Would you know what to do if a fire started in your home? Would your kids? Take the time now to review fire safety facts and tips so your family will be prepared in the event of a fire emergency in your home.
Of course, the best way to practice fire safety is to make sure a fire doesn’t break out in the first place. That means you should always be aware of potential hazards in your home.
Start by keeping these tips in mind:
Electrical Appliances, Cords, and Outlets
- Are your electrical appliances in good condition, without loose or frayed cords or plugs?
- Are your outlets overloaded with plugs from the TV, computer, printer, video game system, and stereo?
- Are you overusing an extension cord?
- Do the light fixtures in your home use bulbs that are the correct wattage?
- Does your home contain GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) and/or AFCIs (arc fault circuit interrupters), which prevent electrical shock and fire by shutting off faulty circuits?
Look around your house for potential problems. And unless you’re a trained electrician, be careful about do-it-yourself electrical projects. Studies have shown that many home fires are caused by improper installation of electrical devices.
- Replace or professionally repair any appliances that spark, smell unusual, or overheat.
- Don’t run electrical wires under rugs.
- Make sure lamps and night-lights are not touching bedspreads, drapes, or other fabrics.
- Use caution when using electric blankets.
- Don’t let kids use kitchen appliances by themselves and supervise any art or science projects that involve electrical devices.
- Cover any outletsthat are not in use with plastic safety covers if you have toddlers or young children in your home.
Careful in the Kitchen
Did you know that cooking is the leading cause of home fires? The kitchen is full of ways for a fire to start: food left unsupervised on a stove or in an oven or microwave; grease spills; a dish towel too close to the burner; a toaster or toaster oven flare-up; a coffee pot accidentally left on.
Always supervise kids while cooking and practice safe cooking habits — like turning all pot handles in so they can’t be accidentally knocked over and not wearing loose-fitting clothing that could catch fire around the stove.
Beware of Cigarettes
Most fires are started when ashes or butts fall into couches and chairs. If you smoke, be especially careful around upholstered furniture, never smoke in bed, and be sure cigarettes are completely out before you toss them into the trash.
Matches and Lighters
You’ve heard it again and again, but playing with matches is still the leading cause of fire-related deaths and injuries for kids younger than 5. Always keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach. Store flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, and cleaning supplies outside of your home and away from kids.
Using Candles Safely
As decorative candles become more popular, candle fires are on the rise. If you light candles, keep them out of reach of kids and pets, away from curtains and furniture, and extinguish them before you go to bed. Make sure candles are in sturdy holders made of non-flammable material that won’t tip over. Don’t let older kids and teens use candles unsupervised in their rooms.
Be prepared for any accidents by having a fire extinguisher in your house. Keep them out of reach of children. Fire extinguishers are best used when a fire is contained in a small area, like a wastebasket. Remember the word PASS when operating an extinguisher:
- Pull the pin. Release the lock with the nozzle pointing away from you.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
The best time to learn how to use the fire extinguisher is now, before you ever need it . Fire extinguishers have gauges on them indicating when they need to be replaced and should be checked regularly to make sure they’re still functional. If you’re ever in doubt about whether to use an extinguisher on a fire, don’t try it. Instead, leave the house immediately and call the fire department.
Teaching Kids the Facts About Fire
Unfortunately, many kids will try to hide from a fire, often in a closet, under a bed, or in a corner. But if taught basic fire facts, they’d be better able to protect themselves.
Teach your kids that fires spread quickly, that most fire-related deaths are not from burns but from smoke inhalation, and that dangerous fumes can overcome a person in just a few minutes.
Kids should learn to:
- cover their mouths and noses with a moist towel or an article of clothing to keep out dangerous fumes while evacuating
- crawl under the smoke to safety, staying as low to the ground as possible (smoke always rises)
- touch any door (not the doorknob) to see if it is hot, and if it is,not to open it — find another exit
- locate the nearest stairway marked “Fire Exit” if they live in an apartment building, or a fire escape if the stairway isn’t accessible — kids should know to always avoid elevators during a fire
- never stop to take personal belongings or pets or to make a phone call (even to 911) while evacuating
- never go back into a burning building once safely outside
- stop, drop, and roll to extinguish flames if an article of clothing catches on fire
Practice Fire Drills at Home
Kids have fire drills at school and adults have them at work. Why shouldn’t you have them at home, too? Fires are frightening and can cause panic. By rehearsing different scenarios, your family will be less likely to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do.
Planned escape routes are a necessity, especially if a fire were to occur during the night. Go through each room in your house and think about the possible exits. You should have in your mind two escape routes from each room, in case one is blocked by fire. Inspect the room to make sure that furniture and other objects are not blocking doorways or windows.
Make sure that the windows in every room are easy to open and are not painted over or nailed shut — remember, these may be your only way out in a fire.
If you live in an apartment building, make sure any safety bars on windows are removable in an emergency. Be sure to know the locations of the closest stairwells or fire escapes and where they lead.
If your house is more than one story tall or if you live above the ground floor of an apartment building, an escape ladder is an important safety feature. You should have one escape ladder made of fire-safe material (aluminum, not rope) in each upper-story bedroom that is occupied by a person who is capable of using it.
Like fire extinguishers, escape ladders should be operated by adults only. The ladder must be approved by an independent testing laboratory, its length must be appropriate for your home, and it must support the weight of the heaviest adult in the house.
Discuss and rehearse the escape routes you’ve planned for each room of your home. Designate a meeting place outside your house or apartment building that is a safe distance away (a mailbox, a fence, or even a distinctive-looking tree will do) where everyone can be accounted for after they escape.
Then, every so often, test your plan. With children in mind, let everyone know it’s time for a fire drill. See if everyone can evacuate your home and gather outside within 3 minutes — the time it can take for an entire house to go up in flames.
Be sure any babysitters in your home know all escape routes and plans in case of a fire.
Being prepared is the best way to protect your family from a fire. So know the rules of fire prevention, stock your home with fire-safety items, and make sure your kids know what to do in a fire. A few minutes of planning now may save lives later on.
Information courtesy of http://kidshealth.org/