Residential Fire Safety- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Residential Fire Safety Tips to Protect Your Property from Loss

More than 370,000 residential fires are reported each year, leading to nearly 2,300 deaths and 11,600 injuries, and almost $8 billion in property damage on average, the National Fire Protection Association reports.

The most common causes of residential fires, according to PHLY research, include cooking, electrical equipment issues, and smoking. Residential fires are also commonly started by laundry dryers, barbecues, and flammable liquids.

PHLY recommends the following residential fire safety tips and resources to reduce your risk:

Cooking Fire Safety

Cooking is the number one cause of residential fires, accounting for more than 49% of all reported home fires in the U.S. Cooking is also the leading cause of residential fire injuries and the second-leading cause of home fire deaths.

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of cooking fires and deaths. Implementing cooking fire-prevention devices, such as stovetops that sense unattended cooking or limit the temperature of the cooking surface, can be invaluable fire safety tools.

PHLY offers information on many different residential cooking fire-prevention devices, including the HomeSenser, CookStop, and RangeMinder systems.

Other ways to prevent cooking fires include:

  • Implementing Auto-Out fire reactive devices that expel an extinguishing agent in the event of a fire
  • Placing fire extinguishers near cooking areas, and ensuring they are regularly checked and tested as recommended by the manufacturer

Electrical Fire Safety

Electrical failure or malfunction is the second-leading cause of electrical home fires, resulting in an estimated $1.5 billion in direct property damage each year.

Here's what you can do to prevent these fires from starting on your property:

  • Ensure electrical devices are in good working order
  • Do not overload electrical systems using "daisy chains" of power strips or extension cords
  • Have a qualified electrician inspect the entire electrical system prior to building purchase or occupancy
  • Have your electrical system inspected at least every 10 years by a qualified electrician
  • Have your electrical system scanned with a thermographic camera every three to seven years to identify hot spots; tighten or replace any electrical components where hot spots exist
  • Visually inspect key electrical components, like breakers and switches, on an ongoing basis to ensure they are clean, dry, and tight
  • Contact PHLY Risk Management Services for guidance if you have Federal Pacific Stab-Lok breakers on your property, since they are known fire hazards

Smoking Fire Safety

An estimated 5% of reported home structure fires are started by smoking materials, leading to an average of $476 million in direct property damage per year. Smoking is also the leading cause of home fire deaths.

Prevent smoking-related fires at your property by:

  • Making your residence smoke-free
  • Creating a safe smoking area at least 20 feet away from the building with a non-combustible, non-tipping receptacle for ash and butts - if a non-smoking building is not possible

Other Residential Fire Safety Tips:

Laundry Dryer Fire Safety

  • Verify that laundry dryer lint traps are in good condition and being cleaned often to prevent buildup
  • Ensure dryer ducting is made of smooth aluminum, and on a regular cleaning schedule

Flammable Liquid Fire Safety

  • Do not store more flammable liquids or aerosols than necessary on a property. Discard those not being used and store the remainder in a UL-listed flammable liquids cabinet

Barbecue Fire Safety

  • Consider a policy of no personal barbecues on site. Provide a community barbecue located away from any building. If personal barbecues are allowed, require they be used at least 10 feet away from any structure. Barbecues should be prohibited on any combustible decks
  • Do not allow charcoal barbecues on common property or in enclosed residential areas, including outdoor patios

Proper Planning Saves Property and Lives

It takes less than 30 seconds for a small flame to become a major fire, and in just minutes, a house can be filled with thick black smoke or engulfed in flames.

The earlier a fire is discovered, the easier it is for people to escape and for it to be contained before it spreads. That's why it is critical that property owners ensure there are working smoke detectors installed on every level of a property, including the basement. In 57% of home fires, a smoke alarm was not present or was not operational, the NFPA reports.

Other fire detection or extinguishing equipment, such as residential fire alarm systems and residential fire sprinkler systems, should also be regularly checked and properly maintained.

Residential fire safety must be a joint effort between building owners, building managers, and residents. A reasonable investment of time and resources by all parties can help keep people safe and protect real estate investments.

For more information, check out the resources below or contact us at

Resources for Residents

For Property Owners and Managers

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