Home improvements for fire and life safety

Home improvements for fire and life safety
Posted on 04/20/2023

One often overlooked area of home improvement is fire and life safety. Homeowners often focus on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. These are vital to keeping your home safe, but there is much more that can be done to protect your family and investment in your property.

Smoke Detectors

At a minimum, every home should have one smoke detector on every level, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area.

Interconnected smoke alarms.
Newer homes have wired interconnected connections. Older homes may not have this feature, but newer smoke alarms have wireless or Bluetooth connectivity. Installation of wireless alarms is simple and important so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.

10-year sealed battery. This eliminates the need for battery replacement every six months.

Voice alarms in bedrooms. Studies show that sleeping children are more likely to wake up to a voice alarm alerting them to a fire as opposed to the typical high-pitched beeps.

Electrical Upgrades

Power strips. Ensure surge protectors or power strips have internal overload protection and are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how often to replace them.

Additional outlets. Extension cords are not for long-term use. If you need additional outlets installed, hire a qualified electrician.

Wiring inspection. Do you live in an older home or have recurrent blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers, outlets that are warm to the touch, or lights that flicker/dim? An inspection by a qualified electrician can help prevent electrical fires.

GFCI outlets. Older homes may not have ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets that shut off electricity when it becomes a shock hazard. GFCIs should be installed by a qualified electrician anywhere electricity is near water, like bathrooms, basements, garages, kitchens and outdoors.

Life and Health Upgrades

Fireproof safe. A small fireproof safe can keep valuables and important documents safe in the event of a fire.

Vial of Life. During a medical emergency, first responders will need to know your medical history and current medications. The Vial of Life form contains all this information in one location so emergency crews can easily access it. Visit VialofLife.com for more information.

Fire Extinguishment

Each home should have one 2.5-pound ABC extinguisher centrally located. Make sure all adults are trained to use it.

Additional extinguishers. One in the kitchen near the stove, one in the basement near the furnace, one near the fireplace and one in the garage.

Automatic stovetop fire suppression. These are small canisters that attach to over-the-range microwaves and dispense fire-suppressant powder in the event a cooking fire occurs, and flames reach the device.

Fire blankets. These can be used to smother a small cooking fire.

Home sprinkler system. Installed during new construction, it costs on average $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space. The cost increases when retrofitting a home but it will likely save you money on homeowner’s insurance and provide valuable time to escape your home in the event of a fire. Learn more at HomeFireSprinkler.org.

Address visibility

Contrasting color. Home address numbers should contrast with the building’s background. Don’t paint over address numbers when you paint your house.

Size. They must be at least 4 inches tall, legible and visible from the street even in darkness and inclement weather.

Accessibility Upgrades

Fire escape ladders. If a home has more than one floor, escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer’s instructions and practice often from a first story window to ensure you know how to use it.

Escape windows. Bedrooms should have two ways to exit. One could be the door. The second could be an escape window, which must have a minimum 821-square-inch opening and windowsill a maximum of 44 inches off the floor.

Residential Knox Box. This small, wall-mounted safe holds keys for first responders to access during an emergency. This can make entry into your home faster if you are unable to open the door during a medical emergency or if you aren’t home during a fire. Visit KnoxBox.com to order.

Published April 20, 2023