House fires can be devastating. About 5,000 people a year die in fires, and 80 percent of these deaths occur in house fires. Fires kill more people per year in the United States than all other natural disasters put together. A fire can spread quickly and become deadly within 2 minutes; an entire house can be engulfed in flames in less than 5 minutes. Most fires are avoidable and could have been prevented. Below are some tips for preventing a fire in your own home.
- Dispose of all cigarette butts and used matches properly. Never let them out where a baby or child can reach them. If you smoke, get into the habit of properly disposing of your butts immediately. Keep ashtrays clean and safe by promptly disposing of the ashes.
- Avoid smoking in bed. Do not permit guests to smoke in bed. If you tend to fall asleep on the couch while watching television, do not smoke while lying on the couch.
- Keep all lighters and matches safely out of reach of babies and children.
- Do not allow anyone near your fireplace, space heater or candles if they are wearing loose, draping clothing that could easily catch fire.
- Keep candles where they will not accidentally be knocked over. Extinguish candles when your are finished with them and never leave a candle unattended. Take special care with candles if you have children or pets running around in your home.
- Have your furnace inspected on a yearly basis.
- Do not overload electrical circuits and check electrical appliances regularly for loose connections or damaged cords.
- Do not use leave space heaters unsupervised if you have children or pets. Make sure that your heater automatically turns off if it falls over.
- Have fire extinguishers in the high risk areas of your home. This would include the kitchen, near the furnace and fireplace, and the garage. Examine the extinguishers yearly for proper pressure and expiration date.
- Install smoke detectors. Be sure that there is a detector on every level of the house, even the basement and attic. Also, be sure that there is a smoke detector near every bedroom. Check your smoke detectors monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Install a rope ladder or fire escape in selected windows upstairs. Make sure that all family members know how to use the ladder and practice doing so.
- Come up with an emergency escape plan. Discuss it with the family and have everyone practice the escape routes. Have a designated meeting area outside of the home.
Tips & Warnings
- In an emergency, baking soda can be used to put out a small fire. Smoke rises, so mount your smoke alarms high on the wall or on the ceiling. Do not install alarms or detectors near windows, ducts or doors.
- If the fire is not contained in a small area such as the oven or a wastebasket, do not try to extinguish the fire. Concentrate on getting yourself and family safely out of the house. If your smoke alarms are more than 10 years old, purchase new ones.