Fire prevention and safety while at home

Shot of a family of four cooking together in their kitchen at home

Over the past 12 months, Allstate Canada has reported a 51% increase in residential fire claims due to smoking and cooking; further data for January 2021 has shown a significant spike in claims.

“Cooking left unattended is the number one cause of residential fires in Ontario,” says OAFC President, Chief Cynthia Ross Tustin. “Most cooking fires are completely preventable by paying attention to what you’re doing and staying in the kitchen while you cook.”

The start of this concerning trend can be tied to the beginning of the global pandemic. Between March and May 2020, Allstate reported a 333% increase in residential fire claims compared to the previous year.

An alarming increase

This upward trend serves as a reminder that we all need to take simple precautions in our daily lives to help prevent fires at home and keep our families safe. Allstate Canada worked with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to develop simple home fire safety tips. They can help minimize risks and ensure that you’re prepared and protected in the event a fire does break out.

Limit the risk of fires in and around your home

Limit the risk of fires in and around your home:

In the kitchen:

  • Keep anything flammable a safe distance from the stove.
  • Make sure appliances are well maintained and cleaned regularly, as dried food or leftover cooking grease can easily spark a kitchen fire.
  • Keep young children and pets at least one metre away from all active cooking areas.
  • Always turn pot handles inward to prevent accidents in the kitchen that could spark fires or cause burns.
  • Be attentive while cooking – never leave food on the stove unattended and regularly check food in the oven.

Another culprit in the increase in residential fires is smoking. If you do smoke, be sure to fully extinguish lit cigarettes or joints in an ashtray – never in plant pots. Don’t flick lit materials off your balcony or porch: this could cause a fire in neighbouring units.

Outside of the kitchen, remember to:

  • Properly maintain your furnace and water heater.
  • Have your gas lines checked regularly.
  • Service your fireplace every year.
  • Clean the dryer lint trap after each use and exhaust fan regularly.

Be prepared

Prevention is the first step, but you must also have safety measures in place in the event of a fire. You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your home, likely stored in the kitchen where most fires begin. More importantly, you need to know how to properly operate extinguishers.

Keep additional fire extinguishers in other areas of your home where there is increased risk of a fire, like the garage or a workshop. Accessibility is key, so make sure all fire extinguishers are kept in a spot that’s free of clutter and easy to spot. Fire extinguishers need to be inspected monthly and pressure tested by a certified technician annually.

Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are properly installed, tested, and functional. You should have both smoke and CO alarms on every floor of your home, placed close to high-risk areas (kitchens, garages, etc.) and close to your bedroom.

Check and replace batteries regularly, and clean your alarms to prevent dust buildup. Alarms should be replaced at least every ten years to make sure they’re fully functional. To learn more visit our blog on CO safety.

One of the most important aspects of residential fire preparedness is creating and practicing a home fire escape route. Draw a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of every room, and agree on a meeting place outside your home where everyone will gather. This allows you to count heads and inform the fire department if anyone is trapped inside. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. If you need help creating your home fire escape plan, visit the OAFC website for a free home fire escape plan template here.

Fire safety

In the event of a fire, remember to stay calm and assess the situation. If the fire is small and can be contained, do so as quickly and safely as possible. You may need to use your fire extinguisher, or in some cases you can smother a fire on the stove by closing a properly fitting lid on a smoldering pot to cut the oxygen that fuels the fire.

If the fire reaches a point where you cannot confidently extinguish it yourself, alert everyone in the home, follow your home fire escape plan to leave the premises, and call the fire department immediately.

To ensure your home insurance is up to date, and fire policies are in place, please reach out to an Allstate agent or get more information here.

Disclaimer: *This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice