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The thought of a fire in your home may stir feelings of panic and stress. Take your safety seriously now to be prepared later.

Learning about fire safety, common fire starters and, most importantly, how to create an escape plan for your family, will alleviate some of your anxiety and help you feel prepared in case of an emergency. 

Fire Safety

Equipping your home with smoke alarms is the first step in protecting your family and home in case of a fire. The key to protecting your home is to properly install and maintain alarms.

Installation tips:

  • Buy only alarms that carry the mark of an Underwriter's Laboratory or an independent testing laboratory. 
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home.   
  • Follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.

Maintenance tips:

Test smoke alarms once a month. Consider adding a reminder to your family calendar at the same time each month so it becomes a regular chore around the house.

Push the test button and listen for an alarm to sound. If you don't hear anything, the alarm needs to be fixed or replaced.

  • Replace batteries at least once a year. Make it easy to remember by picking a holiday or a birthday, and replace the batteries every year on that day. If your alarm makes a chirping noise, immediately replace the batteries and reset it.
  • Keep alarms clean. Dust and debris can interfere with operation. Vacuum it regularly.
  • Replace smoke alarms connected to the household electrical systems every eight to ten years.

Home fires can start because of electrical hazards, clothes dryers, fireplaces, or space heaters. Take precautions around fire-prone belongings and follow manufacturer’s instructions for care and cleaning.

Video demonstration of a candle fire and how quickly it can occur.

Common Fire Starters

Candle Fires

You may like to burn candles to relieve stress, create a fragrant atmosphere, or add to your home’s décor. But, in the time it takes you to pop a bag of popcorn or take the trash out, a candle can destroy an entire room. The National Fire Protection Association External Link (NFPA) estimates more than 15,000 candle fires are reported annually, resulting in 150 deaths and $539 million in property damages.

To demonstrate how quickly your home could go up in smoke, COUNTRY Financial worked with firefighters to simulate a common candle fire. Our time-elapsed video shows the entire room was consumed by fire within a mere three minutes.

Follow the tips below to decrease the possibility of candle fires in your home.

  • Never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Keep burning candles out of reach from children and pets.
  • Keep wicks trimmed to ¼ inch. Always burn candles in or on holders placed on a level, heat resistant surface. Keep candles away from flammable items and free of foreign matter and debris. Let candles and holders cool completely before moving.

Most manufacturers recommend not burning candles for more than three-four hours at one time. Letting a candle burn longer increases the risk of it overheating and possibly starting a fire.

Fireplaces and Wood-burning Stoves

Curling up in front of a fireplace or wood-burning stove is a great way to spend an evening. Follow these safety precautions to make your evening a safe one.

  • Place one designated multipurpose fire extinguisher (Type A-B-C) next to each wood-burning unit.
  • Position an adequate number of smoke detectors throughout your home.
  • Dispose of ashes, in a noncombustible, metal container with a tight fitting lid
  • Use a fireplace screen or glass fire doors.

Prevent chimney fires

  • Check and clean your chimney and stovepipe before each heating season and as needed during the heating season. It is best to use professional help.
  • Make needed repairs immediately.
  • Never: 
    • Use flammable liquids
    • Burn trash in a stove or fireplace
    • Let wood burn unattended for a long period of time or install unapproved or unlisted heating equipment

Choose woods wisely

  • Use dry and well-seasoned wood to create an efficient fire and minimize the chance of creosote formation, which may cause an extremely hot and dangerous chimney fire.
  • Select a hard wood such as oak, hickory, ash or maple that has been dried for six months to a year.
  • Split your wood before storing it to dry. This will allow the wood to dry sooner and burn more evenly.

Space Heaters  

Alternate heating sources are a popular option to keep warmth affordable during the winter season. If you plan to use space heaters to help heat your home this winter, use extreme caution. According to the NFPA External Link, space heaters account for 82% of home-heating fire deaths. Not surprisingly, peak months for home heating fires are December, January and February.

Finding the right space heater

  • Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or the heating element to protect children and clothing.
  • Choose a heater that has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater could produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions, and make sure all members of the household understand how to operate the heater safely.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic “tip-switch,” a cutoff device (required on all heaters) that turns off electric or kerosene heaters if they tip over.

Preventing a fire

  • Place the heater on a level, hard, nonflammable surface – do not place on rugs, carpets, tables or countertops.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet from bedding, drapes, furniture or other flammable items.
  • Turn off the space heater when you leave the area, and never leave a space heater on while sleeping or if you leave home.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Do not use older space heaters or heaters with cords that are cracked or frayed.

Escape Plan

As shown in the candle fire video, fire can spread rapidly through a home which means you only have a short time to get out. Be prepared. Devise an escape plan and practice it with all family members.

  • Draw a floor plan of your home, including all windows and doors. Use it to identify at least two exits from each room.
  • Make sure window exits are safe.
  • Buy a sturdy escape ladder if you don't have a safe window exit. Store the ladder near the window exit.
  • Place a “Pets Inside” decal in a visible window for fire officials. Contact your local fire department for a decal.
  • Designate a meeting place outside the house. Make sure it's a safe distance from the home (i.e. tree, neighbor's home, telephone pole).
  • Post the fire escape plan and local fire department phone number in plain sight near the phone.

Practice your escape drill as a family (pets included!) at least twice a year. Remind children frequently about safe fire escape routes.

This American Red Cross PDF will ensure you are prepared in the event of a fire.

Find a Representative

Enter your ZIP code to find a COUNTRY Financial Representative in your area.

Do you know what’s in your home?

After you get your safety preparedness in order, take the time to complete one of our checklists for homeowners and renters to help you keep track of what’s inside your home and reduce the stress of trying to remember what you had in case it is lost.

Need more information?        

Searching for the insurance policy that’s right for you? Visit our home and renters insurance section.

Visit the COUNTRY claims section if you are a customer looking for information about how to file a claim.

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