Don’t Let a House Fire Destroy Your Manchester Home
Home fires are so dangerous, both to your property and to your family’s lives and wellbeing. You may not be able to prevent every fire, but you can take many steps to reduce your risk and you can prepare for a fire to give yourself a chance to escape it while minimizing damage.
For starters, you need to take the threat of a fire seriously. Each year in the U.S. fires kill more people than all other natural disasters combined. And the physical damage a house fire can cause is substantial, easily amounting to $100,000, $200,000 or more in property damage to your Manchester house.
It’s a fact that today’s house fires are more deadly and destructive than those of a few decades ago. The reason is that today’s homes are furnished with more synthetic materials, which catch fire more easily, burn at a higher temperature and spew out more toxins. Prior to this change, you would have had about 15 minutes to escape a house fire. Today, you need to escape a burning home in about 3 to 4 minutes. That’s why prevention and preparation are essential. You have no time to waste!
How a Fire Starts and Burns: Anatomy of a Kitchen Fire
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that cooking is the greatest single cause of fires and injuries, with 44% of all home fires starting there. Even if a fire is contained within a kitchen, it can cause $50,000 or more in damage.
Leaving food cooking unattended is the primary cause of kitchen fires, so you must stay in the kitchen if you’re frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food. If you have to leave, even for a moment or two, turn off the stove. If you are simmering, baking or roasting, stay nearby and check your meal often.
The NFPA has other safe cooking advice:
- Take cooking seriously and be alert. Don’t cook when impaired, sleepy or distracted.
- Keep the stovetop and surrounding area free of flammable items. This includes potholders, oven mitts, dish towels and food packaging.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the stove to prevent both burns and fires.
Let’s take a look at how a typical kitchen fire starts, spreads and can destroy your home in just minutes. It begins when a pot on the stove boils over and drips oily fluid onto the gas flame or electric burner. Flames burst out in seconds.
The first 30 seconds: Those flames ignite any grease or oil on the stovetop and can leap to nearby items, such as potholders or dish towels. This is your chance to quickly extinguish the fire by covering it with a pot lid or cookie sheet to cut off its oxygen. Do not throw water on the fire, as that can actually spread the flames. If not put out now, the fire starts producing smoke and heated air. Elapsed time = 30 seconds.
The next 30 seconds: The fire jumps to other combustible items in the kitchen. Smoke (a mixture of ash, soot and hot gases, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor and hydrogen sulfide) spreads through the kitchen—and breathing in just a little smoke can cause you to lose consciousness. Elapsed time = 1 minute.
The next 2 minutes: The biggest killer in a house fire is smoke, with its deadly gases, and now the smoke surges out of the kitchen, hovering above the floor. It grows denser and travels to other rooms and then upstairs. Meanwhile, the flames are consuming your kitchen and its contents. The temperature in the kitchen is now high enough to kill. At only the 3-minute mark, you and your family have very little time to escape! Elapsed time = 3 minutes.
The next minute: With the temperature of the fire reaching more than 1000 degrees F, your kitchen and nearby rooms may flashover, with everything bursting into flames at once and consuming all the oxygen. Synthetic furnishings, like sofas and carpets, go up like torches, generating huge amounts of heat. The stairwell may be impassible, and the fire is now traveling upstairs through interior walls. Elapsed time = 4 minutes.
The next minute: Flames are shooting out of your windows and doorways, and more flashovers occur. The floor or roof might collapse. The odds of anyone escaping from an upstairs room are nearly nonexistent. Elapsed time = 5 minutes.
First Line of Defense Against a Fire Tragedy: Prepare to Escape in 3–5 Minutes
Your life and the lives of your family depend on creating and practicing an escape plan. Here’s how to do it:
- Make a diagram of your house and label the windows and doors.
- Draw out two paths to escape from each room. One should be through a door.
- Select a meeting place a safe distance from your house. After your family meets up there, call 911 from a cell phone or neighbor’s house.
Once you have created your escape plan, make sure you communicate it to all members of the family, especially your children. You should also talk to your kids regularly about fire safety and what to do in case of a fire in your home. And because you need to escape any house fire in just a few minutes, it’s essential that you and your family practice your escape plan:
- Practice your plan at least two times a year. Most fires start at night, so one of these drills should be run after bedtime.
- Practice crawling out of bedrooms and the house, since you may have to do that in a real fire.
- Make sure your children know never to hide in a closet or under a bed during a fire.
- Have a family member time how long it takes for everyone to exit the house and rerun the drill if it’s too slow.
- If you own them, practice using escape ladders. If your family sleeps on the second floor, ladders will provide another way out.
Second Line of Defense Against a Fire Tragedy: Have the Right Safety Equipment
The right fire safety equipment can mean the difference between life and death, because it will alert your family to a fire and give you precious time to escape.
