What's the best way to protect your family from fire? Be ahead of the game, of course. With more than 360,000 home fires reported in the United States in 2009, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), your best defense is a god offense. The leading cause of home fires are cooking, heating and electrical equipment, as well as candles and smoking materials.
In 2009, 2565 people died in home fires. Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed. Fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, you are much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured in home fires each year.
You local fire department offers the following tips for protecting your home and family from fire:
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.
- Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
- If you smoke, smoke outside.
- Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
- Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
- If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace: clean the chimney or stove pipe at least annually
- Replace furnace filters
While preventing home fires is always the number one priority of the NFPA, it is not always possible, residents need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire. This can be achieved by developing an escape plan which you practice regularly and equipping homes with life-saving technologies like smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers.
The following tips will help keep your family safe if there is a fire in your home:
- Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including the basement).
- Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
- Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old, or sooner if they do not respond when tested. If your smoke alarms are battery operated, or have backup batteries, be sure to replace these twice each year. A good time to do this is when the time changes from standard time to daylight savings time and back.
- Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.
- Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
- If you are building or remodeling your home, consider installing home fire sprinklers.
"Reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week web site, www.firepreventionweek.org. ©2011 NFPA."