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Fire Prevention & Safety

General Expertise
By on Mar 2, 2018

Fire safety begins with fire prevention, since once a fire starts in a home, the time to respond is very limited. Within only a moment or two, a fire in the home can become life-threatening, so it's crucial for every member of a family to know how to respond if a fire starts. Working smoke alarms on every level of the home, including inside and outside of each sleeping area, are important for fire safety. Families must also create a fire safety and escape plan that outlines multiple escape routes from every room in the home. After creating an escape plan, families should also practice it to ensure that everyone knows how to get out of the house in the event of a fire.

Preventative Fire Plan Tips

Preventing home fires involves a number of important tasks. Heating systems need regular service to ensure that they are functioning correctly. Keeping the clothes dryer free of lint and the vent clear is also important. Electrical circuits and appliances are another common source of fire risk, so families must watch to prevent circuit overloads. Using extension cords for appliances can also create a fire risk. In the kitchen, cooking must always be supervised closely. Allowing grease to build up around cooking areas is dangerous because the grease is flammable.

Smoke detectors belong on every level of the home, including attics and basements. Optimally, a home should have a smoke detector in each bedroom and sleeping area as well as in the hallways immediately outside of sleeping areas. Testing smoke detectors should occur each month to ensure that they are working properly. Smoke detectors that require batteries should have the batteries replaced at least twice each year.

To make a fire escape plan, draw a detailed floor plan of every level of the home that includes all stairways, windows, and doors as well as features that could aid in an escape, such as porch or garage roofs. Devise two escape routes from each room if possible. Families must also set a meeting place outside the home where everyone will go after they escape the home. It's also important to practice an escape plan to make sure that everyone knows what to do if a fire occurs.

What to Do When There Is a Fire

Seconds are crucial if a fire starts. The first thing to do is to yell "fire" several times to get everyone's attention. The most important thing to do is to get out quickly, since fire spreads quickly. If a fire is small and contained, it may be possible to put it out with a fire extinguisher. However, getting out of the house and calling 911 is the best course of action if the fire is large and spreading. Family members should not spend time collecting items before leaving the house. If doors are closed, touching the doors and the doorknobs to see if they are hot will let people know if it's safe to open the doors. To escape through a smoky room, people should crawl as low as possible, since smoke rises. Once outside the home, family members should never go back inside.

Before a fire strikes, make sure you know how to operate a fire extinguisher. Most fire extinguishers are designed to work in a similar fashion. The first step in operating a fire extinguisher is pulling the pin. Aiming the fire extinguisher low, at the base of the fire, will direct the chemicals most effectively. Squeezing the handle releases the extinguishing agent, and moving the extinguisher from side to side will disperse the chemicals. Sometimes flames can reappear, so it may be necessary to repeat these steps.

How to Recover After a Fire

After a fire, attending to physical injuries for family members is the first task. A fire-damaged home may be structurally unsafe, so a family should wait to re-enter the home until local authorities inspect it and decide that it's safe to enter. The major systems in the home, such as electrical and plumbing, may have extensive damage. A house may have toxic chemicals and fumes present due to the heat from the fire. Extensive water and smoke damage are also likely. Reporting the fire to an insurance company will be a priority, and a family will need to create a list of damaged and lost items for a claim. After the initial damage assessment, it may be necessary to contact home improvement contractors to assist with renovations and rebuilding.

  • Home Fires: A fire in the home can become serious enough to threaten lives in only two minutes, and in five minutes, an entire home can be fully engulfed.
  • Home Safety Checklist (PDF): A home safety checklist includes smoke alarms on every level of the home, electrical and appliance safety, heating safety, and a home escape plan.
  • Fire Safety at Home: Fire safety involves installing and testing smoke alarms once each month and having fire extinguishers on every level of the home.
  • How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan (PDF): To make a home fire escape plan, create a map of the home showing all doors and windows, and then devise two ways out of every room.
  • Fire Prevention: Two Ways Out: Planning two ways out of every room in the home makes it more likely that a family will escape in the event of a fire.
  • Home Fire Safety Checklist (PDF): Watch for fire safety hazards in the home such as frayed electrical cords, overloaded outlets, incorrect bulbs in light fixtures, and unattended candles.
  • Home Fire Prevention, Children Ages Five to Nine Years: Most fires occur in the home, so it's important to teach children what to do in the event of a fire.
  • Working Together for Home Fire Safety (PDF): When using portable heaters in the home, make sure the heaters are placed at least three feet away from anything combustible.
  • Home Fire Safety Checklist (PDF): Heating and cooking hazards in the home can cause a fire, such as clogged chimneys, portable heaters, and grease build-up on the kitchen stove.
  • Winter Fires: Safety Tips for the Home (PDF): Winter heating can cause fires and other hazards from toxic fumes in the air, flammable liquids, sparks, and equipment malfunctions.
  • Fire Safety for Kids: Young children are often responsible for starting home fires if they play with matches or lighters, so parents must keep these items out of reach of children.
  • Fire Extinguisher Use: Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is crucial for containing a fire, and most fire extinguishers operate in the same way.
  • Public Education Training for Fire Extinguishers (PDF): Fire extinguishers are rated for the types and sizes of fires they will extinguish, with some units designed to put out a variety of different types of fires.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Portable fire extinguishers are designed to put out small fires or to contain them until firefighters arrive.
  • Plan Your Family Fire Escape (PDF): A family's fire escape plan should include secondary routes from every room, and families should practice their escape plan.
  • Fire Escape Planning (PDF): Every family member needs to know and practice multiple escape routes from every room in the house to be adequately prepared in the event of a fire.
  • Picking Up the Pieces After a Fire (PDF): Rebuilding and recovering after a fire is both a physical and emotional process, and it likely involves assessing the structure for serious damage.
  • Food Safety After a Fire: Food in the kitchen may be compromised after a fire due to the heat, smoke, and chemicals, so it's important to discard anything that could be tainted.
  • After the Fire: What You Need to Know (PDF): Getting a family settled after a fire is the first hurdle, and then it's time to assess the damage and pursue assistance from an insurance company.
  • After the Fire (PDF): The first 24 hours after a fire involve attention to any injuries, contacting insurance companies, and assessing fire damage.
  • Burn Prevention and Fire Safety Tips: To prevent fires and injuries in the kitchen, never leave cooking unattended and keep the cooking area clean and free of grease build-up.
  • Prevent Clothes Dryer Fires (PDF): Keeping the lint filter clean is important for preventing clothes dryer fires, and the exhaust vent pipes need to remain unrestricted.

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