- Install Alarms
In the event of fire, smoke alarms are your best early warning system. About two-thirds of the United States residential fire deaths occur in the 18% of homes without smoke alarms. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. If you sleep with the door closed, install one inside your sleeping area as well. Most fatal fires at home occur while people are asleep.
Properly maintain your alarms. Test the alarms every month and replace batteries once a year, or whenever an alarm begins to “chirp”, signaling low battery power. Pick a day that is easily remembered like your birthday or January first, as the day for battery replacement. Don’t remove a smoke alarm’s battery for another use, an inoperative alarm won’t save your life. Replace alarms that are more than 10 years old. For more complete home protection, consider installing carbon monoxide detectors or an automatic fire sprinkler system.
- Plan and Practice Your Escape
If a fire occurs in your home, you have to get out fast. Sit down now with your family and work out an escape plan in advance. Be sure that everyone knows at least two unobstructed exits – including windows – in every room. (If you live in an apartment building, use the stairs, not the elevator to escape from fire.) Decide on a meeting place outside. Have your entire household practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
- Matches – Lighter – Smoking
Matches and lighters are for adults, not children. Store them in places not accessible to children – up high out of sight and reach, or in locked areas. Use only child-resistant lighters. Teach children that matches and lighters aren’t toys. They are tools, for grown-ups only. Ask young children to tell a grown-up when they find matches or lighters. Ask older children who find matches and lighters to bring them to an adult immediately.
In the United States careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Smoking when you are drowsy or in bed could lead to a fire and be fatal. Be particularly cautious if you take a medication that will produce drowsiness. If you smoke, provide large, deep, non-tip ashtrays. Empty the ashtray in a safe container, such as a metal can. Soaking butts with water before discarding them will provide added protection. Before going to sleep or leaving home after someone has been smoking, check your home, especially under cushions and around upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes.
- Cook Safely
Inside and outside never leave cooking unattended. NEVER. Stay near cooking so you can monitor it closely. Frying foods can be especially hazardous. Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles. Stoves are not for storage. Items placed on adjacent counter areas should be free of items that might start or contribute to a fire. Things do get knocked over or spilled. When cooking wear clothing with short, rolled-up, or tight fitting sleeves. Loose sleeves, and flowing robes or aprons could touch a burner, catching fire. Turn pot handles inward on the stove so you won’t bump them and so children can’t grab them. Severe burns can result when pots are tipped over, even if a fire does not result. Establish a “kid-free” area around your kitchen range or outside grill. In the event of a “grease fire” in a pan, slide a lid over the pan. That will smother the flames. Turn off the heat source. Leave the lid on the pan until the pan is cool. Do not put aluminum foil or other metals in a microwave oven.
- Space Heaters
Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including your clothing. When clothing comes in contact with some heaters, the clothing may ignite. Establish a “kid-free” area around the heater. Keep pets away from heaters. Turn heaters off when you leave home or go to sleep. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for installing, operating, refueling, and cleaning your space heater.
- Electric Devices
Electric devices that are smoking or producing an unusual smell should be unplugged immediately. Have the device serviced before you try to use it again. Cracked or frayed electric cords should be replaced. Don’t overload extension cords. Keep extension cords out of trafficked areas and avoid running any cords under rugs. Some buildings still have fuse boxes. The ratings for fuses and circuit breakers are designed based on the wiring in the building. Tampering with them such as using an improper fuse size could result in wires overheating and cause a fire. Don’t tamper with them or use improper-size fuses.