Preventing Fires in the Home

By Peter DePaolis

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), each year in the United States, 2,500 people die and 12,600 people sustain injuries from fires in the home. Moreover, FEMA reports that house fires cause an estimated $7.3 billion in property damage annually. If you or a loved one is injured in a fire, an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can help. But why not take action before tragedy strikes? You can minimize your risk of experiencing a devastating house fire by following some simple guidelines.

Kitchen and Grilling Safety

According to FEMA, most house fires occur in the kitchen and are caused by cooking. To minimize the risk of a kitchen or grilling-related fire, FEMA suggests the following:

  • Remain in the kitchen when you are cooking
  • Wear short, close-fitting clothing or roll up your sleeves
  • Do not cook when sleepy, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while taking medicine that makes you drowsy
  • Keep children away from the stove
  • Place barbecue grills away from flammable materials, like siding, decks, eaves, and overhanging branches

A kitchen fire can start and spread quickly, so if you are leaving the kitchen for even a few moments, turn off the stove.

Preventing Smoking-Related Fires

Smoking also causes numerous house fires each year. FEMA recommends you:

  • Smoke outside and put out your cigarettes in a container filled with sand
  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are completely out
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used — oxygen is explosive
  • Do not smoke in bed

One mishandled cigarette can cause a home to go up in flames, so always exercise caution when smoking inside or near a house.

Appliances, Fireplaces, and Space Heaters

Other causes of house fires include electrical appliances, fireplaces, and portable space heaters. FEMA offers several suggestions for preventing fires caused by these sources:

  • Replace worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately, and do not run cords under rugs or furniture
  • Use three-prong plugs only in three-slot outlets
  • Do not overload extension cords or wall sockets
  • Annually inspect chimneys
  • Never burn trash, paper, or green wood in a fireplace
  • Use a heavy-duty fireplace screen
  • Make sure a fire is completely out before leaving a fireplace unattended
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from combustible objects
  • Only buy heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory like Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
  • Make sure the portable heater will turn off automatically if it falls over
  • Use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters
  • Check with the fire department about local laws concerning kerosene heaters

You can minimize your risk of losing your home, your loved ones, or even your own life to a house fire by following the fire prevention guidelines set forth by FEMA and other agencies. Unfortunately, even when a person takes all reasonable precautions to prevent a fire in the home, sometimes a house fire breaks out anyway. And we cannot always control the actions of others, especially when we are guests in someone else’s home. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a house fire caused by a faulty device or someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer today.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.