Fire Safety at Home

Facts & Figures

  • 15 of every 16 homes (94%) in the United States have at least one smoke alarm.

  • One-half of home fire deaths occur in the 6% of homes with no smoke alarms.

  • Homes with smoke alarms (whether or not they are operational) typically have a death rate that is 40-50% less than the rate for homes without alarms.

  • In three of every 10 reported fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms, the devices did not work.  Households with non-working smoke alarms now outnumber those with no smoke alarms.

  • Why do smoke alarms fail?  Most often because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries!

Tips For Safety In The Home

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of the home in rooms, stair landings, and passageways.  Test them monthly and change the batteries twice a year.

  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, outside doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.

  • Don't paint your smoke alarms;  paint or other decorations could keep them from working when you most need it.

  • Regularly vacumming or dusting your smoke alarm following manufacturer's instructions can help keep it working properly.

  • Never “borrow” a battery from a smoke alarm.

  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.

  • Consider installing automatic fire sprinklers to spray water on fire in its early stages to reduce or stop damage.

  • Put out cigarettes in an ashtray.  Never throw them in the trash.  Make sure they are completely out. 

  • Keep all lighters and matches in locked or high cabinets away from children.

  • Use light bulbs with the correct wattage for the fixture.

  • Replace all frayed, cracked or broken electrical cords.

  • Check for independent testing lab safety labels (i.e., UL, FM) on all appliances and portable heaters.

  • Use outlets safely.  Don't plug too many large appliances into one outlet, overload an extension cord, or plug more than one extension cord into an outlet.

  • Make sure there are two escape routes from every room, including basement bedrooms.

  • Store and use all cleaning products and aerosol cans away from heat.  Don't burn the containers or throw in with trash that will be burned.

  • Do not use electrical appliances or tools when you or the cord is in or near water.

Tips For Safety In The Kitchen

  • Have the stovetop and oven checks annually to be sure that they are working properly.

  • Keep the stovetop and oven clean to avoid grease fires.

  • Remove towels, potholders, plastic bags, newspapers and other flammable materials around the stovetop.

  • Do not hang curtains or other flammable materials above the stove.

  • Replace or have a professional fix any appliance with frayed or loose cords or wires, or cords that get hot while the appliance is in use.

  • Do not use or store appliances and cords near water where they can get wet.

  • Hang paper towel racks, curtains and towels away from the toaster, roaster oven, and any other heat producing appliances.

  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stovetop.

  • Use only microwave-safe dishes in the microwave.

  • Wear tight-fitting sleeves or roll them up when cooking.

  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use.

Tips For Safety In The Living Room

  • Clean wood or coal stoves and fireplace chimneys before each heating season.

  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood in the fireplace or wood stove to reduce the build-up of creosote (which is flammable) in the chimney.

  • Always use a fire screen.

  • Don't wear loose or flowing clothes when tending fires.

  • Close the screen or heat-tempered glass door when the fireplace is in use to prevent sparks from igniting furniture, draperies or other items.

  • Avoid running cords or wires under rugs and carpets or near a heat source where they can overheat.  Don't run them across doorways where they can become worn.

  • Stack newspapers, wood, matches and other items that might catch fire away from the fireplace, wood or coal stove.

  • Install an approved stove board under wood and coal stoves and place these stoves at least 3 feet away from any wall.  Follow local building and fire codes.

  • Place large, clean, deep, non-tip ashtrays in the living room and other rooms where smokers are likely to be.  Douse ashtrays with water before emptying  them into a trash can to put out any embers.

Tips For Safety In The Bathroom

  • Run appliance cords away from the sink or tub where they can get wet.

  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in the bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms with water or moisture.  These shut off the current when there is a danger of shock.

  • Use hair dryers and curling irons away from items that might burn.

  • Disconnect after use.  Don't fold or crimp cords when storing them.

Tips For Safety In The Bedroom

  • Install a smoke detector in the hallway near each bedroom.  Sleep with bedroom doors closed.

  • Buy portable heaters with automatic shutoff safety features.  Keep them clean and at least three feet away from draperies, furniture, clothes, bedding and wall.

  • Never smoke cigarettes in bed or any time you are sleepy.

  • Use a heating pad for no more than 30 minutes.  Always unplug it when you are finished.

  • Unplug your electric blanket when it is not in use and store it flat.  Never fold or roll it.

Tips For Safety In The Basement

  • Have your furnace checked before each heating season to be sure it is in proper working condition.

  • Change furnace filters frequently.

  • If you use the basement as a bedroom, make sure the windows are large enough to crawl through in case of fire.

  • Do not store trash or anything that could catch fire near the furnace.

  • Become familiar with your main electric panel.

  • Clean lint from the dryer screen before each use.  Plug the dryer into a separate outlet and vent it to the outside.  Be sure the vent does not get clogged.  This is a favorite spot for bird nests.

  • Follow the manufacturers' recommended time for drying synthetic fabrics, rubber, plastics or foam.

Tips For Safety In The Garage Or Shop

  • Keep a fire extinguisher in this area and familiarize yourself with its use !

  • Use proper gauge extension cord with any power tool or high-wattage equipment.

  • Store gasoline in approved, tightly sealed containers and use it only as motor fuel.

  • Keep paints and other flammable liquids and chemicals in their original, labeled containers with tight fitting lids.

  • Use and store flammables (pesticides, fertilizers, paint, gasoline, etc.) away from any source of heat or flame.  Never smoke near flammable liquids.

  • Dispose of oil soaked rags after use or store them in a tightly closed metal container.  Never burn them or throw them in trash that will be burned.

  • Place unused charcoal in a metal container with a tight fitting lid in a cool, dry place.  Damp charcoal can ignite itself !

  • Use cordless tools when working around water or on grounded components such as plumbing and heating systems.

General Safety Tips

  • While smoke alarms alert people to fires, families still need to develop and practice home fire escape plans so that they can get out quickly.

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home (including the basement) and outside each sleeping area.  If you sleep with the door closed, also install a smoke alarm in the room that you sleep in.  In new homes, smoke alarms are required in all sleeping rooms!

  • Because smoke rises, alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings.  Wall-mounted alarms should be positioned 4-12 inches from the ceiling;  ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches away from the nearest wall.  On vaulted ceilings, be sure to mount the alarm at the highest point of the ceiling.

  • Smoke alarms should not be installed near a window, door or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with their operation.

  • People with hearing impairments should install smoke alarms with louder alarm signals and strobe lights to properly alert them.

  • Be sure that the smoke alarm that you buy carries the label of an independent testing lab.

  • Alarms that are hard-wired to the home's electrical system should be installed by a qualified electrician – after all, your life could depend on this!


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