According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), approximately 17,500 people are injured in fires each year and an overwhelming number of all fire-related deaths occur in the home. To protect your family’s safety, it is critical to learn basic fire safety measures. Here is a room by room fire safety checklist, along with tips on handling an emergency if a fire should occur:
o One of the leading causes of fire-related deaths in the home is careless smoking. Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended. Also, avoid emptying your ashtray into the trash before you go to bed at night. Live embers can smolder and spark a fire.
o Portable heaters should be used with caution. Bedding, curtains, clothes, and other items that may catch fire should be kept at least three feet away from space heaters.
o Children of all ages set over 100,000 fires each year. In the home, children are most often found experimenting with fire in bedrooms, under beds, and in closets. Teach your children about the appropriate uses for fires, and keep ignitables, matches and lighters, locked up and out of a child’s reach.
o Cooking accidents are another major cause of residential fires. If grease catches fire, turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid to smother the flames. To prevent the fire from spreading, do not attempt to remove the pan from the stove.
o Check appliances for frayed or damaged cords and plugs. Also, be careful not to overload circuits.
o Keep a fire extinguisher handy. There are different types, so be sure to choose the appropriate one for your needs.
Basement and Garage
o Clothes dryers can also be a major fire hazard. Clean the lint filter after every load and check the exhaust duct regularly. Never go to bed or leave the house with the dryer operating.
o Store flammable materials such as paints, solvents, and oily rags in airtight metal containers away from heating equipment. Store highly combustible fuels, such as gasoline and propane, outdoors.
o If you have a gas grill, check it regularly for leaks.
o Do not leave wet clothes and towels to dry on a heater.
o Periodically clean the exhaust fan of dust, lint, and hairspray.
Hallways and Stairs
o Install smoke detectors on each level of your house and in hallways leading to bedrooms. Clean them and test the batteries at least twice a year.
o Keep hallways free of clutter that could fuel a fire or hinder an emergency escape.
Living Room and Home Office
o Provide adequate ventilation for televisions, stereo/cd players, computers, printers, and other electronic equipment. User handbooks generally provide clearance guidelines. Enclosing electronics in storage cabinets can block airflow and cause overheating.
o Schedule fireplaces and woodstoves for regular cleaning and maintenance.
o Never run electrical cords under rugs or behind curtains.
o Make sure light bulbs do not exceed the proper wattage for their fixtures. Generally, the more enclosed the bulb, the lower the wattage should be.
o Candles are another common cause of house fires. Keep curtains away from candles. Never leave a candle burning in a room unattended.
o If you choose to celebrate the winter holidays with a real, cut tree, take the following precautions before bringing it indoors. Cut several inches off the trunk, and let the tree stand in a bucket of water for several hours, or overnight, until it is saturated. Once inside, add water to the tree stand daily. As soon as needles begin to drop, or if the tree begins to look brown, remove it from your house.
If a Fire Should Occur. . .
Unfortunately, not all fires can be prevented. Prepare for an emergency by developing and practicing an escape plan. Include at least two escape routes, if possible, and designate a spot outside where everyone can gather for a headcount. Assign someone to assist children and elderly family members. They are at the greatest risk, since they may have the most difficulty escaping on their own, and their lungs may be the most susceptible to damage from smoke and fumes.
If a fire occurs, you may have only seconds to react. Preventing potential fire hazards and preparing an escape plan are keys for survival.