Fire Hazards: Shut Down Laptops, Clean Out Computers, & Get Proper Insurance Coverage

computer fire source melted computer laptop

My parents experienced a house fire just this summer. No one was physically harmed, thank goodness, but their home of 35 years sustained serious damage and will have to be rebuilt. Thanks to insurance, most of their financial costs will be covered, but a lifetime of photos, artwork, and other keepsakes are forever damaged or lost. My parents didn’t do anything that I haven’t done a hundred times myself, yet this accident could have been prevented.

The Causes Of  House & Office Fires

This fire was caused by an older laptop computer that had been left running on the kitchen table. It was plugged into the wall and, apparently, the battery overheated and burst into flames. I’ve never heard of that happening before, but I did some research, and it turns out that accidents like this aren’t uncommon. In fact, from 2007-2011 730 home structure fires per year are caused by office equipment, and 48% of those are caused by computers. Homes aren’t the only buildings at risk. 630 non-home structure fires per year are also caused by office equipment with 67% of those caused by computers and related equipment.

Many of these accidents could have been prevented by turning off computers and other electronic equipment when not in use. It’s such a simple thing, but the threat of fire seems so low that most of us don’t think about the danger. Unfortunately, the statistics show there is a risk. I’ll be taking some extra caution in the future by turning my computer off when I leave the house or the office. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Plus, by shutting your machines down you’re preserving power consumption, decreasing the noise level, and extending the life of your screens (and if that solar flare hits at night while your computer is off, your device will continue operating 😉). Plus, computers generally get a performance boost after a reboot so shutting down at the end of each day ensures a fresh start tomorrow. But if you’re not up for shutting it down, at least put it to sleep (or add a sleep timer).

Outside of a laptop battery overheating into a flaming ball of chaos, another cause of office fires is dust build-up within desktop computers. So, in addition, to shutting down your laptop computer, please keep your desktop towers cleaned out from dust every year.

Fire Hazard Insurance Coverage

My parents would have been in a lot worse shape if they hadn’t maintained a quality homeowner’s insurance policy. The experience caused me to review my own coverage and ultimately to switch to a different insurance carrier. A friend of mine, whose house burned last year, shared some great advice that I want to leave you with:

  1. Double-check your policy limits for coverage on your house and contents and make sure this amount accurately covers the cost to rebuild your house.
  2. Schedule high-priced items separately as these items will eat into your contents coverage limit if you have to replace them.
  3. If possible, get a guaranteed replacement cost homeowners policy so that as long as you insure your home for the insurance company’s estimated rebuild cost, they will cover your rebuild costs past your policy limit if it’s required.
  4. Make sure you have “Law and Ordinance” coverage. This will make sure your home will be rebuilt according to current codes without extra cost.

Logging Off

We don’t often think about the costs of accidents until we have one. With just a little more proactive care and foresight, think of what accidents we can prevent in the future.

Matt Hyatt, Founder of Rocket IT

Founder: Matt Hyatt

About the Author – Matt Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Rocket IT. Outside of work, Matt enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids and running in long-distance relay races.

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