The Great Chicago Fire broke out on the night of Oct. 8, 1871 and devastated the area over the course of the following day. More than 2,000 acres and 17,400 structures were engulfed in flame, and more than 250 people lost their lives.
That same day, about 250 miles directly north of Chicago, another devastating fire raged in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. More than 1 million acres were scorched and 1,152 people were killed.
Though these examples are more than a century old, fire safety is still critical today as experienced recently in states like California, Oregon and Washington. It doesn’t take long for a fire to spiral out of control.
In 2015 alone, there were 1,345,500 fires reported throughout the U.S., causing $14.3 billion in property damage, 15,700 injuries and 3,280 deaths.
For this reason, every year for one week in October the National Fire Protection Association promotes Fire Prevention Week. We want to share some tips about keeping you , your loved ones and your homes and businesses safe this year:
Fire safety for consumers
To make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond in case of a fire:
- Practice a fire drill twice a year with everyone in the home, including children.
- Identify two ways out of every room — this may be through windows as well as doors.
- Know where your fire extinguishers are and how to use them.
- Check your smoke detectors’ batteries periodically.
- Clearly mark which rooms may have children or pets in them, and make sure your house number is visible from the road so firefighters can easily find you.
Additionally, review what to do and what not to do during a fire:
- Close doors as you leave rooms to prevent or slow the spread of fire.
- Stop, drop and roll if your clothing catches fire.
- Never go back into a burning building.
Fire protection that can lower your homeowners insurance
Preventing fire-related injuries should be everyone’s No. 1 priority when it comes to fire safety, but it’s also important to consider the financial damage fires can do. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the typical homeowners insurance policy covers damage and losses due to fire. However, there are some actions you can take that will not only make your home safer, but may also lower your homeowners insurance deductible. Some companies offer discounts if you install a sprinkler system in your home or a fire alarm system that notifies the local fire department quickly, III explained. Updated smoke detectors and fire extinguishers may also qualify you for a discount, The Balance noted.
Updating your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system or your electrical wiring can also reduce the risk of fires in your home and provide you an insurance discount.
Fire safety for businesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has guidelines for fire safety in businesses. There are 26 states that have specific OSHA-approved guidelines; those that don’t should follow federal guidance. For example, Minnesota and Iowa each have their own state-specific plans, while South Dakota does not.
For any business, it’s generally a good idea to:
- Make sure employees, visitors and customers can easily identify the fire escape route.
- Test that fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers work.
- Practice fire drills regularly.
Fire insurance for businesses
Commercial property and business owners insurance policies both cover damage due to fire, according to The Balance. They typically pay based on actual cash value of the property damaged, which means that having one of these policies can spare you some financial hardship after a blaze harms your business.
Some business owners attempt to cut operational costs by downsizing their insurance policy; fight this urge. Whatever your premium may be, it’s probably not as expensive as rebuilding after a fire with only the payout of an insufficient policy to help offset the cost.
To avoid underinsuring your business, review your policy annually, adjust as needed, and make sure all business-related buildings are covered. If you have separate policies for multiple buildings, consider consolidating them to save money. Additionally, if you show your insurer that you have a well-planned and practiced fire prevention plan, you may qualify for a discount.