The most cost effective approach to managing risk is to be proactive about reducing hazards and preventing accidents. When it comes to home fires, the most common causes of loss might not be what you expect. Less obvious dangers like the five detailed below actually cause more losses than major events, both because small risks may go unnoticed and because they occur frequently.
Laptops in Bed
Putting on your favorite Netflix show before a nap might help you fall asleep, but under the wrong circumstances it can also be dangerous. Internal computer components reach about 200 degrees Fahrenheit under high hardware demand, which could smolder and ignite flammable material like a blanket or couch. Always be mindful of keeping vents cleared to help your computer stay cool, and if there's a chance of leaving a device unattended leave it on a non-flammable surface.
Emptying your lint trap before drying a load of clothes is a small habit, but an important one. Leftover lint causes a reported 15,000 fires a year, that is a great deal of preventable loss. It is also recommended to periodically have your dryer vent cleaned. Check with the manufacturer for safety and maintenance details. Besides protecting your home from fire, clothes are dried more evenly and consistently in a lint free dryer.
Clutter in the Closet
When a house fire first begins it usually begins small, small enough for one attentive person to put it out with little effort. Fires that remain hidden have time to grow out of control, so it should come as no surprise to hear that one in eight house fires begin in a closet. Most commonly, closet fires begin because some hastily put away flammable material like a blanket or paper files is in contact with a powered light bulb for long enough to heat and ignite. Spring cleaning is just around the corner, consider reducing clutter in places where a fire could begin and be mindful of light bulbs when using high shelves for storage.
9 Volt Batteries
Think about your home right now, do you have a drawer (or two or three) with a few loose batteries in it? It might be worth it to take a look through those junk drawers, particularly for 9 volt batteries for which risk of fire from is on the rise.
9 volt batteries can generate a great deal of heat if both prongs touch something conductive, and that heat can ignite flammable material. Whether in a junk drawer or trash can, always keep unused batteries in their original containers and wrap dead ones before disposal so that conductive debris cannot complete the circuit.
Batteries also require special recycling, finding a convenient drop off spot is a great help in keeping used batteries from piling up at home. You can find nearby recycling spots for batteries here: www.call2recycle.org/locator
Last but certainly not the least dangerous, cooking is the number one cause of home fires. Thanksgiving is the most common day for home cooking fires, but that doesn’t mean other days are any less flammable.
When we're having fun throwing a meal together our brains are focused on the food we will soon be eating, but we have to be sure not to forget the heat source underneath. Two thirds of cooking fires are ignited by a stove top.
Make sure to keep flammable items such as dish towels, curtains, loose clothing, and wrappers away from the stove. Always turn off burners when they’re no longer needed, and do not leave cooking food unattended. Make it part of your cooking routine to observe burner controls to be sure, and keep a small fire extinguisher handy for when accidents do happen.
Check your Homeowners or Renters policy to make sure that you have “Replacement Cost” coverage on your personal property and not "Cash Value", cash value gets you yard sale prices for your covered property losses and replacement cost gets you the money you need to replace your property. To be better prepared for a loss take an inventory of your home (make sure to store the list elsewhere). Lastly, ask your Agent about listing (or scheduling) any valuable items, such as fine art or collectibles, as many policies have a cap on the coverage for unscheduled property.
Before reading and other than cooking, did any of these jump to the front of your mind when you thought about fire hazards? Maybe not, but now you are a little bit better prepared to keep your home safe. Take proper precautions and follow our column for more tips on protection and insurance soon to come.