If you own a home or business, then there is nothing more frightening than the thought of it all going up in flames, literally. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were over 500,000 structure fires across the United States which resulted in a combined $10.3 billion in property damage in 2015. Of this, 78% of all deaths by fire occurred in home structure fires. While saddening, there are generally ways that many of these incidents could have been avoided with careful planning. ServiceMaster by Rice would like to take this time to provide some tips that can keep your house, your business, and even yourself safe in the odds of a structure fire happening.

Cook with Care

According to the same NFPA survey, cooking is the leading cause of all home fires and is tied for the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Whenever you are preparing a meal with a stovetop, oven, toaster, microwave, or any other device that uses heat, do not leave it unattended until you are done using any of these devices. When you are finished cooking, double-check that they are turned off or even unplugged if it something like a toaster or a crock-pot. Of all cooking fires, frying is the method with the highest risk of fire due to the hot grease that is created in the process. Grease fires are not only dangerous, but they can be some of the hardest fires to put out due to the chemical makeup of grease. Whether you are at home or in the office, make sure you are in control of the kitchen you are using.

Smoke Alarms

This may seem like an obvious topic, but just having a smoke alarm installed does not mean that it is always working. The NFPA reports that nearly 1 out of 4 home fire deaths between 2009 and 2013 were due to smoke alarms that were present but failed to work properly. Of that, half of the failed smoke alarms occurred because batteries were dead or disconnected. It is important to check the battery life and test your smoke alarm at least monthly. Smoke alarms are the most effective tools in alerting you that there is a fire on your property. However, it is essentially useless if it is not tested and working properly.

Have a Procedure

The Red Cross, with the help of fire experts, determined that you only have about two minutes to escape a burning home. It would be wise to also have a plan set for your area of residency, especially if you have children. Whether you live in a dorm, apartment complex, single-story home, or a mansion, you need to make sure that you and the people around you have a safe way of escaping in the event of a fire. A good fire escape plan should include the following:

  • Knowledge of all potential exits and the quickest ways to reach them depending on where the fire is starting from
  • A designated spot of where to meet once outside of the structure
  • Remembering to stop, drop and roll if you are caught in a smoking room
  • Calling 911 once you are safe

Your workplace should also have some sort of escape plan ready in case a fire does occur. If your work does not have one, or if you are not sure whether your workplace has one set, it would be wise to change that as soon as possible. Not having a plan in place at an office building can lead to chaos and unnecessary panicking, which ultimately leads to a higher risk of fatalities. Having a well-executed plan will drastically increase your chances of getting out of a fire alive.

Call for Help

Cooking-related incidents are the leading cause of home fires.  According to the NFPA, roughly half of all cooking fire injuries have occurred when people try to fight the fires themselves. Although your first instinct may be to save all of your material goods, it’s not worth risking your health or life over things that can be replaced. Firefighters are generally able to respond to fires within 5-10 minutes and may be able to save many of your possessions. Always let the professionals deal with the severity of a structure fire.


Structure fires are always scary situations, no matter where they occur. We hope our tips help you avoid one in the future. However, if your business or home happens to receive smoke or fire damage, call ServiceMaster by Rice at 515-274-9109 for your smoke damage repair and fire damage repair needs! We do cleanup and restoration services in the Atlantic, Carroll, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Spencer, and Storm Lake areas. Find a ServiceMaster by Rice office closest to you!