Cooking and heating are the leading causes of home fires and fire injuries, and winter months are the peak time for fire-related deaths. With Fire Prevention Week celebrating it's 100th anniversary (Oct. 9-15, 2022), it's the perfect time to review and practice fire safety.
Minimize Your Risks
The good news: Deaths from home fires in the U.S. have trended downward since the 1970s, according to Injury Facts , but even one death from a preventable fire is too many. While fire doesn't discriminate by age, it is the third leading cause of death for children 1 to 14.
When cooking, make fire safety a priority by keeping these tips in mind:
- Be alert; if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the oven or stovetop
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food
- When simmering, baking or roasting, check the food regularly, remain in the kitchen while cooking and use a timer
- Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop
Heating is the second leading cause of home fires. Follow these tips from the American Red Cross:
- Keep all flammables, like paper, clothing, bedding, drapes or rugs, at least 3 feet from a space heater, stove or fireplace
- Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended; turn off heaters and make sure fireplace embers are extinguished before leaving the room
- If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, nonflammable surface, like ceramic tile, not on a rug or carpet
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters
- When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over
Other top causes of fire include smoking, electrical problems and candles. To minimize risks:
- Institute a “no smoking” policy in the house
- Check all cords and replace any that are frayed or have bare wires
- Switch to flameless candles
- Keep matches and lighters high and out of children’s reach in a locked cabinet
Working Smoke Alarms Are a Must
About three out of five fire deaths happen in homes without working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan providing early warning to reduce your risk of dying in a fire. The National Fire Protection Association recommends you:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas on the ceiling or high on the wall
- Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen, at least 10 feet from the stove, to reduce false alarms
- Use special alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers for people who are hard of hearing or deaf
- Test smoke alarms monthly
- Replace batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector annually
- Replace smoke alarms that are 10 or more years old
Make an Escape Plan
A home fire is reported every 88 seconds. Once the smoke alarm sounds, a fire can spread quickly, leaving only a minute or two to escape. That's why it's so important to have a home escape plan.
Start by drawing a map for your home and follow these guidelines from the NFPA:
- Plan two ways to escape from each room
- Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily
- Identify secondary routes: a window onto an adjacent roof or a collapsible ladder from a second floor window
- If you live in a multi-story building, plan to use the stairs – never the elevator
- Designate an outside meeting place a safe distance from the house
Now Practice Your Home Fire Escape Plan
Everyone – including children – need to know your family escape plan. The National Fire Protection Association indicates 71% of Americans have a home fire escape plan but only 47% have practiced it. Practice your fire drill with everyone in the house at night and during the day, twice a year. Remember to:
- Practice getting out with eyes closed, crawling low to the floor and keeping your mouth covered
- Practice closing doors behind you
- Practice how to “stop, drop and roll” if your clothes catch on fire
- Practice testing door handles to see if they are hot before opening them
- Teach children never to hide and how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them
When and How to Use Fire Extinguisher
Always put your safety first; if you are not confident in your ability to use a fire extinguisher, get out and call 9-1-1. The American Red Cross cautions you to evaluate the situation and ensure:
- Everyone has left or is leaving the home
- The fire department has been called
- The fire is small, not spreading, and there is not much smoke
- Your back is to an exit you can use quickly
- You remember the acronym PASS:
Pull the pin.
Aim low at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the handle slowly.
Sweep the nozzle side to side.