Home fires may seem like the kind of event that happens to someone else, but the reality is, it could easily happen to you.
Approximately every three hours a home fire death occurs somewhere in the nation, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). Take action now to make sure your home is safer, and that your family knows what to do in case a fire does break out. And don’t stop there—share some positivity in your community by reminding family and friends to change the batteries in their smoke alarms when they change their clocks this fall.
Make a Plan
When a home fire occurs, you have very little time to get out. Having an escape plan that everyone is familiar with is a critical part of saving lives. Yet only 23 percent of U.S. families have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely.
• Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan.
• If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children.
• Assign an outside meeting place, so that if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.
Room by Room
The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most families are asleep.
• Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
• Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked “suitable for all night use.”
• Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
• Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
• Do not overload electrical outlets.
• Never run electrical cords under carpets.
• Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
• Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
• During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places.
• Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.
Cooking equipment is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
• Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
• Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
• Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
• Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
• Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
• Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
• Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.