This page has various fire prevention and safety information for your home. One of my goals is to reduce the chances of your house catching fire and to increase the chances of your family getting out if there is a fire. By bringing to your attention to some common dangerous habits and also helping you to have an escape plan, you will greatly increase your chances of surviving a deadly house fire.
People are used to seeing news reports about house fires. They tell where and when the fire occurred, whether anyone was injured or killed, maybe the cause of the fire. These reports tell the story of one fire, in one particular home, at one particular time. Most people probably think, "That unfortunate family." But they probably don't think, "That could happen to me." Or, "How can I prevent a fire in my home?"
House fires, and the injuries and deaths that result, are not rare and isolated events. They happen every day in communities all over the country. They're deadly, costly and they change the lives of families forever. But they're not unavoidable. House fires and fire deaths can be prevented.
Fires are deadly.
Ø In the U.S., there's an injury in a house fire every 30 minutes and a fatality every 3 hours.
Ø In 2006, a house fire was reported every 80 seconds.
Fire deaths can happen to anyone, but children & older adults are at higher risk.
Ø Children under 5 yrs old & adults over 65 are twice as likely to die in a house fire.
Ø Child-playing fires are the leading cause of fire deaths among preschoolers.
Ø 2 out of 3 child-playing fires and 3 out of every 4 associated deaths & injuries involve matches or lighters.
Ø Just over half of child-playing fires start in the bedroom.
Fires and resulting deaths can be prevented.
Ø By installing smoke alarms on every floor and outside every sleeping area (ideally, in every sleeping area too).
Ø By having an escape plan and practicing it with the whole family.
Ø By practicing fire safety when cooking, smoking, using space heaters, or using candles.
Barriers make fire prevention more difficult.
The biggest barrier to preventing fire deaths is lack of access to smoke detectors. The homes at greatest risk of deadly fire are also those least likely to have working smoke detectors. Another barrier is lack of information-people can't prevent fire deaths if they don't know what to do.
Winter Fire Safety Tips
Possibly due to the high costs of heating your home, many families are using alternate heating sources. The use of woodburning stoves is growing and space heaters are more popular than ever. Fireplaces are also more popular than ever.
These methods may be acceptable; however, they are a major contributing factor in residential fires. Many of these fires are preventable. The following fire safety tips will help you maintain a safer home this winter.
Be Safe and Warm This Winter
Ø Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
Ø Have a 3 foot kid free zone around open fires and space heaters.
Ø Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Ø Have chimneys and heating equipment cleaned inspected yearly.
Ø Test smoke alarms monthly.
Ø Never use fuel burning appliances without proper room ventilation, they can produce deadly fumes.
Ø Only use fuel recommended by the manufacturer.
Ø Keep kerosene and other flammable liquids in approved metal containers, in well ventilated areas, outside of the house.
Ø NEVER fill heater while it's in operation or hot. When refueling, avoid overfilling. Do not use cold fuel as it may expand when heated up.
Ø Refueling should be done outside. Keep children away from heaters, especially when they're wearing loose fitting clothing that can be easily ignited.
Ø Portable unvented fuel-fired heating equipment is prohibited in bars, restaurants, churches, schools, hotels, motels, and child care facilities.
Ø Only use space heaters listed by a 3rd party testing agency (UL).
Ø Buy only heaters with a safety shut off if knocked over or if tilted too far over.
Ø Be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry an amp load. TIP: Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
Ø Avoid using electrical space heaters in areas where they may come in contact with water.
Wood Stove and Fireplaces
Ø Be sure the unit is installed properly.
Ø Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if needed, especially if burning for the first time in awhile.
Ø Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.
Ø Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent hot embers from jumping out, and unwanted material from going into the fire.
Ø Never burn charcoal indoors, it can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
Ø Keep combustible material away from fireplace opening.
Ø Before leaving the house of going to sleep, make sure the fire is out! Never close the damper with hot ashes in the fireplace.
Ø Never deposit hot ashes in a combustible receptacle, and not within 10 of any combustible material. If in doubt, water it down. This is the cause for numerous fires.
Christmas Trees & Electrical
Ø Overloaded electrical outlets are a common cause of house fires.
Ø If you have an artificial tree, be sure it's labeled, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
Ø If choosing a real tree, choose one with fresh green needles that don't fall off when touched.
Ø KEEP YOUR TREE WATERED! A safe tree is a watered tree.
Ø ½ half of Christmas tree fires spread beyond the room of origin-fires that spread beyond the room of origin caused 94% of the associated fatalities.