Having working smoke alarms is essential to your survival in a house fire:
- Install at least one on each floor of your house.
- Install one near each sleeping area.
- Test your alarms each month.
- Replace the batteries once a year (many people do that when the clocks move forward or back).
- Replace your alarms every five years.
- Choose alarms that are approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Never paint any part of a smoke alarm.
- If you want to clean your alarm of dust or dirt, gently use a vacuum cleaner attachment.
- For greatest peace of mind, consider asking your local fire department to do a smoke alarm inspection of your home.
There are several different types of smoke alarms:
- Battery-powered alarms. These can be easily installed with a drill and screwdriver. Make sure they’re not too close to doors, windows, vents or ceiling fans.
- Interconnected hard-wired smoke alarms that have a battery backup. If one alarm sounds, they all will. Hire a qualified electrician to install these.
- Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are especially important to have near the garage, furnace, water heater, dryer and fireplace.
A fire extinguisher can give you a chance to quickly extinguish the flames before they get out of control. But “quickly” is the key word here—remember, you only have a few minutes. Your priority is to get your family out of the house without any loss of life. Property can be replaced.
- For the home, choose multi-purpose Class ABC extinguishers that are easy to handle and big enough to put out a small fire.
- Familiarize yourself with the fire extinguisher and its operation.
- Install fire extinguishers near exits.
- Have your extinguishers serviced each year and recharge them when necessary.
- Think of the word P-A-S-S when using the extinguisher:
—Pull the pin to release the lock.
—Aim the nozzle toward the base of the fire.
—Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
—Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
- Keep your back to the exit so you can escape if the fire goes out of control. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
Consider a home fire sprinkler system for extra protection beyond alarms and extinguishers. A system like this will attack a fire while it’s still small and containable. The ideal time to add a home sprinkler system is when you are building or remodeling your home, but they can be added to almost any structure.
Third Line of Defense Against a Fire Tragedy: Eliminate Fire Hazards
Another way to help prevent a fire in your home and minimize the damage is to discover and eliminate common fire hazards.
- Inspect your electrical cords for fraying, and if damaged, replace either the appliance or the cord.
- Check your extension cords for fraying, as well. Don’t plug multiple extension cords into the same outlet, and don’t string multiple extension cords together.
- Pay attention to your light switches. If you notice any that buzz, spark or heat up, call an electrician to replace the switch.
- If you notice any flickering lights, have an electrician check your wiring ASAP.
- Check all your light bulbs to make sure that their wattage does not exceed the fixture’s rating.
- Clean and check your clothes dryer regularly to be sure lint doesn’t build up in the trap or the dryer duct, and once a year hire a pro to inspect and clean your dryer.
- Store loose unused 9-volt batteries in their original packaging to prevent metal-to-metal contact, which can create an electrical charge and heat.
- Purchase only electric blankets that are certified by a national testing laboratory, and lay your blanket flat while using it.
- To escape from a fire faster, check that your windows open easily and your doors open from the inside without a key.
- Clear out excessive clutter, such as old papers, magazines and piles of clothing, that can easily become fuel. Make sure each member of your family has a clear path to escape that is not blocked by clutter or debris.
- Consider contacting your local fire department to inspect your home and make recommendations for improving fire safety. They’ll take a good look at all potential fire hazards, such as improper grounding, the electrical panel, electrical circuits and appliances. They’ll also test your smoke detectors to assure they are ready to protect your family.
After the Fire is Extinguished, SERVPRO Can Help Restore Your Manchester Home
If you do suffer a fire, once the flames are out and the fire trucks have left, your home and its contents may be terribly damaged or even destroyed by the fire, smoke and heat. Because your home poses a health risk, you must not go inside until the building has been deemed safe by your local fire marshal. Appliances that appear undamaged may have been melted on the interior. All the furnishings—even your clothes—may reek of smoke and be covered with soot. Any items hit by firefighters’ water may become infested by mold. Weakened and deformed structural supports may mean your house is at risk of collapse.
If your structure has survived, you’ll have a big cleanup job ahead of you. A professional fire damage restoration company like SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield is ready to take on the task of restoring your home. SERVPRO’s experienced pros will arrive quickly to:
- evaluate the damage
- remove destroyed property
- reconstruct your structure
- remove, inventory, store and clean salvageable items of smoke, soot and water
- work with your insurer to expedite your claim
- restore your structure and possessions to pre-fire condition
We’re Here for You
The team at SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield has specialized training and experience in fire restoration services, natural disaster and storm damage cleanup, water damage remediation and chemical cleanup. Call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield (860.649.0836) any time.
If you’ve suffered fire damage to your home or business, call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield today at 860.649.0836
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If you’ve suffered fire damage to your home or business, call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield today at 860.649.0836