Every year, there are over 6,000 garage fires in homes within the US, with electrical malfunction being the leading cause (shorts in wires, damaged wires, overloading electrical outlets, etc). Garage fires tend to spread farther and cause more injuries and greater dollar loss than fires that start in all other areas of the home.
FEMA has put together guidelines to help you keep your home and garage safe from fire.
- Store oil, gasoline, paints, propane and varnishes in a shed away from your home.
- Keep items that can burn on shelves away from appliances.
- Plug only one charging appliance into an outlet.
- Don’t use an extension cord when charging an appliance.
When building or remodeling your garage, be sure to install the following:
- A 20-minute fire-rated door that is self-closing and self-latching from the garage into the house.
- A ceiling made with 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board (or the equivalent) if you have living space above the garage.
- A wall with 1/2-inch gypsum board (or the equivalent) if the wall attaches the garage to your home.
- An attic hatch cover if you have attic access from the garage.
- A heat alarm — not a smoke alarm — in your garage. The heat alarm will sound if the temperature rises too high.
Heat alarms respond to fire and not smoke. Since garages tend to fill up with dust, fumes, insects, humidity, and rise in temperature – all which can trigger a smoke alarm – it’s a good idea to install a heat alarm instead of a smoke alarm. Heat alarms are made to not be affected by the same conditions that trigger a smoke alarm.
According to FEMA, it is not recommended to install a smoke alarm in the garage. Many heat alarm models can be connected to a home’s fire detection system so that if the heat alarm sounds, the smoke alarms will as well.
Purchase a heat alarm that is:
- Hard-wired with a battery backup.
- Capable of interconnecting with your home’s smoke alarms.
- Rated for temperatures between 175-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Alarms with lower temperature ratings may sound because temperatures in garages rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Alarms with higher temperature ratings may sound too late to warn you of a fire.
Heat Alarm Installation Tips:
- Have a qualified electrician install your hard-wired heat alarm.
- Don’t install heat alarms near fluorescent lights. Electrical noise and flickering from the lights may affect the alarm’s operation.
Learn more about what type of heat alarm is best for garage installation at www.usfa.fema.gov.