“Your house is on fire.”

If you’ve ever heard those words, you know just how scary they are because they mean your life is about to change. And not for the better.

How can you protect your home against fire damage? And protect yourself and your family against injury and from the aftermath of a fire in case one happens?

A good place to start is to make sure you have adequate homeowner’s insurance. One of the reasons to own a home is to take advantage of the increase in value over the years you live in your home.

Make sure your insurance coverage increases in value each year to cover the growing value of your home. Homeowner’s insurance won’t prevent fire from destroying your home. But having coverage for the full value of your home will make replacing it much easier if a fire destroys it.

But what about prevention?

Start with smoke alarms. And follow the manufacturer’s instructions for testing them.

Three out of every five home deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that weren’t working. Dead batteries were the number one cause of alarms not working.

Most manufacturers recommend testing smoke alarms once a month by pressing and holding the alarms’ test button. And set an annual reminder on a memorable date (your wedding anniversary, birthday, a specific holiday) for replacing the batteries in your alarms.

And replace the entire smoke alarm every eight to 10 years — or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

There are different types of smoke alarms:

  • Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires.
  • Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fire.

I recommend you purchase dual-sensor alarms containing both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors. Adding a carbon monoxide alarm is a good idea as well.

If you have a “smart home” equipped with a home automation system, consider a “smart” smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, designed to differentiate between burned toast and a raging house fire. Smart alarms can be managed from your smartphone, potentially allowing you to react more quickly to a fire, even when you’re not at home, so you can alert firefighters more quickly.

Avoid installing alarms in dead-air spaces where air doesn’t circulate. Wall-mounted alarms should be at least four inches and no more than 12 inches from the ceiling. On vaulted ceilings, the alarm should be within three feet of the peak.

Alarms should be installed at least three feet from the door to a kitchen or bathroom to avoid nuisance alarms from cooking vapors and bathroom moisture. Photoelectric smoke alarms are best if you’re installing them within 20 feet of a cooking appliance because they’re less like to be triggered by cooking vapors.

Fire extinguishers also are important. They can help you extinguish small fires before they become a big problem. But don’t put yourself in danger by trying to battle a major fire on your own. Get out of the house and call the fire department instead.

Escape ladders are important in multi-story homes. You should have a plan, which you and your family have practiced, to make sure everyone can get out of the house in less than two minutes.

Electrical wiring can be a cause for a house fire. Make sure your electrical wiring has been checked by a good electrician, especially in older homes.

More questions about how to prevent a fire from destroying your home? Give me a call at 303-922-1001.