Take it from an insurance company – fire losses are devastating. People don’t realize that in addition to the fire, there might be additional damage caused by water, smoke and heat. Fortunately, most items can be replaced, but it’s the items like pictures or sentimental gifts that are the hardest to deal with.
The truth is that many of these fires were preventable – a little bit of common sense and regular maintenance goes a long ways. Taking the time to inspect potential hazards in the barn and in the home might be the difference between “Happy Holidays” and “Call 9-1-1.”
Prevent Fires in the Barn
- Hay Precautions – The abundance and flammability of hay can be a massive hazard if proper precautions are not taken. Don’t store it near lights, electrical boxes, or outlets, and monitor the bales to make sure they have adequate ventilation.
- Smoke Detectors – Yes, there should be smoke detectors in the barn, too! Consider connecting the detectors with a loud siren so they can be heard when no one’s in the barn.
- Heating Systems – Regularly maintain your furnace and check that there are no leaks in any gas and fuel oil systems. Make sure all ducts and air shafts are clean of dust and debris.
- Electrical Systems – Conduit, conduit, conduit! Those pesky rodents like to chew on things, so make sure the wires, even extension cords, are encased in a metal conduit pipe. Also, make sure your power needs are met without overloading your electrical system.
Prevent Fires in the Home
- Chimney Maintenance – Brick chimneys are prone to deteriorate, causing highly-combustible creosote to build-up in wall cavities. Regularly check that your chimney is structurally sound, and use a wire brush to clean-up the creosote. Burning maple, oak or hickory wood and letting the fire get hot and bright will limit the buildup as well.
- Cooking – Stay in the kitchen, and roll those sleeves up! Seems like common sense, but cooking accounted for 37.2% of all residential fires in 2014, according to the USFA. If you have young children or pets, you may want to enforce a “cooking zone” of 3 feet around the stove to prevent accidents.
- Smoke Detectors – These should be installed on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas and should be tested monthly.
- Family Management – Make sure your family practices a fire escape plan (the Red Cross offers worksheets to help you prepare) and can safely escape a home fire in under two minutes.
*Thank you to the Middleton Fire Department and the National Farm Medicine Center for their input.