Penn. Insurance Department Offers Simple Tips to Prevent Home Fires

November 6, 2013

Deaths from fires and burns are the third-leading cause of fatal home injuries, and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine offered five simple ways to prevent home fires.

“Often victims in house fires die from smoke or toxic gases, rather than burns,” Commissioner Consedine said. “We can all take certain precautions to help prevent these types of tragedies, particularly now as we prepare for colder weather.”

Tip 1: Give heaters their space

In colder months, heating can be a concern. Portable, electric space heaters need three feet of clear space in all directions. Keep heaters away from draperies, furniture, bedspreads, people and pets. Also, homeowners should have their central heating equipment professionally inspected and serviced each heating season. And for homeowners who regularly have logs burning in the fireplace, have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually.

Tip 2: Stand by your pan

Cooking, particularly stove-top cooking, is the leading cause of home fires. Many such fires happen after residents put something on the stove, but become distracted and forget about it. If one has to leave the kitchen while cooking, turn the heat off the burner.

Tip 3: Don’t smoke in bed

House fires can occur as smokers lose track of their still-smoldering butts, which then come in contact with flammable surfaces such as couch cushions. Also cigarettes should be doused with water before they are thrown away to make sure they are completely extinguished.

Tip 4: Check electrical cords and don’t overload the fuse box

Faulty or worn electrical cords are another top cause of home fires. Cords that become frayed or cracked can send sparks to flammable surfaces and start a fire. Check all of the electrical cords to see they are in good shape, and replace those that have deteriorated.

Also, do not overload the circuits. Stick with one plug per receptacle/outlet. Another potential ­hazard occurs when numerous outlets are wired to a single circuit. The homeowner may find that all of the outlets in an entire room are connected to a single circuit. This means that the occupants don’t necessarily have to overload a single outlet to cause a fire.­

Tip 5: Check smoke alarms

All households should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor and preferably one in every bedroom. New smoke alarms should be installed every ten years. Test the alarm and replace the battery yearly.

Homeowners and renters insurance can help replace possessions after a fire loss. To see more homeowner tips, visit and click on the “Get Educated” tab. Consumers with insurance questions may call the Pennsylvania state insurance department’s toll free number at 877-881-6388.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

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