Fires at Home: Some Facts
About 300,000 home fires occur every year in the United States. Most deaths and injuries from fire are from smoke inhalation, not burns from the fire. Fires are the third-leading cause of death and injury in your home: how can you protect yourself and your family?
Almost two-thirds of the deaths from fire in the United States occur in homes with no smoke alarm, or a non-working smoke alarm. If your home already has a smoke alarm, make sure that it is properly installed and test regularly. Many fires occur while a family is sleeping; making smoke alarms a necessity in alerting all of the people in your home before it is too late.
There should be smoke alarms on every level of your home, as well as around sleeping areas – both inside and outside of bedrooms. Make sure not to place smoke alarms near kitchen equipment, heating vents, or any other location that lets off heat. The best places to install them are either in the center of the ceiling, or on a wall 6-12 inches below the ceiling. The instructions from the manufacturer often include suggestions about the best placement for your particular smoke alarm.
Smoke alarm batteries should be replaced once a year. The smoke alarm should also be tested once a month. A good way to remember is to always test on the first day of the month. Replace smoke alarms after 10 years of use.
Fire Escape Plan
Another essential part of fire safety is developing and sharing a fire escape plan with your family. While fire can be a scary thought for small children, helping them to learn about how to escape is essential and can save lives.
Choose a location outside your house as a meeting point. A tree across the street, or a neighbor’s driveway would both be possibilities, and easy for your family to remember.
Investing in a fire escape ladder may be important for your fire escape plan. If some of your family’s bedrooms are on the second floor of your home, a fire escape ladder is essential to help your family exit their bedrooms if the fire prevents them from leaving their rooms through the door.
Check all of your doors and windows to make sure they open easily. Make sure that there are at least two ways to leave each room in your house.
Designate one member of the family to call 911 after you have left the house. Make sure to alert neighbors that a member of your family will use their phone as part of your emergency plan.
Fire Prevention: Kitchens and Grills
The stove and oven are the leading causes of home fires in the United States. How can you help prevent this?
Always stay at the stove when it is on, particularly when frying. Always have oven mitts handy to prevent your hands from getting burned. Turn pan handles away from the edge of the stove so they won’t fall.
Be particularly careful with gas ranges, as clothing can catch on fire. Keep towels and bags away from the range – they can also catch fire easily.
Grills can also be dangerous. Like stoves, someone should be at the grill at all times. Keep grills three feet away from your house, and all other objects.
Fire Prevention: Heating
Space heaters should be placed at least three feet from all walls, blankets, and clothing. Do not keep space heaters on while you sleep. Turn the heater off when you are not in the room. Do not place space heaters on boxes or paper or plastic bags.
Any heating in your home is vital, yet can often lead to problems. Whether you have a furnace, wood stove, radiator, or chimney, keeping them clean is essential. Clean your heating apparatus once a year. In addition to cleaning, inspections are also important. Have a professional visit your home once a year to check on your heating systems.
Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or box. While they may look like toys to children, they can be deadly.
Fire Prevention: Electronics
Never use electronics with frayed cords. Do not attempt to fix frayed cords – this is the work of a professional.
Stiff and cracked cords can be dangerous. Have a professional replace them for you – they don’t last forever.
Be especially attentive when using electronics in the bathroom. When water gets on the equipment, sparks often form and can cause fires.
Keep fabrics and papers away from light bulbs. Some light bulbs get so hot the cloth or paper may catch on fire. Even placing clothing over a lampshade runs the risk of the fabric catching on fire.
Make sure the light bulbs are the correct wattage for whatever fixture you are working with. Using the incorrect light bulb can cause the lamp to overheat and start a fire.
Fires: Helping Your Children Understand
Although fires are dangerous for anyone, children are often at risk. Their smaller bodies take less time to inhale the smoke, leaving them less time to react.
Some Tips to Share with Your Children
Keep your bedroom door shut at night.
Keep calm during a fire. If you can’t get out, someone will come to help you.
Don’t hide if there is a fire. It makes it harder for the firemen to find you.
Crawl if there is a fire – the air down lower is less smoky.
Go to the door of your room if there is a fire. See if it is hot by putting the back of your hand near the top.
If the door is hot, go out the window.
If the door is not hot, go out the door.
After you are outside the house, go to the meeting place you have discussed with your family.
Even if the door is hot and you can’t get out your window, remember that someone will come and get you. Just don’t hide and stay close to the ground.