Home Fire Safety and Prevention Tips
Find peace of mind from knowing what you and your family can do to prevent a house fire or escape from one during an emergency. Protect what matters to you most by being aware of these home safety precautions and fire prevention tips.
Step 1: Prepare and Plan Ahead
Make home fire safety the whole family’s responsibility. Work together, from the oldest to the youngest family member, to come up with an emergency escape plan in case of a fire or other emergency.
Try to include at least two ways to escape from each room in your home (this is not always feasible, depending on your home). Map out your fire plan on paper and be sure it includes emergency phone numbers. Post a copy in each bedroom. Try to review the plan with the whole family once a month.
Retractable ladders are a necessity for bedrooms on the second floor or higher. Everyone in your family needs to know how to climb out of a window and down a ladder in case of an emergency. Be sure everyone knows how to crawl under smoke to escape during a fire and how to cover their mouths and noses with shirts or towels to keep from breathing in smoke. Designate one family member to assist younger children, elderly relatives or pets during an emergency.
Decide on a meeting spot that is outside and away from the house. All family members living in your home should know the fire plan, including where to gather once they have evacuated the house.
Be sure all children know what smoke and fire alarms sound like so they can recognize them during a fire. Teach your children the “Stop, Drop and Roll” technique for putting out a fire on their clothes or in their hair.
Keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage and basement and go over how to use them with your family. To operate a fire extinguisher, just remember P.A.S.S.: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle and Sweep from side-to-side as it sprays to extinguish the flames. Recharge all extinguishers after any test.
Step 2: Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Install working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home. This is probably the most important part of any home fire safety plan, as these devices are your first defense against a fire or a carbon monoxide leak. Once they’re installed, remember to check the batteries twice a year and replace them as needed.
Consider using alarms powered by lithium batteries. These batteries can last up to 10 years. After 10 years, it’s also time to replace your smoke alarm.
An easy way to remember to check detector batteries is to test them when daylight savings time starts and ends.
Do a home walk-through. Look for places where you might have inadequate detector coverage. Be sure to mount the devices inside bedrooms or in adjacent hallways. Smoke detectors should be installed high on the wall, preferably on the ceiling, because smoke always rises.
If attaching an alarm to a wall, mount it six to 12 inches from the ceiling. For a ceiling mount, install the alarm about four inches from the wall.
Each device is different, so follow the manufacturer’s directions when mounting a smoke/carbon monoxide detector. However, most battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are easy to install using a power drill, a screwdriver and a ladder. Measure the distance between the screw-holes on the detector and then place the detector where you want to install it. Using a pencil, make a small mark on the wall on the outside edge of the detector as a guide and then mark where the screw holes will be. Drill holes in the ceiling where you’ve marked and then mount the smoke detector using a screwdriver.
Don’t install smoke detectors near windows or outside doors. If there is a fire, smoke might slip through one of these openings and not set off the alarm, which can be dangerous.
Don’t install smoke detectors in kitchens, bathrooms or living rooms. Steam from cooking or hot showers, as well as smoke from fireplaces and candles, can set off alarms unnecessarily.
Carbon monoxide detectors that are not part of a combination smoke alarm unit should be installed lower to the floor because carbon monoxide is heavier than air. Many are plug-in units that can be plugged into any wall socket. If you want to install smoke/carbon monoxide detectors that are hard-wired to your electrical system, consult a certified electrician or have it professionally mounted.
Step 3: Practice Fireplace Safety
Inspect your fireplace and have it cleaned annually. A fireplace is a fantastic feature and a cozy way to warm up a room, but it’s important to keep up with its maintenance. Make sure yours is properly vented to the outside and inspect it for any leaks in the exhaust pipe. Clean your chimney regularly with chimney rods and brushes designed for chimney sweeping or hire a professional.
Don’t burn anything in the fireplace other than natural wood and never leave a fire unattended under any circumstances. Be sure your children understand fireplace safety and monitor them and your pets at all times when they are around a burning fireplace.
Step 4: Practice Electrical Safety
Check all of your appliances for worn plugs or cracked wires. Do not attempt to make your own repairs unless you are an expert. Electrical repairs are best left to the professionals. Unplug appliances when they are not in use.
Never use electrical appliances near water or close to faucets or water pipes. Do not use any electrical appliances, including hair dryers and stereos, while bathing or washing dishes. If an appliance falls into water, make sure it is unplugged before you retrieve it.
Make sure you’re not using oversized fuses or circuit breakers anywhere in your house; doing so will not allow the circuit to hold more or enhance the performance of appliances. In fact, this may actually cause overheating and lowered efficiency.
Take care of cords and electrical sockets. Always remove extension cords by the plug, not by tugging on the cord. Never break the ground prong of a three-prong plug to make it fit into a two-prong outlet. Instead, use an adapter. Cover any unused outlets to keep your family safe.
Great work! You and your family are better prepared and more knowledgeable about fire prevention.