Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property. But many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home and can save property and lives should disaster strike.
- Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many multiple strands can be joined together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.
- Candles add a welcoming, festive feeling, and need to be placed in stable holders and located away from flammable items, drafts, pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.
- Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights, even LED types, on a dried-out tree.
- Electrical items including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpet or rugs even temporarily as this creates a fire hazard.
- Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
- When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, paper – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.
- Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Most municipalities require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
- Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
- Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Turn the handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are widely available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
- Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Local fire departments can also provide recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
Your local Pillar To Post office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season!
Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. Health Canada estimates that 1 in 14 homes in Canada has an elevated level of radon. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon.
WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, colorless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
HOW DOES RADON GET INTO A HOME?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T AT RISK?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Contact Pillar To Post to schedule radon testing when you book your next home inspection.
Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires. Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that nearly two-thirds of home fire fatalities occur in homes with non-working or missing smoke detectors. Most building codes now require smoke detectors in all residential structures, which has resulted in a steep drop in fire- and smoke-related deaths. Homeowners should check with their local public safety office or fire department for specific information on these requirements.
- As in real estate, location is key! Smoke alarms should be in installed every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home.
- Alarms should be placed high on a wall or on the ceiling. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement. High, peaked ceilings have dead air space at the top; in these instances smoke alarms should be placed no closer than 3 feet from the highest point.
- For areas close to the kitchen, use a detector with a “hush button” that can be used to silence nuisance alarms triggered by cooking smoke or steam. Alternatively, consider installing a photoelectric alarm near the kitchen, which will not be triggered by cooking. No matter which type is used, never remove the unit’s battery to stop or prevent nuisance alarms.
- There are two primary types of smoke alarm technology: ionization and photoelectric. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the most comprehensive protection, both types or a combination unit should be installed.
- Test each alarm unit monthly. It’s helpful to put a reminder in your calendar to do this on the first or last day of the month, for example. The units have a test button that will sound the alarm for a moment or two when pressed. Any alarm that fails to sound should have the battery replaced. If the test button fails with a new battery, replace the entire detector immediately. Monthly testing is also an ideal time to dust off the unit so that it continues to work properly.
- Replace the batteries at least once a year. A common rule of thumb is to do this when changing to or from Daylight Saving Time in fall or spring. Remember, a non-working alarm is no better than no alarm at all. Many newer alarms now come with 10-year lithium batteries that eliminate the need for new batteries, but the unit itself must be replaced after its stated lifespan.
- If the alarms are hard-wired to the home’s electrical system, make sure they are interconnected for maximum effectiveness – meaning that if one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Any hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.
- The newest type of interconnected smoke alarms are wireless. This technology allows detectors to communicate with one another and, like their hard-wired cousins, will sound all of the units at the same time even if just one is triggered initially.
Early alerting is key to surviving a fire. Following these simple but important measures allows occupants to be warned, helping to prevent injuries and fatalities.
The days are getting noticeably shorter, and maybe there’s a nip in the air – sure signs that fall is on its way. Now is the perfect time to put these ideas on your to-do list and get your home in shape before winter rolls in.
Seal it up: Caulk and seal around exterior door and window frames. Look for gaps where pipes or wiring enter the home and caulk those as well. Not only does heat escape from these openings, but water can enter and may eventually cause mold problems and even structural damage.
Look up: Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Winter weather can cause serious damage to a vulnerable roof, leading to a greater chance of further damage inside the home. Although you should always have a qualified professional inspect and repair the roof, you can do a preliminary survey safely from the ground using binoculars.
Clear it out: Clear gutters and eaves troughs of leaves, sticks, and other debris. Consider installing leaf guards if your gutters can accommodate them – they are real time savers and can prevent damage from clogged gutters. Check the seams between sections of gutter, as well as between the gutter and downspouts, and make any necessary adjustments or repairs.
No hose: In climates with freezing weather, drain garden hoses and store them indoors to protect them from the elements. Shut off outdoor faucets and make sure exterior pipes are drained of water. Faucets and pipes can freeze and burst, causing leaks and potentially serious water damage.
Warm up time: Have the furnace inspected to ensure it’s safe and in good working order. Most utility companies will provide basic inspections at no charge, but there can often be a long waiting list come fall and winter. Replace disposable furnace air filters or clean the permanent type according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a clean filter will help the furnace run more efficiently, saving you money and energy.
Light that fire: If you enjoy the crackle of a wood-burning fireplace on a chilly fall evening, have the firebox and chimney professionally cleaned before lighting a fire this season. Creosote, a byproduct of wood burning, can build up to dangerous levels and cause a serious chimney fire if not removed.
Happy fall to you from everyone at Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.