Ø Follow this link to watch a video of a Christmas tree fire. Words cannot impress the power of fire; this video is a powerful reminder. Dry Christmas trees are a huge fire threat.
Ø Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory (for example-UL).
Ø Use lights that are labeled for the environment you intend on using them (indoor or outdoor).
Ø Cooking fires are the #1 cause of house fires and house fire injuries!! They are the 3rd leading cause of house fire fatalities.
Ø Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all house fires.
Ø Ranges accounted for almost 60% of cooking fire incidents.
Ø By far, the leading contributing factor was unattended cooking.
Candle Fire Safety
Candles cause an estimated 15,600 residential structure fires, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries, and $539 million in estimated direct property damage each year.
- Over half (55%) of home candle fires start because the candle is too close to a combustible material.
- More candle fires (38%) begin in the bedroom than in any other room.
- ½ of all civilian candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6am.
- December is the peak month for candle fires. The top 5 days for candle fires are: Halloween, Christmas Eve & day, New Years Eve & day.
- Young children and older adults have the highest risk of death from candle fires.
Fires caused by candles are preventable. The majority of candle fires are a result of human error and negligence.
So, what can we do to lessen the chance of a candle fire in our house? The following tips will go a long way in reducing those chances.
- Avoid using lighted candles.
- If you do use candles, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
- Children should NEVER be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
- Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Extinguish candles after use. And NEVER leave burning candles unattended!
- Candles should not be located on or near decorative material or similar combustible materials.
Home Fire Escape Plan
The following tips will help you develop an escape plan from your house. This is something everyone should be involved in. If you have kids, make finding your way out of your house with your eyes closed fun. Practice it when one of your child's friends are over the house. You might be the inspiration for them to develop the same type of plan at their own house.
Have at least 2 exits from every sleeping area (ideally, 2 exits from every room in the house).
Plan for everyone in your home, including babies & others who may need help to escape.
Designate a safe meeting area outside your house. Make sure everyone in the family knows the spot.
Practice getting out with your eyes closed, crawling close to the floor at various times of the day. Remember, hot smoke and deadly gases rise.
Once you're out of the house, stay out.
Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's phone. Make sure everyone knows how to dial 9-1-1.
Teach children never to hide during a fire, they must get out and stay out.
Clear toys, boxes and other debris from exit pathways.
Practice the escape plan yearly.
Consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Make sure everyone in the house learns to use them ahead of time. Store the ladder near the window it will be used.
Check that windows open easily and fix any that don't.
Never open a door that feels hot. Escape another way.
If you become trapped in a room, the following steps are recommended:
- Keep the door closed; opening the door will decrease your chance of survival.
- Stay low to the floor, smoke rises & fresh air is closer to the ground.
- Wait by the window & signal your distress: call 9-1-1 and let them know your location, hang a white sheet or towel out the window or wave a flashlight, but do not break the window.
- Do not hide under beds or in closets.
- Seal the bottom of the door with a blanket or clothing to keep the smoke out.
Go over the escape plan with anyone sleeping over and anyone who might be watching your kids at home. Everyone should be on the same page with no exceptions.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. It's nicknamed the "silent killer" for good reson, CO can kill you before you're aware it's in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu, including headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.
Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?
CO is a by-product of combustion from carbon based fuel. CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.
Protect Yourself and Your Family from CO Poisoning.
Ø CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area & on every level of your house. They measure levels over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It's very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO isn't present.
Ø Never use your range or oven to help heat your home or use a charcoal grill indoors.
Ø Never keep a car running in the garage. Even if the garage door is open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
Ø Warming your car up as it's parked right next to the house can allow CO to enter your house. Also, do not stand behind your car in the winter while it's warming up. A cold engine emits a lot of CO.
Ø As a rule of thumb, if you smell exhaust, you're being exposed to CO. It doesn't matter whether it's winter or summer (cars, boats, generators, etc.).
Ø The presence of a CO alarm in your home can save your life.
What should I look for when I buy a CO alarm?
Ø Look for the UL Mark with the phrase "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm."
Ø UL Listed CO alarms are required to have a manually operated alarm reset/silence button. If elevated levels of CO continue to exist, the alarm will sound again in 6 minutes.
If you have any problems operating your CO detector and you cannot immediately reach me, call 9-1-1. If you're having any of the signs and symptoms listed above or your CO detector is alarming, call 9-1-1 and evacuate the house.