Fire hazards at home are like ticking time bombs if not properly stored or managed.
Filipinos aren’t strangers to disastrous fires. These incidents are common in our nightly news, unfortunately. In 2019, there were over 16,000 incidents, as reported by Philstar. Just recently, a fire broke out in Parola Compound, Tondo, Manila that resulted in tragic casualties.
March marks the start of the hottest season of the year in the Philippines, which is why it’s Fire Prevention Month. During this time, you’ll hear fire prevention advice again – from keeping stoves and ovens clean to never leaving lighted candles unattended.
While you should always keep these in mind, it’s also important to be familiar with the very threats that cause accidents in your condo. Knowing what the exact threat is, essentially, the first key to spotting and eradicating it. Most fire hazards are in plain sight that you probably don’t think of them as unsafe.
Be informed and make sure to keep an eye on these things:
Is paper a fire hazard? Yes. It’s one of the biggest culprits to dangerous fire incidents. In particular, their location in your condo matters. In wanting our small bedrooms and home offices to be neat, we usually store newspapers and old files under the kitchen sink. But as you know, most fires start in this area. Filled with papers, this space is a hazard at home.
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How to eliminate this fire hazard: If you really must keep papers outside your bedroom or home office, place them three feet away from stoves, ovens, and heating sources. But if it’s possible, install different kinds of storage in your rooms. In a small home like a condo, clever storage is key to keeping the clutter away from your sight and promoting fire safety.
There are different kinds of storage that you can use for organizing papers: racks, shelves, cabinets of varying designs, baskets and bins, utility carts, among others. Choose whatever suits your interior design.
2. Greasy rags
Ever heard of spontaneous combustion? It means what it sounds like. Fires start spontaneously, without any spark to ignite them. The oily rags you use in cleaning your stoves or ovens slowly heat to the ignition point through oxidation. When the heat can’t escape, as when it’s in a pile, the temperature rises and ignites the oil and the cloth. This is one of the fire hazard examples people shouldn’t underestimate.
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How to prevent this fire hazard: Part of your fire safety plan should be cleaning greasy rags after use. Before washing, hang them outside to air dry. Then, soak them in water and detergent to get the gunk out, then scrub them by hand. Again, air dry them. Don’t put them in the dryer as it might trigger fires. If you must discard them, make sure to observe proper disposal. Put the rags in an empty metal container, such as an old paint can.
3. Household chemicals
If you think about it, our homes are full of chemicals: paint thinner, cooking oil, fabric softeners, and other laundry substances, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers, and more. Even in your bedroom, beauty products such as hair sprays and nail polish are flammable materials. These flammable household chemicals fall under different types of fire hazards..
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How to prevent this fire hazard: Fortunately, these items don’t spontaneously combust. All the same, it’s important to follow fire safety tips and store them properly. Choose a location in your condo unit where they’re far from heat sources, such as outlets, stoves, or candles.
For some of us, we like to open our windows and flood our condo units with natural light as the sunshine brings cheer to our home. But glass left in direct sunlight are fire hazards. It can magnify the sun’s rays, directing them onto objects in your home. Soft furnishings, such as beds and couches can go up in smoke instantly.
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How to prevent this fire hazard: Moderate sunlight in the condo should be fine. But when the sun is at its highest point, it’s best to draw the curtains and the blinds. Don’t leave mirrors either in direct sunlight. This fire prevention tip is especially important in the months ahead, as we welcome the summer season.
5. Wires and outlets
What are the main causes of a fire? Faulty electrical connections are among the top culprits. The cords of appliances you frequently use get worn out over time. If you’re the type who unplugs equipment by the cord itself rather than the plug, there’s a good chance that the insulation around the cables has already weakened. This electrical problem is a fire hazard, not to mention a safety risk. The same goes for loose power strips.
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How to prevent this fire hazard: If you see signs of wear and tear on your electrical fixtures, call an electrician immediately. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher on standby, too. In choosing the appropriate tool for your home, you must learn the basics, one of which is: what are the 4 types of fire?
Fire extinguishers are classified according to the classes of fire they fight against. A is for wood, paper, and cloth. B is flammable fluids, while C is live electricity. D is combustible metals. As part of fire prevention checkup for your condo, make sure that you have fire extinguishers at home.
The gadgets you use at home are another fire hazard example that most people don’t know. In the era of remote work, most of you use your laptops in the comfort of your beds or couches. The thing is, when you leave it on these surfaces for a long time, they can prevent the airflow through the cooling vents. Eventually, your gadget will overheat. Soft furnishings quickly catch fire, and all these factors can lead to a terrible accident.
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How to eliminate this fire hazard: Put simply, don’t use your laptop in bed or on the couch. Never use pillows as a work surface either, as these could restrict airflow as well. Work on a desk. Buy yourself a cooling pad or a laptop stand. This is only a pinch of a cost compared to the price of dealing with terrible fire incidents later. This simple act can make a big difference in how you can prevent fire hazards at home.
7. Washing machine
What is a common fire hazard that most people don’t know about? Washing machines. Yes, your washer can go up in flames. There’s a host of potential causes, from faulty wiring and worn-out conveyors to leaking hoses, which trigger overheating or short circuits. If you see sparks or a little bit of smoke from your washing machine, unplug it. Put out the small fire and have an electrician check your appliance.
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How to eliminate this fire hazard: Don’t overload your washing machine. If you’ll be cleaning clothes that have come into contact with flammable materials, such as gasoline or paint thinner, let them dry first before putting them in the washer. Part of your fire protection plan should be having a service wash once every few months as well. Although simple, this safety precaution to avoid fires shouldn’t be underestimated.
This Fire Prevention Month, follow safety measures to prevent terrible accidents in your home. It starts with knowing the risks and asking “how do you identify a fire hazard?” If there’s a common denominator in the items mentioned above, they are heat sources, smoke or spark triggers, and flammable materials. Being familiar with objects that fall under these categories is the answer to how you can prevent fire hazards.
Stay safe and remember, don’t play with fire.