Building Peace of Mind: Fire Safety
According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, U. S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 88 seconds. Another frightening statistic is that on average 7 people per day lose their lives in U. S. home fires. When you are building or remodeling your home, your family’s safety is your number 1 priority. Let’s look at making your home as fire safe as possible.
Featured home above is our Willow Way (MEN 5036) plan.
Preventing Home Fires
While there is no sure way to prevent a fire in your home, there are some measures to take out some of the risk. According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, 73% of fire deaths occur in a home fire. Keeping your family safe is a multi-part plan.
Cold winter nights sometimes call for a bit more warmth than what you central units can pump out. When that happens, you turn to those old standbys, the space heater.
Our home was built in the early 1970’s and when it was originally built they had used a wood stove to heat their home. It was remodeled prior to when we bought it and they put in a central heat and air unit. Unfortunately, they didn’t put in a vent in one of the bathrooms. That makes the room warm in the summer and cold in the winter. A space heater is a necessity in there if you’re taking a shower.
Tragically, 86% of home fire deaths are caused by space heaters. When you are using space heaters you must be very careful! They should have plenty of room around them. These heaters, especially the older ones, get extremely hot and can catch fabrics on fire. Be sure to keep children and pets away from them.
One way to prevent having any problems with a portable heater is to ensure that the central heating unit or furnace you have is strong enough for the home you have or are building. Even upgrading to a new unit if your unit is getting older will help with this issue. New units run more efficiently and are able to heat more space using less electricity.
Another way to help your central heating unit is to make sure to change your air filters regularly. I know it’s hard to remember to change them out, but there are tricks to help you remember. I put the air filter changes in my phone’s calendar. It reminds me every three months that it is time to change it.
Another fire risk will always be candles burning. New scents and types of candles are coming on the market. All of these new types of candles invite you to leave them burning all day.
That is a huge fire risk. Unattended candles can be knocked over or catch fabric on fire. Be sure that if you use candles that they are away from flammable objects and that you never leave them burning without someone in the room.
I know I love having my house smell great and a burning candle is one way to make sure that it does. When we had our youngest daughter, I got rid of most of our smell good candles. Luckily my little sister was going through a candle phase and took all of them. I switched to oil diffusers. They don’t produce as strong of a scent but they last longer and I don’t have to worry about them catching on fire or a curious preschooler getting into them.
Our homes are full of electronic appliances. Microwaves, refrigerators, dryers, you name it. And all of those pose some sort of electrical risk for catching fire. Dryers pose the biggest threat. Here you have an appliance that heats up and produces a lot of dry, fibrous material. Dryer lint can build up and heat up and until it actually catches on fire.
Other appliances can catch on fire as well. If any of your appliances start to smell strange or not operate correctly, have them checked by a professional or replace them. These are warning signs of a malfunction that could cause a fire.
Just two weeks ago, my aunt’s oven caught fire. She was cooking her supper and the smoke detector went off and when she went in there the entire oven was engulfed in flames. She grabbed her fire extinguisher and put the fire out and then called the fire department to make sure it was completely out. Luckily, it was just a small fire and easily handled. Just shows that you should always be prepared.
All those appliances and our lovely electronics need electricity. Make sure that your electrical outlets are not overloaded and that you are not running extension cords under rugs. When there is too much pull for power from your outlets, this can cause them to spark or short.
Extension cords heat up as they are being used. Placing one under a rug may seem safer to walk across, but it can smolder until it catches fire. Be sure that any outlets or lights are away from flammable materials such as curtains or bedding.
Home Fire Safety
Preventing fires, even with a thorough list of tips, is not an exact science. So keeping your family safe should involve back up plans.
Smoke detectors are your first line of defense you have against a fire in your home. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install and maintain. Despite this, according to the National Fire Prevention Agency, 40% of home fire deaths were in homes that didn’t have a smoke alarm.
Make sure that you check the batteries in your smoke detector every six months. We do it when the time changes so we don’t have to keep up with it.
A fire extinguisher is an important tool in your arsenal against home fires. You should have one in ever floor of your home. The kitchen is probably the best place for one on that level. Most home fires are caused by cooking accidents.
Remember grease fires cannot be put out with water. Splashing water on a grease fire just makes it worse. In a pinch, you can use flour or a pan lid to smother the flame. Your best bet will always be to have a fire extinguisher handy.
The standard ABC extinguisher sold through most big box retain stores should be adequate for any small fire that might start in your home. Using one is easy, too. Remember “PASS". Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle. Squeeze the trigger. Sweep foam over the entire area of the fire.
Fire Escape Plans
A fire escape plan is essential. The American Red Cross says that you should know 2 exits for each room. Creating a fire escape plan is easy. First, you plan how you are going to get out of the house. Then, you decide on a meeting place away from your home, like the mailbox or a neighbor’s house. Once you have gotten to the meeting place you call for help. Lastly, you don’t go back in. No matter what.
If you have children or disabled living in the home, “assign" someone to them to help them get out. Don’t just talk about the plan. Once you have it figured out, practice it. You have about 2 minutes to before a home is engulfed to get out. Make sure that you can get out in that time. Unfortunately, the National Fire Prevention Agency says that only 1/3 of Americans has a fire safety plan and has actually practiced it.
Egress is not a word you see every day. It simply means a way out. When you are referring to building code, this usually refers to how you can get out of a building during an emergency. There are many rules that builders follow when they are working on a structure. Building codes make sure that the structure is built safely.
ICC, IRC and IBC
Each individual town and county has their own set of building codes. Could you imagine trying to think of every possible scenario on your own and making a rule to cover it? Luckily, these communities don’t have to do all of that. This is where the International Code Council (ICC) comes in.
Each community uses a model code to base their building codes off of. The International Code Council is a committee made up of trade professionals that create model code for the communities. Those two codes are the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. The International Building Code is a model code for commercial buildings. The International Residential Code is a model code for residential buildings.
Beware of any information you may find about the International Code Council on the internet. They only release a portion of their model codes to the public so any complete copy you find online for free is probably not a legitimate one. Luckily most homeowners don’t need to have a copy and any information you need about building codes in your area can be found at your local code enforcement office. That’s what they are there for.
The International Code Council updates these model codes every three years. The International Building Code and the International Residential Code cover both new construction and remodels. They have very specific rules about egress
An egress window is usually a large, sliding glass window that allows you to climb out in case of an emergency. Most building codes require a means of egress on every floor, including a finished basement.
Egress windows are usually installed in full basements. They allow someone to climb out and give firefighters a way in. Egress windows are very light and are usually made with an aluminum frame. This makes them light enough that a child will be able to open them. They are usually built with an egress well. This is a well dug where the window opens up with a ladder to let someone climb to safety.
Egress windows have 2 main disadvantages. They are a little costly, so make sure you get multiple quotes from reliable installers. They can also have moisture problems if not installed properly. You’ll want to make sure the egress well is dug directly below the sill and that you won’t have any drainage problems in that area.
The advantages for egress windows far outweigh the disadvantages. Egress windows give a source of natural light that you may not otherwise have in your basement. They allow you to take a finished basement from a game room or workout area and use it as a bedroom. They also increase the value of your home. This kind of improvement can raise your home value by as much as 20%. Most importantly, they can help keep your family safe.
Here at Nelson Design Group, we want to make sure that your families are safe and that your new home can be a haven. We are always happy to customize any of our plans to include space for egress windows. Please keep these tips in mind.
And please check out our previous blog post on Building Peace of Mind: Safe Rooms and Basements.