10 Tips for Fire Safety

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Install Smoke Detectors
Did you know that one half of all home fire deaths occur in homes that do not have working smoke detectors? When properly installed and maintained, smoke detectors can double your chances of surviving a fire! Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. Test smoke detectors once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year (or whenever the detector “chirps” to signal low battery power). For more information about smoke detectors, please visit our Smoke Detector Information web page. Also, if you live in the City of Fairfax and need smoke detectors for your home, please visit our Free Smoke Detectors web page.

Plan Your Escape from Fire
If a fire breaks out in your home, you have to get out fast! Prepare for a fire emergency by sitting down with your family and agreeing on a fire escape plan. Be sure that everyone knows two ways out of every room. Consider purchasing fire escape ladders if bedrooms are on upper floors. Designate a specific place outside where everyone will meet in the event of a fire. Finally, have everyone in your household practice your fire escape plan twice a year. For more information on how to put together a fire escape plan and practice fire drills at home, please visit our Home Fire Escape Planning web page.

Watch Out for Smokers
Careless smoking is the number one cause of fire-related deaths in the United States! Smoking in bed or when you are drowsy is particularly dangerous. To avoid fires from smoking materials, provide smokers with deep, non-tip ashtrays and soak butts with water before discarding them. Before going to bed or leaving home, check under and around cushions and upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes. Finally, don’t smoke when you are driving. Hot ashes can fall, burning skin, clothing, and upholstery and taking your attention away from the road.

Practice Kitchen Fire Safety
Cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of home fire injuries. To prevent kitchen fires, never leave cooking unattended; keep cooking areas clean and uncluttered; and never place or store combustible items on the range or in the oven. Wear short- or close-fitting sleeves when cooking to keep your clothes from catching fire. Finally, keep a fire extinguisher handy. If you don’t feel comfortable using a fire extinguisher, a container of baking soda also can be used to put out small fires. For more information about fire extinguishers, please visit our Information About Fire Extinguishers web page. For more information on kitchen fire safety, please visit our Kitchen Fire Safety web page.

Use Electricity Safely
During a typical year in the United States, home electrical problems account for more than 90,000 fires and more than 700 deaths, and result in an estimated $700 million in property losses. Overloaded electrical outlets and the improper use of extension cords are prime causes of residential electrical fires. To prevent electrical fires, never overload electrical outlets, use only Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) approved electrical appliances and power strips; and avoid using extension cords as permanent wiring. Unplug appliances when they are not in use. Finally, only use bulbs that are the correct wattage for lamps and light fixtures.

Give Space Heaters Space
Both electric and kerosene space heaters are major causes of house fires. Each year, on average, two of every three home heating fires in the U.S. and five of every six home heating related deaths, are caused by space heaters. To prevent house fires, space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Children and pets also should be kept away from space heaters. Finally, never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed.

Use Candles Safely
The latest statistics show that candle fires are on the rise. In 1999, an estimated 15,040 home fires were started by candles – a 20-year high. To prevent candle fires, never leave a burning candle unattended. Extinguish all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Use candle holders that are sturdy, won’t tip over easily, and are made of noncombustible materials. Finally, avoid using candles as emergency lighting – use flashlights instead. For more information about candle safety, please visit our Candle Safety web page.

Keep Matches and Lighters Away From Children
In a child’s hands, matches and lighters can be deadly. More than one of every eight fatal structure fires is started by a child under the age of 15. To prevent children from starting fires, store all matches and lighters up high, where small children can’t see or reach them.

Teach your children that fire is dangerous and that matches and lighters are tools for grownup use only. Teach young children to tell a grownup if they find matches or lighters. Finally, set a good example for children by following basic fire safety practices in your home.

Crawl Low Under Smoke
Early detection and quick evacuation are your two best strategies for surviving a fire in your home, but what if you are forced to make your escape through a smoke filled room or hallway? Remember, during a fire, smoke and toxic gases rise with the heat. The air is cleaner (and more breathable) near the floor. If you encounter smoke while escaping from a fire, first try using an alternate escape route. If you must escape through smoke, however, crawl on your hands and knees keeping your head as close to the floor as possible.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Do you have gas or oil heat at home? Perhaps a gas stove, clothes dryer, or water heater? How about a fireplace, charcoal grill, or attached garage? These home amenities all have one thing in common – they are potential sources of carbon monoxide (CO)! CO is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas created when fossil fuels (such as wood, oil, natural gas and kerosene) do not burn completely. CO is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S. When properly installed and maintained, a CO detector can give you early warning that CO is accumulating in your home and give you a chance to escape before you succumb to the poisonous gas. For more information about CO and CO detectors, please visit our Information About Carbon Monoxide web page.