The Ultimate List Of Fire Prevention Tips From Today’s Safety Experts

Emily Ferron
Updated Mar 22, 2021
9 min read
Thanks to improved safety technology, tighter building codes and greater public knowledge, the incidence of house fires has dropped dramatically over the past few decades. As a result, most of us feel safe from fire in our homes — but that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. In fact, most house fires are caused by a lapse in caution or lack of awareness. Safeguard your home and family by following these simple but empowering expert fire prevention tips.


1. Educate your family & plan evacuation routes

Expert tip from Susan McKelvey of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The NFPA is an international nonprofit organization with two main roles: developing technical codes and standards for building and life safety, and educating the public about how to be safe from fire. Founded in 1896 and responsible for over 300 codes and standards, the NFPA is one of the most definitive resources of fire safety expertise.

One downside of the decline in house fires, says NFPA Communications Manager Susan McKelvey, is that it can lead to a degree of carelessness. “The problem is that people think that the risk is low, which has caused a general complacency. The fact is, home is where people are at greatest fire risk. Human behavior and a lack of awareness lead to dangerous or even deadly outcomes.”

According to the latest U.S. data, a house fire occurs every 88 seconds. In 2017, fire departments responded to 357,000 home fires, which resulted in 2,630 fatalities, 10,600 injuries and $7.7 billion in cumulative property loss. Most of these incidents were preventable, in the sense that they were caused by human behavior (like leaving appliances unattended, overloading electrical circuits or the improper disposal of combustible materials) rather than faulty equipment or spontaneous accidents.

Despite a drop in the number of fires, the rate of fire-caused fatalities has remained steady, McKelvey says, partly due to modern building trends like open spaces, the increased use of synthetic materials and lightweight wood construction, all of which cause fires to spread more quickly.

“We used to say that you have 7-8 minutes to leave your home after you hear the smoke alarm. Now, you have more like 1 or 2 minutes from the time the alarm sounds. You really need to be prepared in advance,” says McKelvey.

2. Be mindful when you leave the house

Expert tip from Darrel Depot, Owner of PuroClean in Williston, VT.

PuroClean is a restoration and remediation company that assists investigators in identifying causes of property damage after the fact, including fire and smoke damage. Depot has been assessing and repairing fire damage for over 14 years.

Fire remediation professional Darrel Depot has ample firsthand knowledge of how much destruction even a small fire can cause. His one piece of advice that could apply to anybody? “Slow down a little bit. Everyone is in a rush, including myself. Take a few minutes to think about what’s going on before you leave the house.”

He also adds a few words of caution to apartment and condo dwellers: Get renters insurance. “In multi-unit buildings, you may find yourself responsible for other people’s mistakes. If the unit next door catches on fire and it wrecks your apartment, you have to pay for your own stuff regardless of where it started or how it started.”

3. Utilize technology to stay focused

Expert tip from Andrew Roszak, Executive Director of the Institute for Childhood Preparedness. Andrew Roszak is an award-winning firefighter/paramedic, turned attorney, and childhood emergency preparedness expert, who has personally trained over 15,000 child care providers on how to respond and plan for emergencies.

On average, Roszak says, about 560 fires occur in early childhood care settings each year. “Most of the time (nearly 80%) the fires are caused by distractions. No real shock there – as anyone that cares or has cared for children can certainly appreciate how distracting they can sometimes be.”

Unattended cooking is a common fire hazard, Roszak says you should “[u]tilize technology – timers on your cell phones, smart-home devices (Amazon Echo or Google Home) to set timers and reminders or even something as simple as a post-it note to remind you that there is active cooking occurring.” You can also schedule smart reminders to unplug certain appliances or to schedule your home maintenance and smoke alarm testing.

4. Learn where home fires can start

Expert tips compiled from Craig Gjelsten, VP of Operations at Rainbow International and Rob Mathews, Franchise Owner of Mr. Appliance of Cleveland/Akron. Rainbow International specializes in water damage, fire damage and mold restoration services. Mr. Appliance provides full-service repairs and maintenance for all major household appliances. Both are Neighborly companies, which connects homeowners with vetted home professionals.

The most well-known causes of household fires include things like candles, smoking materials, malfunctioning appliances and overloaded power strips. But what other common culprits may not be as well known?

Household fire risks

5. Don’t underestimate monitored home security systems

Tip from Louis Wood, Home Security Expert and Owner of Defend It Yourself. Louis Wood has 20+ years of experience planning and designing security systems for homes and businesses.

There’s no doubt that properly functioning smoke detectors can be lifesavers. But what if no one is home when the fire breaks out, or if someone is incapacitated and unable to leave? In those cases, an alarm isn’t enough. “In my professional opinion, devices monitored by an alarm system that can signal a siren and contact the authorities when they detect alarm conditions are preferential to more inexpensive local-only detection devices,” says Wood.

To fully empower yourself in the fight against house fires, check out our further discussion of the best smoke detectors,fire extinguishersprofessionally installed security systems and DIY monitored home security options.

Written by your home security expert

Emily Ferron

Emily is an experienced writer passionate about covering topics at the intersection of tech, health, safety and humanity.

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