Home and Fire Safety Buying Guide: Kitchen, Living Room, Porch and Deck

More on Fire and Safety

  • A fire extinguisher is a must for every kitchen ­ the place where so many house fires start. There are different extinguishers for different types of fires. You will notice labels on the units marked A, B and C. These letters refer to which types of fire the extinguisher is meant to fight:

  • Class A extinguishers are made for fires involving paper, wood, textiles and plastics. The material inside smothers the fire, putting it out by cutting off the oxygen that feeds it.

  • Class B extinguishers are made for fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, oil, gasoline and paint. Two kinds of material are used: one to smother the fire and one to create a chemical reaction that puts it out.

  • Class C extinguishers use non-conductive materials to fight fires in live electrical equipment.

Each extinguisher also has a rating number indicating what size fire it can handle. Some units are rated for all three types of fires, but they have a larger size rating for one type than for another. Choose a fire extinguisher that is right for the types of fire that might break out in a particular area.

  • A first-aid kit prepares you to treat minor injuries. Keep it stocked with clean supplies and fresh medicines, as well as phone numbers for the local emergency services, poison control and your doctors’ offices.

  • Do not store cooking utensils and dish towels too close to the range. They could melt or catch fire.

  • Make sure that plugs near the sink are GFCI outlets, which are designed to monitor the current going to and coming from the receptacle.

If electricity started flowing through an improper channel to the ground ­ for example, your body ­ there would be a drop in the current on the proper path. Within a fraction of a second of detecting that current imbalance, a properly installed GFCI would shut that circuit down. You might get shocked, but you should be safe from electrocution.

Most local codes now require these outlets in new construction, but older houses might not have them in place. Test the GFCI outlets monthly (using the test button) so you can be sure they will work when they are needed.

Store knives safely:

  • If they are in a drawer, store them with covers to keep someone from being cut while reaching in the drawer.

  • If they are on a magnetic strip, make sure that the magnetic force is strong enough to hold them and that the strip is fastened tightly to the wall.

Living Room

  • Avoid using extension cords. If you must, make sure the cord is in good condition ­ not frayed, stretched or worn ­ and is out of the path of foot traffic.

If all the items to be plugged in are close together, try using a power bar or surge protector. But make sure not to overload the circuit, which can create a fire hazard.

  • Install peep-holes in exterior doors so you can see who is ringing the doorbell before you answer.

  • Keep clothing, upholstered furniture and draperies away from space heaters. Do not leave space heaters unattended - turn them off if you have to leave the room, even if you are only going to be gone for a few moments. Do not use space heaters while you are asleep.

  • Use no-tip ashtrays to make sure burning cigarette butts stay where they belong. Do not use makeshift ashtrays - plastic cups, for example. If the material is not fireproof, it might not contain the burning cigarettes safely.

Porch and Deck

  • Use non-slip door mats at every entrance to the house.

  • Keep enough ice-melter, sand or kitty litter on hand to treat ice patches in the winter. Shovel the sidewalk and driveway promptly to keep walking safe during the snowy season.

  • Install hand rails on steps that lead up to porches or decks. Make sure the rails are sturdy and easy to grip.

  • Install outdoor lighting to guide visitors on the path to your door. A variety of decorative lights are available: Some are powered by low-voltage electrical lines running underground, and others get energy from the sun during the daytime so they can shine at night.

Look for an outdoor lighting system that can be set to turn on automatically according to a schedule.

  • Make sure all the boards on your deck are in good condition and firmly attached. Replace any boards that are broken, splintered or rotting, and replace any popped-up nails with deck screws for greater holding power.

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