“The United States has the highest fatality rate from fire in the industrial world. Why? Because we spend most of our money responding to fires, not preventing them.” This statement by David Osborne, Sr. Advisor to Vice President Al Gore, shows us where our priorities should lie in keeping our homes and families safe from fire: prevention! Here’s a list of fire safety tips you can use to prevent a house fire.
Fire Safety in the Kitchen
- Never leave cooking food unattended, especially when frying (overheated oil is the leading cause of kitchen fires).
- Keep it clean—keep stove and nearby counter surfaces free of clutter, grease, and combustible items such as cans of baking spray, bug spray, hairspray, or air freshener.
- Use your stove or oven timer; we humans can get easily distracted.
- Wear close-fitting clothing when cooking; loose robes and billowing sleeves can ignite easily over the stove.
- Cover the pan with a lid or another pan turned upside down.
- Turn off the heat.
- If the first two don’t extinguish the fire, douse it with a fire-extinguisher or throw baking soda on it.
- DO NOTsubstitute flour or sugar for baking soda to douse the fire—1 cup of either has the explosive power of 2 sticks of dynamite!
- DO NOT spray an oil fire with water; it will splatter the hot oil and spread the fire.
- DO NOT run with a pan of oil; there’s too much danger of dripping, spilling, and spreading the fire or burning yourself.
Fire Safety in the Laundry Room
- Your dryer duct must vent to the outdoors, never to a room in your home, as it can contain a combination of combustible gases.
- Avoid plastic duct work for your dryer; metal is much safer.
- Keep duct and dryer lint-trap free of lint. Periodically a professional should help you clean between the dryer drum and the heating element.
- Install a smoke detector in the area.
Fireplaces and Candles
- Never leave a fire unattended, whether it’s in your fireplace or a small candle sitting on the table.
- Make certain your fireplace flue is open before lighting a fire.
- Place candles or candle-warmers on a flat, non-combustible surface away from cloth, paper, cardboard, or even Styrofoam.
- Use a sturdy hearth screen to keep logs from rolling out of a fireplace.
- Perform regular checkups on your chimney, fireplace, or woodstove. All need annual cleaning and monthly inspections in case of obstructions or damage.
- Never burn paper, trash, or green wood in fireplaces.
- Extinguish the fire before you leave the area. Let the ashes cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container outside the home.
Electronics and Appliances
- Be a smart shopper! Buy appliances that have been evaluated and approved by a nationally-recognized laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
- Check labels of appliances for manufacturer’s safety tips.
- Replace all frayed wires and damaged plugs.
- Use 3-prong plugs in 3-prong outlets, and 2-prong plugs in 2-prong outlets.
- Keep portable space heaters 4 feet away from combustible surfaces and objects.
- Ensure that your space heater has an automatic turn-off feature in case it should tip over.
- Do not allow your space heater to overheat, and use in a well-ventilated room.
- If your heater operates on kerosene, use only clear K-1 Kerosene, which is the cleanest, purest form of the fuel. It should be clear as water and show no “floaties” or contaminants. Do not substitute gasoline for kerosene.
- Have several in your house, near the kitchen, laundry room, bedrooms, and any room that has a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Use dual-sensor smoke alarms, as they use both photoelectric and ionization sensors, increasing the chance of catching a fire in its beginning stage.
- Test smoke alarms once a month and replace yearly (except for those containing non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
- Never disable a smoke alarm, especially when cooking.
- There are special smoke alarms for the disabled—Loud, unmistakable alarms for visually-impaired people, visual alarms or vibrating pads for the hearing-impaired, and alarms with outdoor strobe lights to alert neighbors of a problem in the home of a person with severe disabilities. Many alarms can be connected to an alarm service that alerts first responders to a need.
If You Smoke
- Smoke outdoors for the most safety.
- Never smoke in bed or in a recliner where you might be tempted to snooze.
- Stay alert. If you feel especially sleepy, whether due to medication, drinking, or sleep-deprivation, put out your cigarette/cigar.
- Snuff cigarettes out completely in sand or water; don’t toss burning butts out your car window, into a trash can, or anywhere else.
- Never smoke in an area where oxygen is being used. Even if the canister is turned off, the area is still more vulnerable to explosion.
Getting Out Safely
- Establish an evacuation plan. Draw up an escape plan for your home, with all exits marked. Establish two ways of exiting each room if possible, especially bedrooms.
- Discuss escape plans with your family, and rehearse. Teach the stop, drop, and roll technique in case clothing catches fire.