Prevent Fire Damage From These 3 Hidden Dangers

More than 12,500 people are injured in fires each year, and property-loss amounts can reach $7.3 billion. Most people are aware of the more common causes of fires like space heaters, candles, cigarettes, and cooking hazards. But some threats are a little less obvious. The good news is you don't have to be a statistic. Here is more info on three hidden fire hazards you may not be aware of, and what you can do to keep your home and loved ones safe.

Batteries

If you're like most others, you don't think twice about tossing dead batteries in the trash or the recycling bin. And in most cases, it isn't a problem.

Unless the battery is a 9-volt.

The posts at the ends of these batteries can overheat and even spark any time they come in contact with something metal. This means that if you keep them stored in a drawer, anything from a spare key to a butter knife, all the way to a paper clip becomes an instant fire hazard. 

To prevent this from happening to you, leave new batteries in the plastic container, or place them in individual bags separately. You can even put a piece of insulated tape over the posts.

Discard of dead batteries in the same manner, covered with tape or sealed in bags alone.

Box Fans

Also known as portable fans or floor fans, these whirling devices are quite handy during the hot summer months. But unfortunately, many of them are a fire hazard.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that between 1990 and 1998, 20,000 fires were caused by electric fans, resulting in hundreds of injuries and over $200 million in property damage. In order to find out what the specific causes were, the CPSC decided to investigate the facts surrounding some of the incidents.

What they found was surprising.

Interestingly enough, the age of the fan didn't seem to play a major factor, as about half of the fires involved products less than 10 years old. But, out of the incidents investigated, the most common cause of fire was an overheated motor.

Looking further, they found that the number one factor associated with the fires was the presence of plastic. You see, when the motor overheats enough that it catches on fire, the surrounding plastic melts and then drips onto the carpet, clothes, or anything else that is near the fan.

Another problem can occur when something jars the motor. For instance, if you place a fan in a window, curtains can get caught up in the draft and sucked into the blades, halting the fan blade and leading to an overheated motor.

To prevent fires, or at least mitigate damages in case one starts, make sure the area surrounding the fan is clean and clear of debris like clothing and paper. Never leave a fan running when you're not at home. It's even a good idea to turn them off while sleeping. This is because the fan could catch on fire in the middle of the night, leading to toxic fumes that can render you completely unconscious. 

Arc Faults

Fires that start from faulty electrical wiring lead to around $1.1 billion in property damage each year according to the US Fire Administration

The most common cause of this type of fire is an arc fault in the electrical outlet. For example, have you ever plugged in a cord and found the connection to be loose? The recurring action of plugging and unplugging the cord loosens the contacts inside the outlet over time.

As a result, you plug in a cord and it hangs there. This creates an arc between the metal contacts in the outlet and the plug prongs. You may hear sizzling and hissing sounds as electricity passes between the outlet and the plug. What results is an intensely hot cord and a potential fire.

One option to prevent this kind of fire is to install an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI). This is a type of circuit breaker, and it detects when an arc is present, cutting off power to that outlet when it sees one.

If you're handy, consider replacing loose outlets as soon as you notice them, or have an electrician do it for you.


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