Establish a home fire safety plan
People rely on fire and smoke detectors to help keep them safe in their homes. Though fire and smoke alarms are effective, a firm fire safety plan that will keep everyone calm should a fire occur could make the difference between life and death.
The U.S. Fire Administration says that more than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires, while roughly 18,300 more people are injured each year. Cooking accounts for the greatest percentage of residential fires, followed by arson. FEMA says that smoke, rather than the fire’s flames, is responsible for 75 percent of all deaths by fire.
In addition to physical injury and material damage, fires can cause a host of problems. Psychological distress, monetary damages and loss of pets may come with fires. Loss of irreplaceable personal items is also a concern. Although fires can be devastating, they’re also highly preventable, and smoke alarms and a home fire safety plan are two precautionary measures everyone should take.
Creating an evacuation plan doesn’t have to be complicated. Such a plan can be established in a few minutes and then reinforced through practice every so often to keep everyone fresh on what to do.
•Begin by assessing the layout of the home. Figure out the two best exits from the home.
•If your home doesn’t have two doors, invest in a fire ladder so that one of the windows can be a point of exit.
•Know how to gain access to the exits, including the best path to take to avoid injury. It’s a good idea to consider a few different scenarios. A kitchen adjacent to the upstairs staircase may become engulfed in flames and make exit by way of staircase impossible. Just because you have doors to the outside doesn’t mean they’ll present the best type of exit.
•Sketch out the layout of the home and the escape plan. Smoke can make it difficult to know up from down. Be sure everyone can reach the exits even if vision is obstructed. Try it with your eyes closed.
•Check fire alarms routinely, and change batteries at least every year.
•Make sure windows can be easily opened if they are an exit point.
•Make note of who will be helping children or the elderly out of the home.
•Establish a place where the family will meet outdoors. This area should be far enough away from the home so that everyone will be safe from smoke, flames and falling debris. Fires may ignite fuel explosions, so be sure the meeting spot is a good deal away.
•Children should be instructed to run to the meeting spot immediately without waiting behind for anyone to catch up. No one should reenter the home after arriving at the meeting spot.
•Do a few practice runs so that everyone will be accustomed to getting out quickly.
•While in most cases it is better to escape and let the fire department extinguish a fire, in the event of a small fire, occupants may be able to stanch it with a personal fire extinguisher. Follow the acronym PASS to properly put out the fire.
- PULL the pin in the extinguisher.
- AIM the nozzle or hose at the base of the flames.
- SQUEEZE the trigger.
- SWEEP the foam across the fire base; do not just aim in one place.
Space heater safety
Space heaters can be an effective method of supplemental heat when the weather outside gets cold, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that space heaters can cause fires and lead to burns. When operating a space heater, it is important to follow some safety guidelines.
•Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from any drapery, bedding and flammable material.
•Turn off the heater when you leave the room.
•Keep the heater on a level surface that is hard and non-flammable.
•Don’t leave the space heater on all night while you are sleeping.
•Never use a portable propane space heater designed for camping outdoors inside a home.
•Make sure smoke alarms in a home have been tested and batteries have been replaced to protect yourself in the event of a space heater-related fire.
SAFETY - Holiday Lights - 1, 2 and 3
1.) Maintain Holiday Lights: Inspect the lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
2.) Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets: Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires — they should not be warm to the touch.
3.) Do not leave holiday lights on unattended.
Simple steps for candle safety
Candles are one of the easiest and most effective ways to add aroma and ambiance to a home. While many people would like to use scented candles in their homes, they may be weary of the fire risk. However, candle-related fires appear to be on the decline.
Scented candles are just one component of the larger science of aromatherapy, which is an alternative treatment that uses scents to alleviate physical and psychological disorders. Nurses and doctors at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston actually offer classes in aromatherapy to deal with cancer and other ailments. Certain scents can make a person feel more alert, while others may reduce stress and relax a person.
It is estimated that candles are used in seven out of 10 American households and that people spend around $2 billion annually on candles, according to the National Candle Association. Candles can be used for aromatherapy or to make a room feel more cozy. People who are anticipating a weather event that may knock out electrical power also rely on candles as an alternative light source.
Although using candles can lead to fires, the NCA reports that candle-related fires have dropped to their lowest level in roughly 10 years. Data shows candle fires dropped by nearly 50 percent between 2001 and 2010. That’s thanks in part to the industry’s safety standards and consumer education efforts.
According to a Home Candles Fires report issued by the National Fire Protection Association, there were approximately 9,600 accidental candle fires in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, compared to a peak of 18,900 in 2001. The statistics are based on data reported by the federal government’s National Fire Incidence Reporting System and NFPA’s survey of fire departments.
While candle fires tend to peak during the holiday season, when candles are an integral part of holiday decorating, candles are widely burned throughout the year, including during outdoor gatherings in the summertime. To reduce the risk of fire when using candles, consider these guidelines from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
•Trim the wick to 1/4 inch each time before burning. Long wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.
•Use a candleholder specifically designed for candle use. It should be sturdy and heat-resistant.
•Avoid drafts, vents or air currents that can cause rapid or uneven burning and excessive dripping.
•Never leave a burning candle unattended.
•Do not burn candles by or on anything that might catch fire.
•Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
•Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on burn time and proper use.
•Don’t touch or move a burning candle or when wax is liquefied.
•Discontinue burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains.
•Always keep a candle within sight.
•Extinguish all candles before bed or if you feel sleepy. The largest number of candle fires occur in the bedroom.
U.S. fire statistics
Fires in residences have taken a high toll of life and property. In 2010 there were:
•362,100 residential building fires
•2,555 civilian fire deaths
•13,275 civilian fire injuries
•$6.6 billion in property damage
Source: U.S. Fire Administration