Fire Hazards That May be Hiding in Your Home

The wildfires blazing across Canada and other parts of the world right now aren’t the only scorching flames we should be wary of. Did you know that in mere minutes, an innocent flame can grow big enough to ravage your home and threaten your life? October is National Fire Prevention Month and it’s time to up your game when it comes to protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your home.This blog will explain the fatal effects of house fires and describe some of the lesser-known fire hazards commonly found in homes. We’ll teach you how to prevent these hazards and explain how insurance can help.

Common Fire Hazard Issues in the Home 

Many everyday items—some you’d expect, and some you might not—are responsible for starting or spreading most household fires, including the following:

  • Candles
  • Lighters
  • Matches
  • Electrical appliances
  • Lint screens (like the one in the dryer)
  • Ovens
  • Clutter
  • Accumulated dust

Though tools used to create fire (matches, lighters, the oven, etc.) are obvious culprits in many household fires, many people fail to recognize the potential danger of malfunctioning electrical appliances like kettles, toasters and laptops. Similarly, damaged electrical cords and overloaded electrical sockets also pose a fire hazard. If anything electrical’s current is able to come into contact with something flammable (say a curtain, carpeting or a ball of lint), can quickly cause a fire.

As for regular household clutter and accumulated dust, these conditions make it much easier for a small fire to spread throughout the house. Dust contains tiny fibres as well as clumps of pet hair, human hair, and other tiny flammable materials, while clutter can include cardboard, paper, flammable packaging, lamp shades and literally anything that flames consume quickly and easily. The more flammable material in your home, the quicker a fire can spread. Like dust, sawdust in workspaces poses the same risk.

Surprising Fire Hazards You’ve Probably Overlooked 

Sometimes, the cause of a fire is surprising. When it comes to fire, safety at home starts with knowing what constitutes risky behaviour and risky items. Did you know that glassware poses a significant risk for house fires? It’s true! Those beautiful stacks of glasses, champagne flutes, punch bowls, etc., as stunning as they look when catching the natural light from the window, could concentrate all that heat onto a roll of paper towels (or a nearby tassel on a throw pillow) pretty easily. It’s a shame, but you’re better off keeping your pretty glassware in a cupboard when big, sunny windows are in the picture. Or, at least, far away from anything flammable.

Another overlooked fire hazard comes in the form of 9-volt batteries. Unlike most household batteries, 9-volts are designed with both the negative and positive ends on the same side, and when these come into contact with metal objects, they produce sparks. To stay safe, keep these in their own storage container away from anything else, and tape over the charged ends for an extra layer of safety.

Electrical Fires & You 

There are multiple ways for electricity to cause a fire in your home, whether it’s from a malfunctioning blender or badly installed electrical wires within the walls. If you are buying a house, revamping an existing electrical system or making additions to your electrical wiring, it’s absolutely vital to have a professional electrician check the system. Only a professional, reputable, certified electrical worker can make sure that all wiring, outlets, switches, fuses, etc. are installed properly, working correctly, and that they meet regulations.

If any of the multiple parts of a home’s extensive electrical wiring system are malfunctioning, the electricity could pool, causing intense heat that eventually lights up surrounding materials like insulation, wood and drywall. Things can be riskier if you’re in a house built before the 1940s, because of the differences in electrical practices and regulations. For example, classic knob and tube wiring from the earliest electricity-supplied homes and those built through the 1930s may not be grounded. Lack of grounding means that there is nowhere safe for excess electricity to travel during surges, making the risk of fire much greater.

Even with an expertly installed electrical system in your home, inappropriate use of that system can endanger your house. Fire safety experts advise running about three electrical devices from one electrical socket at once—no more. Even if you’re using a power bar, it’s best not to use more than 1,500 watts of power at once. You can check the wattage of each appliance in the manual or on the tag attached to the cord. The reasons that certain large appliances such as ovens and refrigerators often have their own dedicated electrical outlet and circuit is due to their tendency to use more than the recommended wattage.

The point is, when electrical sockets are overloaded, they overheat and damage surrounding insulators like rubber and plastic, eventually setting the fixture alight. The same problem occurs with items like laptops, hot plates and other appliances when there is damage to the electrical components.

The good news is, there’s a simple way to avoid electrical fires caused by appliances and outlets: Don’t use damaged cords or appliances, and don’t overload the circuit!

Fire Safety Tips

Fire safety is of utmost importance in ensuring the well-being of your family and protecting your property. To stay safe and drastically reduce the risk of losing your home to fire and smoke damage, learn the following fire safety tips and teach them to your family members.

  1. Install and maintain smoke detectors. These should be installed on every level of your house so that they are easy to hear and quick to sense a problem on any floor. Even though smoke alarms sound piercingly loud when you’re awake, it’s more common than you probably think for someone to sleep through an alarm that’s ringing on another floor. Test your smoke alarms regularly and replace their batteries at least once a year to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  2. Create a fire escape plan. You and every member of your household needs to know how to escape your home via multiple routes to avoid potential fire and smoke. Create a plan, go through it together to make sure it works, and write it down. Designate two escape routes from each room and establish a meeting point outside the house. Practice this plan with your family so that if there’s an emergency everyone can remember how to get out.
  3. Keep flammable items stored away sources of heat and flame. Flammable items and materials like curtains, blankets, towels, paper towels and books must be far enough away from heat sources that they still feel cool when the heat source is running. Never leave a hot stove unattended, and ensure your stovetop is clean and free from grease buildup, potholders, sponges, tea towels, etc.

These simple home safety tips can help prevent fires from starting in the first place and keep you safe from potential disasters. Fire safety is a shared responsibility, and by following these tips, you can protect your family and your property from the devastating effects of fires.

How Can I Protect the Value of my Home Against Fire Damage? 

Protecting the value of your home against fire damage is a critical concern for homeowners, and having the right home insurance is a cornerstone of this protection strategy. Start by reviewing your existing home insurance policy, and check that it covers fire damage. Next, make sure you understand the extent of the fire damage coverage! Standard home insurance policies typically include coverage for fire damage, but it's important to know the specifics, including any limitations or exclusions.

When evaluating your insurance options, opt for replacement cost coverage if available. This type of coverage ensures that your damaged or destroyed property is replaced with new items of similar type and quality, without accounting for depreciation. For the purposes of your insurance plan, create a detailed inventory of your personal belongings, including furniture, electronics, jewellery and other valuables. Document their estimated value, file any existing receipts and take photographs. This documentation can be invaluable when filing a claim for fire damage, so make a physical and digital copy if possible. Keep a copy somewhere that isn’t your house!

Depending on your location and specific risks, you may need additional coverage beyond what's offered in a standard policy. If you live in a high-risk fire area, such as a wildfire-prone region, you may need supplementary coverage for wildfire-related damage. Make sure the policy limits for your home and personal property adequately reflect their current value. As your home appreciates in value or you acquire more possessions, adjust your insurance coverage accordingly to ensure you're adequately protected.

Acumen Insurance Group is Ready to Help

If you're unsure about the intricacies of your insurance policy or need advice on additional coverage options, consult with one of our experienced insurance agents. They can help you understand your options and tailor a policy that suits your specific needs and budget.

Take a look at our available home insurance plans today and get in touch with any questions you might have! We’re available to provide quotes on home, life, business and auto insurance, so if you need multiple insurance policies, talk to us about a money-saving insurance bundle. You’ll be glad you did!