Six Surprising Home Hazards
You might think home fires are due to someone leaving the oven running or the coffee pot on. However, an alarming number of appliance fires are caused by the units themselves as opposed to human error. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, indentifies six appliances that cause the most fires and tips on how to minimize the risk.
"It was shocking to learn that appliances can turn themselves on or suddenly short-circuit and go up in flames," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "So it's important to learn the signs of trouble and know what to do if you have to deal with an appliance fire."
ShopSmart analyzed data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2002 through 2009 and found appliances were the main cause of 69,000 fires – with about half of the incidents linked to a mechanical, electrical, or design flaw. Below are the appliances that accounted for most of these fires and ways which consumers can minimize their risk:
1. Ranges. Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven's bake and broil functions are the leading contributors to a range fire.
2. Clothes Dryers: Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas can cause fires.
3. Microwaves. Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly can lead to a potential fire. Some microwave fire victims said that the panel flashed the code "PAN" or "F2" as self-starting began.
4. Refrigerators: Fires can be caused by electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat, or by lightbulbs that stay on when the door is shut.
5. Dishwashers: Fires can be caused by circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry, creating a fire hazard.
6. Toasters and toaster ovens: Two potential fire hazards are units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting.
The good news is that these incidents are rare given the millions of appliances sold, and there are ways consumers can protect themselves from an incident.
Sources: Consumer Reports, ShopSmart magazine