Fires break out in almost half a million homes each year in the United States. To keep your family safe, learn the three most important rules for fire safety plus additional tips to help you prevent fires and minimize the damage to your loved ones and belongings if you do suffer a fire in your home.
Three Most Important Rules for Fire Safety
- Install smoke alarms. The U.S. Fire Administration emphasizes three fire safety precautions starting with having all homes equipped with smoke alarms. Mount them on a ceiling or high up on a wall. Test them at least every 6 months. Replace the batteries once a year.
- Get automatic fire sprinklers. The federal government also recommends home sprinklers. By spraying water immediately, they can put out small fires and help contain big fires. Residential systems are starting to become more affordable and some of them are suitable for older homes.
- Develop an emergency escape plan. The third rule is creating and practicing an escape plan. Map out all the exits in your house. Figure out two ways to get out of each room. Go through the drill until you can get the whole family out in less than 3 minutes.
Tips for Preventing Fires
- Pay attention while cooking. Stay in the kitchen if you have something on the stove. Turn off the heat if cooking oil starts smoking and slide a lid over the pot to squelch flames. Keep flammable items like plastics or cloth away from heat.
- Put matches out of reach. Keep matches in a locked cabinet or on a high shelf beyond the reach of small children. The same goes for cigarette lighters and torches.
- Watch candles closely. If you love candles, be sure to use them wisely. Set them out on stable surfaces and extinguish them before you go to sleep.
- Keep heat sources clean. Furnaces and fireplaces need to be cleaned at least once a year. Empty the lint out of clothes dryers immediately after each load. Give space heaters plenty of distance from curtains and furniture.
- Use electricity safely. Avoid overloading electrical outlets. Tuck cords away neatly without running them under rugs. Give pets their own chew toys so they’ll leave electrical cords alone.
Tips for Surviving Fires
- Keep fire extinguishers handy. Buy the right kind of fire extinguisher for each room or look for multipurpose models. To use any extinguisher, you pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle and sweep the whole unit back and forth. If flames are already spreading, just focus on evacuating.
- Stick close to the ground. Smoke rises, so it’s important to stay as low to the ground as possible where it will be easiest to breathe. Practice crawling during your home fire drills.
- Feel doors for heat. Use the back of your hand to check if a door is hot before opening it. If you discover that there may be flames on the other side, leave it alone and exit through another door or window instead. Closing doors behind you as you leave will also help to slow down any fire.
- Know what to do if your clothes catch fire. Drop to the ground using your hands to cover your face and roll back and forth to put out the flames. Run cool water over burned skin and call for emergency medical care.
- Once you’re outside, stay outside. Once you’re out of the house, avoid making any return trips. The fire department is better equipped for conducting rescues in a burning building.
Most home fires are preventable if you know how to take the proper precautions.
Keep your smoke alarms in working order, have an emergency escape plan and pay attention to potential fire hazards. Learn these tips and give them your highest priority so you can feel safe from fire in your home.