Home Fire Safety Advice from the Pros

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Here’s advice from the insurance experts at Erie Insurance to protect your home and family and stay safe.


A survey from Erie Insurance conducted online by Harris Poll, shows one in five Americans (21 percent) admit they never clean their clothes dryer ducts, unless they have a problem. Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? The most common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.


In cold weather it’s important to get your furnace checked, not just to make sure you have heat when ppfrigid temps set in, but to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 56,000 structure fires per year in homes that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. Thirty-six percent of homeowners have their furnaces inspected and serviced at least once a year.


Nearly half (46 percent) of people who own a home with a fireplace never have their chimney cleaned (swept), unless they have a problem. Unclean chimneys are a leading cause of structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, which recommends an annual chimney inspection. The NFPA research shows the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30 percent) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. In the 2009-2013 period chimneys resulted in $25 million in direct property damage each year. Improper cleaning can also lead to other serious issues including potential for carbon monoxide, fumes and possibly soot to enter the living spaces of your home.


Grill fires can start in a number of ways. To prevent a fire, clean the grill after each use. You should always keep it a safe distance from your building (at least 10 feet away) and away from trees. Place the grill on a solid surface that can’t burn, such as concrete or asphalt. And never walk away from the grill while cooking, as a spark or small flame can easily spread. Use long-handled spatulas, wear flame-resistant mitts and never wear loose-fitting clothes near an open flame.


Make sure your tree is properly hydrated and water it every day. One out of every three Christmas tree fires in a home is caused by electrical problems. Make sure to inspect the lights for damage, tossing out any that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked wires. Don’t forget to check smoke detectors, too, so you can be alerted in the event of an emergency. Keep your Christmas tree at least three feet away from any heat sources, including fireplaces, furnaces or space heaters. Instead of using real candles this season, opt for battery-operated, flameless candles. And keep it hydrated every day by watering.

Visit www.diyornot.com for more articles and to compare the cost of hundreds of home repair and improvement jobs whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor.

About diyornot.com

Gene and Katie Hamilton are authors of 20 home improvement books and creators of www.diyornot.com, a website that compares the DIY and contractor costs of hundreds of repair, decorating and remodeling projects. Their weekly column Do It Yourself or Not is syndicated by Tribune Content Agency.
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