Hidden Sources of Fire in Your Home
Were you aware of these fire hazards in your home?
Microwaves offer plenty of fire risks. Unnoticed metals on dinnerware, takeout containers – even in recycled paper products – can result in arcing, sparks, and fire. Popcorn, a commonly microwaved item, can easily catch fire when cooked for too long. If you have a fire in your microwave, turn it off immediately to prevent the fan feeding oxygen to flames and wait until it suffocates. Only open the door when you’re certain the fire is extinguished. Clean your microwave regularly and use only articles designed for microwave use to reduce fire potential. If your microwave malfunctions, replace it immediately. Microwaves are high voltage and pose an extreme fire risk when not properly operating. If your microwave malfunctions, unplug it. Never attempt to repair a microwave yourself, simply replace it or consult a professional.
All batteries pose a fire risk, even those with a weak charge. However 9 volt batteries are the biggest culprit of fire due to the close proximity of their terminals, which can easily short. A battery storage case is highly recommended. If you do not have one, leave batteries in their original packaging, not lying around loose. Store batteries standing up, placing electrical tape over the ends of each battery (all types – not just 9 volts) to prevent shorts. Do not store batteries in metal containers, or near other metal items such as keys, steel wool, and aluminum foil. Be sure to store 9 volt batteries separately.
- Light bulbs
Overlamping, or using a light bulb with wattage too high for a given outlet, can easily result in a home fire. Determining proper wattage is easy. Simply locate the proper wattage on each fixtures outlet. If the fixture is unmarked, stay under 60 watts to be safe. Caution must also be taken with CFLs (compact fluorescents). These spiral shaped bulbs could result in fire when improperly used. Avoid using CFLs in any lighting unit where the base of the bulb is enclosed by the fixture, such as with track and recessed lighting. If your CFLs are burning out early and you notice they are brown at the base when you remove them, the bulbs are overheating and could result in fire. Choose a cooler option, such as LED.
- Dryer lint
Dryer lint that has not been properly cleaned from your dryer vent or ductwork can cause heat buildup and fast-moving fires. Clean your dryer’s lint screen after every load. Use aluminum tubing to vent your dryer to meet current fire code standards. Your dryer’s lint trap only catches 25 percent of lint, so be certain to clean the vent and exhaust duct periodically, as well as the area behind the dryer, where lint can build up.
Laptops can get pretty hot during normal operation. Never leave your laptop on a bed or couch, or any place where its cooling vents are blocked. This could result in fire. Store laptops securely on a desk or laptop stand.
- Stacks of newspaper, magazines
Items you plan to read eventually can ignite quickly if left too close to a heat source. If you must keep old newspapers or magazines, be certain to store them in a cool, dry place in short stacks.
- Heating blankets and pads
Defective, old or improperly used blankets and heating pads can result in fire. To prevent fires, read and adhere to all manufacturer’s operating instructions. Do not place the cord between the mattress and box spring, or in any location where it may be pinched or folded. Avoid bunching, keeping the blanket or pad flat when in use. Use these items on the lowest setting no longer than the recommended time. Wash them carefully and take heed not to dry, iron, or dry clean them, which can melt heating wire insulation and increase fire risks.
- Barbeque charcoal
Throwing that unused bag of charcoal in the closest storage closet is a bad idea. Damp coal can ignite and start a serious fire. Store charcoal in a cool, dry place in a metal pail or garbage can secured tightly with a lid.
- Closet clutter
A sweater stack a mile high could easily come into contact with a light bulb and ignite. Don’t store combustible materials near light fixtures. Cut the clutter and keep belongings far away from bulbs.
Dust bunnies around electronics, sockets, and heaters can ignite and start fire. Regularly vacuum dust near outlets, wires, and appliances, including crevices and areas behind furniture, to prevent fires.
- Old appliances
Old appliances with worn insulation and dilapidated wiring are a disaster waiting to happen. Check them regularly to ensure good working condition and the safety of cords and connections.