A fire can be one of the most devastating disasters to strike a family. It can wipe out an entire home full of cherished memories and irreplaceable items in a matter of minutes. A fire can also be deadly if certain precautions are not taken in and around the home to make it a safer environment. According to one insurance company, approximately nine people in the US are fatally injured by a home fire every day.
Many fires and their horrific outcomes never needed to happen. They could have been prevented with a number of simple maintenance steps as well as careful planning that reduce the likelihood that your home becomes a hazard instead of a sanctuary for you and your family.
Protecting Your Home
One of the most important things you can do is identify any possible fire hazards inside and outside of the home and then address them immediately. Fire hazards include some of the following items:
- Heavy brush and other vegetation can serve as fuel for a fire. Most homeowners are required to keep their surrounding areas clear to help prevent a fire from spreading. The distance between flammable vegetation and your house should be about 100 feet.
- Have your heating system checked and cleaned by a professional on an annual basis.
- Get your roof inspected if it is made from wood shingles. All wood shingles should really be replaced with clay tiles or another material that does not fan the flames of a fire. Recommended materials include slate, tile, terra cotta or metal.
- Keep matches and flammable liquids locked up and away from children.
- Be sure to have raised your gas water heater off the ground so that nothing flammable that spills on the ground comes in contact with the pilot light.
- Regularly check all electric appliances and cords for wear or any loose connections.
- Regularly maintain and clean your fireplace chimney.
Here are some things you need to have in your home:
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in each bedroom and hallway. A study by a home insurance company found that these devices reduce the chances of dying in a house fire by nearly 50%. Be sure to check batteries on a regular basis or press the test button on each detector.
- If it is within your budget, you might also consider a monitored fire alarm system, which is usually linked to a home security monitoring system. These automatically dispatch firefighters at the first sign of trouble. While these systems can be expensive, many insurance companies provide you a further discount off your policy, compensating for some of the cost.
- Fire extinguishers in key areas of the house, such as the kitchen, garage, and one for each level of the house.
- An escape ladder if you have a multi-story home.
Protecting You and Your Loved Ones
Help your family understand what to do in case of a fire. Here are some tips to share with them:
- Have an escape route and run through it periodically so that everyone does it without having to stop and think. Be sure to actually draw a map that will help everyone better visualize the escape route. You will all be in panic mode so using the escape route has to be an unconscious action.
- Teach your family how to crawl out of a room and cover their mouths to protect themselves from the smoke.
- Provide instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Emphasize the need to not try and put fires out but to get out of the house as quickly as possible.
Protecting Your Valuable Property
There are a number of ways to protect your valuable property from fire damage that you may want to consider:
- Get a safety deposit box for treasured and irreplaceable items, such as photographs, important documents (birth certificates, etc.).
- Install a safe inside your home that cannot be destroyed by fire.
- Use memory sticks that will store all your important computer files in case you cannot rescue your computer in time. Also, consider using an online backup storage system that keeps your files on the Web so that they cannot be lost in a fire.
- If you are provided with time before having to evacuate to an impending fire that threatens your neighborhood, be sure to have a list of items that you want to grab quickly.
On the Road to Recovery with a Home Inventory
Sometimes a fire cannot be avoided, especially if you live in an area that experiences wildfires on a regular basis. One of the fastest ways to recovery is to have a home inventory in place that is stored on a Web portal, making it easy to update and access even if your computer is destroyed in the fire. This is an excellent way to keep photographs and a detailed accounting of all your belongings. If you lose them all to a fire, you will be able to have some peace of mind.
The home inventory serves as a comprehensive guide can help an insurance company or government agency to more effectively validate the amount of funds you need in order to rebuild and replace more quickly than if you had to start out with a list put together from memory. Claims can also be processed faster within a matter of weeks rather than months. While this record of your belongings does not make up for your loss, it does enable you to start quickly back along the road to recovery, which helps the healing process more than you realize prior to experiencing such a disaster.
Ownersite Technologies is happy to offer a free 30-day trial of Home Ownersite, the comprehensive, web-based tool that simplifies home inventories and recordkeeping. With plans starting at only $29.95 per year, Home Ownersite is the perfect tool to manage the complete ownership lifecycle for your home and valuables. To start your free, no-obligation trial or to review the different plans available, please click here.