Fire Prevention Tips from the Pros: An Interview with BELFOR


Using common sense – now and when you’re under pressure – goes a long way toward helping you avoid fire damage in your home, according to experts with BELFOR, the leading global restoration and repair company. BELFOR is known for helping whenever water, storms, and fire ravage communities.

As part of National Fire Prevention Week, Editor Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley spoke with Raymond Stackhouse, President, Chester County Fire Chiefs Association and John Stout, Emergency Response Coordinator, BELFOR Property Restoration.

Following are her questions and their responses, edited for brevity and clarity:

What are common mistakes that lead to household fires in the U.S.? How can they be avoided?

Careless smoking – do not smoke in bed; unattended cooking – make sure there is always someone monitoring what is going on in the kitchen during cooking operations; and alternative heating sources – when using fireplaces/wood stoves or other such devices assure the chimney is cleaned at least annually and inspected for defects

What’s the best way to put out different types of fires, such as electrical or grease or just a common fire?

For “general” everyday combustibles (paper/wood/trash), a ABC-type fire extinguisher is the accepted method. They can be purchased in any hardware store – don’t buy anything smaller than 5 pounds.

Specifically for grease fires, smothering the fire is the best method. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PUT OUT A GREASE FIRE WITH AN EXTINGUISHER OR WATER. An example is a fire on your stove involving a pot of grease or food being cooled in grease: Smother the flames by putting a lid on the fire or use baking soda.

How many smoke detectors should a homeowner have, and where in the home should they be located?

You should have one on each floor, one in each bedroom and one in the hallway to the sleeping area.

Which are better – battery-operated or hard-wired smoke detectors?

Hardwired smoke detectors with a battery backup – in case you lose power, as frequently happens during storms – are best.

What should a family emergency plan address? How often should you practice it?

Your plan should include at least two ways out of the house (in case one is blocked by fire); in addition, the plan should designate a meeting point outside the house. This helps ensure that everyone made it out of the house. You must practice your plan at least annually but preferably monthly.

Communicate! Talk about it and have a plan. Avoid the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. Be proactive and get the community involved.

We know most household fires begin in the kitchen. What can be done to make kitchens safer?

Never leave food that’s cooking unattended. Move combustibles – curtains, cartons, pot holders, dish towels – away from cooking surfaces. Be prepared for fires by having lids for pots and pans available, as well as baking soda.

What’s the best way to prevent electrical failure as a cause of fire in homes?

Make sure any electrical work is done by a certified electrician, and address any suspected electrical concerns as soon as you find them.

The average fire claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), is more than $33,000. That’s why and BELFOR are teaming up to urge you to be proactive and understand the basics of fire avoidance.

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