(ARA) – Every year more than 500,000 fires occur in homes across the nation. To help protect your home and your loved ones, the experts have come up with the following easy-to-follow tips that could make all the difference.

“Fires, even small ones, can quickly become out of control,” says Lou Manfredini, Ace’s “Helpful Hardware Man.” “Taking the time now to prepare your home can help save lives and money.”

Protect your home

Any home is susceptible to fire, and the first step to keeping your family safe is to purchase two essential items.

* Fire alarms: Fire alarms are your first line of defense when it comes to fires. Make sure that you have one installed on every level of your home – even the attic. To get the most protection, install one in, or near, every bedroom.

Fire alarms use three different methods to detect fire: photoelectric, which responds to smoke; ionization, which responds to smoke and gas; and thermal, which responds to heat. When choosing an alarm, select one that utilizes more than one of the above methods.

Once the fire alarms are installed, be sure to test them once a month and change the batteries twice a year “A good reminder is to change the batteries when you change your clocks for daylight savings,” says Manfredini.

* Fire extinguisher: Every home should have a fire extinguisher, specifically one that is labeled as “ABC” which means it can be used on all types of fires. Additionally, bigger is not always better when it comes to these products. It is important to select a size that fits within your appropriate storage location. “The general rule of thumb is to have one fire extinguisher on every floor of your home, especially a small one for your kitchen,” says Manfredini.

The experts also suggest keeping a fire extinguisher within 10 feet of the stove, on the same side of the kitchen that has the exit. Many fires occur in the kitchen, such as grease fires, and keeping an extinguisher nearby can help you contain the damage.

Once you have selected your fire extinguisher purchase the desired number plus one additional extinguisher for you to try out. Remember, you don’t want to have to learn how to use the extinguisher while there is a fire in your home.

Stop fire before it starts

While fires can start for any number of reasons, there are two common causes that are easy to fix.

* Fireplaces: There is nothing better than sitting in front of a warm fire on a cold day, but unmaintained fireplaces can be a huge hazard.

“Your chimney should be cleaned and inspected on a yearly basis,” says Manfredini. “This requires special tools and ladder work, so it’s a project that is better left to a certified chimney sweep.”

After you get your fireplace cleaned, install a chimney spark arrester that will prevent stray sparks from catching your roof on fire and a fireplace screen that will keep stray sparks from coming into your home.

* Appliances: Electrical fires can occur out of nowhere, so if your appliance is emitting an unusual smell, unplug it and have someone repair it before using again. Additionally, replace frayed or cracked electrical cords and don’t overload extension cords. Never run cords under rugs.

If you find you have too many plugs going into one outlet (or extension cord), purchase a surge protector, which will keep your appliances safe should a surge occur, and keep overloaded electrical systems from catching fire.

For more home safety tips and advice, visit www.acehardware.com or stop by your neighborhood Ace Hardware store.

Courtesy of ARAcontent