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How Clutter Can Increase Your Home Fire Risk

Clutter, clutter everywhere. Just stuff that might be useful someday


By Cassandra Small

Official lists of the most common household fire risks include unattended cooking equipment, heating, broken electrical equipment, flammable liquids and even Christmas trees, but one aspect that can worsen all these risks and create a fire of its own, is clutter! NBC reports that one in four Americans has a clutter problem and 55% of those surveyed said it causes major stress. By keeping homes tidy, families can reduce their fire risk, but also reduce the frequency of falls and trips and the mental anguish of constantly being exposed to untidiness.

What are the Dangers of Clutter?

The problem with allowing spaces to become filled up with newspapers, chemicals (think acetone, or alcohol), books, and rubbish is that these items put together can be highly flammable. Indeed, fires started with these items can move fast, quickly traveling up to curtains, sofas, and other quick burning items. Clutter can also be a danger once a fire starts, because it can be difficult for home dwellers (especially those who may have mobility issues) to make their way quickly to the closest exit. Indeed, in severe cases of clutter, the nearest exit can be blocked with a myriad of items which, when grouped together, can be heavy and difficult to remove with due speed.

Risking the Lives of Emergency Personnel

In May this year, firefighters in Fishers and Indianapolis were hindered by what one fighter referred to as "excessive clutter" in a Hillsborough neighborhood. The firefighter stated that there were so many personal effects in the home that firefighters were not able to make it through the front door. He noted that the large amount of clutter actually caused much more damage because as is, fires take around three minutes to ignite a room. When masses of clutter are involved, fires can move through rooms much quicker and also become much hotter.

Organizing Homes is a Matter of Habit

When clutter is allowed to grow exponentially, it can seem like an insurmountable task to clear it out. Consistency is key for home tidiness and this requires a routine. Chores can be written on a wooden-framed chalkboard or on a simple calendar; the important thing is to stick to a timetable agreed upon by everyone in the family or home. Regular filing and storage are always key. Everyday, new items may come into our home (think everything from bills to invitations, announcements to kids' projects completed at school, etc.). Throw away any items that are not essential. Have a good filing system for bills and other papers; these should be very easy to find when you need them.

The Importance of Fire Alarm Installation

Even if your home is neat, you will make it easier both on yourself and firefighters by installing a fire alarm. This will ensure you get the help you need quickly. It will also make it easier to put out a fire. The longer flames are allowed to rage through a home, the more existing automatic sprinkler systems can become overtaxed. Moreover, a long-lasting fire poses a risk to neighbors' properties as well.

Tidiness will reduce the chances of falls and reduce your home's fire risk. It can be difficult to decide which things to throw away, but sometimes it pays to be 'tough' and get rid of non-essential items. Ensure that tables are clear, there is plenty of floor space to walk through, and that cleaning and tidying are part of every household member's routine. You could just save a life and lessen the burden on hardworking firefighters.

Cassandra Small is a writer in the United Kingdom
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