What's in Your Garage?
March 27, 2013
Find out if your garage is disorderly—or dangerous.
By: Greg Bengel
If you’re like most people, your garage contains lots and lots of stuff. At best, you have some unsightly clutter on your hands. And at worst? Fire hazards that could pose a danger to your garage andyour home. (Can you believe that five percent of house fires start in a garage?) Find out if your garage poses a danger by reviewing this list of common garage hazards.
The danger: ERIE will not typically cover garages that are heated by wood stoves and space heaters unless they are in a specially sealed off area of the garage in which hot air is piped in for heat. That’s because heating devices with an open flame have the potential of emitting gas fumes and igniting the garage.
What you can do: If your heating device is cleared for use in your garage, you’ll want to take a few precautions. “Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of communication at the National Fire Protection Association. This includes combustible items such as car batteries as well as general clutter like piles of rags or stacks of loose papers.
The danger: Wiring, extension cords, plugs, circuit breakers, transformers, light fixtures and battery chargers can cause a fire when they malfunction.
What you can do: Make sure your wiring and lighting is up to code, use bulbs with the proper wattage and don’t overload outlets. Have an electrician install more receptacles so you don’t have to use extension cords.
The danger: Chances are you have a virtual stockpile of flammable chemicals like motor oil, paint, gasoline, fertilizers and lighter fluid in your garage.
What you can do: Don’t smoke inside your garage—after all, one spark is all it takes to cause a fire. Instead, head out to the driveway or sidewalk. (Even better, kick the habit.) Store any chemicals out of direct sunlight and far, far away from any heat or ignition sources. Also check containers for cracks or defects.
Vehicles and power tools
The danger: When oil and gasoline from cars, motorcycles, power tools and lawnmowers drips and collects over time, the possibility of a fire becomes very real.
What you can do: Regularly check your vehicles and power tools. If you notice any leaks, clean up the spill ASAP by spreading an absorbent material such as kitty litter over them. Then sweep up and safely dispose of the material before taking care of the repair.
As a final precaution, make sure to stash a fire extinguisher and install a fire alarm in your garage.
The danger: Ovens, microwaves, charcoal grills and gas grills can ignite the flammable stuff in your garage.
What you can do: They call it a cookout for a reason, so make sure you only use your grill outside and a good distance away from your garage. Propane tanks pose a special danger, so store them outdoors—they’re sturdy enough to handle the elements.