is the only one experiencing dim lights or your circuit breaker going off by itself, ensure you get the assistance of a licensed electrician. Try to keep your house free from rats as they can also chew the cables.
6. Old appliances
Old devices can have outdated safety features and can have broken elements within that increase the risk of a fire. Ensure you keep checking their wiring especially where they are bent or folded. If they are exposed, replace the cabling where possible or stop using them. Make sure they remain unplugged when they’re not in use.
In addition to clutter, rags or towels used to wipe oil or grease from a workshop, kiosk or even wiping shoes can present a fire hazard. When leaving them out to dry, lay them flat outside. Store them in a cupboard or shelf that isn’t close to exposed sockets or other fire hazards to reduce the risk of accidents.
This includes water heaters, space heaters, and wood stoves. The risk of fire is higher when it’s surrounded by debris and clutter that is flammable. Using a space heater near your bed is also especially risky because of dust bunnies. Keep items away from your heater when it’s operating. Shower heads can also be a fire and shock hazard if they have faulty wiring or damaged circuits. Ensure your heaters are inspected or replaced every year. Don’t use space heaters next to bedsheets, or curtains.
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Sleeping with doors open enables flames to spread faster from room to room. Closing doors can help reduce temperature spikes in the rooms that aren’t burning. Candles are also a common fire hazard. When left unattended, they can fall over because of pets, children, or people not paying attention. If a candle is standing next to a curtain or other flammable materials, it can easily lead to a house fire. Smoking can also lead to house fires when the cigarette butt comes into contact with fabrics like pillows or upholstery. When you’re done smoking, ensure you put out the cigarette completely in an ashtray and leave no embers glowing.
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