Home Fire Safety

As we approach a festive season full of delicious feasts, baked treats, warm fires, and fragrant candles, everyday Providence will be taking this week to look at home fire safety.   Simple precautions will greatly reduce your family's chances of suffering a fire this season.  Thanks to heightened safety and awareness, the numbers of house fires, injuries, and fatalities has declined significantly in the past 20-30 years.  Let's take a look at a few potential causes of house fires.
  • Smoking in bed is NEVER a good idea.  Don't do it.  One in four fire deaths starts with a cigarette.
  • Cooking fires account for the most house fires and usually begin when food is left on the stove or in the oven unattended.
  • Many homes begin to turn on the furnace to break the chill of cool autumn nights. Most heating related fires occur in December, January and February.
  • Electrical fires are often caused by faulty wiring, electrical appliances, and extension cords, and light fixtures starting fires.
  • Candles cause 15,000 fires each year.  Burning candles must be attended at all times, away from flammable objects, and safely held in an appropriate candle holder away from children and pets.
  • Other areas for concerns for household fire safety include generators, fire places and chimney fires, outdoor fires (fire pits and grills) and space heaters.
What’s on your home's Fire Safety Checklist? Here are some suggestions:
  • Ensure that you have adequate smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Change the batteries ever 6 months. Test monthly.
  • Locate home fire extinguishers near every exit door and in the room with each heating device (furnace, space heater, oven/stove, water heater, etc.)
  • Schedule an inspection and cleaning for your furnace, fireplace, and fire extinguishers.
  • Take a careful look at your home’s potential fire hazards – flammable liquids, combustible materials – ensure that they’re stored safely (never in glass) and away from ignition sources.
  • Do not burn candles while they’re unattended.
  • Do not overload circuits; electric heaters can be a huge fire hazard. Use only UL Listed electrical devices. Avoid permanent use of extension cords or hiding them beneath rugs.
  • Review your evacuation plan and exit routes in case of a fire. Make sure that your exit doors and windows can be easily accessed and opened by everyone in the house.
  • Teach everyone what to do if the smoke detectors or CO detectors alarm. Practice it.  And when the alarm goes off, follow your plan, even if the fire is small.
  • Ensure that emergency response numbers and your contact information (including your address and directions to your home) are posted near the phone.
  • Make copies of important documents and store them at a secure location other than your house.
  • Purchase a fire-rated safe for other important items and documents.
  • Consider keeping some emergency clothing and other items away from your home – work, a detached garage, etc.
  • Go to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for much more safety information. 
Consider supporting your local fire department's efforts by providing fire safety equipment to local residents that may not be able to afford (or simply may not make the effort) to include smoke detectors, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors or fire extinguishers in their home safety plans.  Most of these items cost less than $20 each.  They can make a life and death difference in homes in your community because nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths occurred in homes with no (or non-working) smoke detectors.  Simply purchase an item and drop it off (in the original packaging) at your local fire house, or stop by and make a donation to provide equipment, batteries, or training and education for local families.

Fire safety and preparedness should involve more than just preventing fires; next post we'll consider what you should do if a fire does break out in your home or work.

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