As homeowners, it's easy to slap up smoke detectors and put a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. We blow out candles, check the stove, and sleep well, believing that there will never be a fire. And if there is, the alarms will give us plenty of warning. But that's not enough.

Homeowners need to make a far more comprehensive effort to both prevent and prepare for fires, evaluating fire hazards from the basement to the attic and developing escape strategies that involve the entire family and every room of the house.

The good news is there are a lot of simple steps that homeowners can take to keep fires from happening in the first place—if they're willing take some time and keep a close eye on their behavior. Using our fire safety checklist as a guide, you can cut risks and increase your preparedness by spending just an afternoon doing a floor-by-floor home inspection.

DIY Fire Safety Checklist

Areas around furnace, oil burner, wood stove, and other heat-generating equipment are clear of debris, combustible materials, and rags
Burner-access doors on the water heater are closed to prevent flame roll-out
Breaker panel has not been recalled nor recommended for replacement
Breaker wires are not loose
No signs of erosion or decay on wire insulators
Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) have been added for protection from electrical wiring faults, especially in older homes. WARNING: If you’re not an electrician, call one. Don’t try to fix this yourself
Oily rags are in air-tight containers and away from heat sources
Trash is not stored in the basement
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