According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
In 2009 there were 1,348,500 fires reported in the U.S., resulting in over 3,000 deaths, in 17,050 injuries and in property damage of $12.5 billion. One home fire was reported every 87 seconds. Households can expect to average a home fire every 15 years or five fires in an average lifetime.
Pretty sobering statistics, which suggest it’s just a question of time before the average household is faced with the task of dealing with fire. The good news is that fire deaths have slowly declined over the past decade, due in large part to greater fire prevention awareness. In case of fire, the difference between death and survival is often simple preparedness and practice.
Here are 10 ways to protect your family from fires:
Fire Prevention Equipment
- Install smoke detectors on every floor, and place one outside each sleep area.
- Check smoke detector batteries every 6 months, at the same time you’re re-setting your clocks for daylight savings.
- Another option is hard-wired smoke detectors. The advantage of these is that you will hear the alarm throughout the house regardless of which individual unit detects smoke or fire.
- Purchase several ABC-class fire extinguishers for various locations such as the kitchen, utility room, hallway, and garage.
- Train each family member in their proper operation, and when to use them.
- Residential fire sprinkler systems have become very affordable, and can enhance the market value of your home considerably. Check out some other advantages at FEMA.
Fire Escape Planning
- Draw an escape plan for your home.
- Discuss with each family member where the escape routes are.
- Identify two exits for every room in your home.
- Practice fire escapes, in daylight and at night, at least twice a year.
- Establish a meeting place near the home for the family to gather after evacuating.
- Have the phone numbers for emergency personnel and nearby contacts programmed into your home and cell phones. Make sure every family member knows who to call, and how to call them.
Home Heating Precautions
- Have chimneys and wood stoves inspected and cleaned at least once a year.
- Wood stoves should be installed near walls made of fire-resistant material.
- Fireplaces equipped with glass doors should burn with doors open to avoid creosote buildup in chimney. Close doors when fire is out.
- Stack firewood away from house.
- Space heaters should be placed away from all objects, and have a tip-over shut-off switch.
- Never leave cooking unattended. This is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen.
- Keep flammable items like oven mitts and potholders away from the stove top.
- Avoid wearing clothing that can come into contact with cooking surfaces (long sleeves, loose-fitting clothes).
- Never use metal objects or aluminum foil in microwave ovens.
- If fire erupts in your microwave oven, unplug it and leave the door closed.
Stay Plugged-in (Electrical Issues)
- Discard extension cords or electrical devices which have frayed or damaged wiring or plugs.
- Install safety covers over electrical outlets in households with small children.
- Never bypass or remove the grounding terminal on three-prong plugs.
- Be aware of the maximum current rating for each circuit in your home; never exceed their limits.
- Do not run electrical cords in traffic areas or under rugs.
- If you must smoke, take it outside.
- Use ashtrays that are sturdy and deep-sided.
- Consider switching to fire-safe cigarettes, which are made with paper that burns slower.
- Try using ashtrays or buckets filled with sand to ensure those butts are extinguished, and
- Make sure they are before emptying those trays.
Put Your Worries to Bed
- Keep bedroom doors closed at night. In the event of fire, they offer protection and help limit the spread of fire.
- Check that electric blanket for faulty wiring. Make sure it’s UL-approved.
- Pre-2007 mattresses should be replaced with newer ones meeting the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard.
Candles in the Wind
- Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Candles shouldbe placed in sturdy, non-flammable holders and positioned where they won’t be easily knocked over.
- Keep matches out of children’s reach.
- Keep candles away from drapes, which can blow into the flame or knock the candle over.
- Check vehicles regularly for fluid leaks or faulty wiring.
- Examine exhaust system for excessive smoke plumes or leaks.
- Avoid smoking in vehicles.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in each of your vehicles.
- Unplug electrical appliances during a storm.
- Turn off air-conditioners.
- Stay off corded phones.
- Ensure outdoor antennae, electrical lines are properly grounded.
As you can see, fire prevention is 90% common sense. Preparedness, the other 10%, is really nothing more than putting that common sense into practice. Knowing what causes fires, or even how to prevent them, is a good start; but the difference between knowing and putting that knowledge to work, could be the difference between surviving and becoming another statistic.