Fires can happen at any time, day, month. In the U.S. someone dies in a house fire every three hours, these deaths can be prevented. It is important to take steps to reduce your risk for fire but also have a plan of action should a fire happen. Should a fire occur in your residence it is important to call 911 immediately. Remember, it takes time for firefighter to arrive on scene and fire has the potential to double in size in minutes. While it may be a fire that you can extinguish with a home fire extinguisher it is never too small to call the fire department. If you are unable to stop the fire the emergency responders are that much closer arriving at the fire than if you had waited to call.
There are simple things that you can do to prevent fires in your home and focus on the common causes of household fires.
Smoke Detectors - According to the U.S. Fire Administration, between January 1, 2013 and August 28, 2013, there were 120 fire fatalities where there were malfunctioning or no smoke detectors. Smoke detectors are easy to install and simple to maintain. This simple step can save your life and the life of loved ones. Check your detector regularly and change the batteries every six months.
- Candles - Always burn candles in or on a safe container. You should never leave the candle unattended but should this situation occur this provides the greatest level of safety. Do not use candles where they can be easily tipped over or knocked onto the floor. Do not use them near curtains or other flammables.
- Extension cords - Extension cords of any variety are for temporary use only. Do not use an appliance with an extension cord that is not rated for the electrical demand of the appliance. Doing so can cause heat in the cord as well as the floor or wall where the cord is laying. Do not run cords through walls or in places where they will be walked upon, including use under rugs.
- Kitchen Fires - Cooking is the leading caused of home fires in the United States. Never leave food that is cooking on the stove alone. A serious fire can start in just seconds. If you feel that you must leave the room while cooking, a good practice for multitasking while also preparing food is to place a wooden spoon in your back pocket. If you leave the kitchen to check laundry, or complete other tasks, a long wooden spoon serves as a reminder that there was food being prepared. This will reduce the incidents where boiling water may be left on a stove and forgotten and the pot filling the kitchen with toxic smoke once the water has been evaporated.
You can prevent fire but what do you do if one occurs?
If you are cooking and a fire starts, turn off the stove or burner and put a lid on the pan. Never throw water on a grease fire and never attempt to carry the pot or pan outside. If the pan is dropped or spilled fire can be easily spread throughout your residence.
Prepare an escape plan and practice it at least twice a year. Make sure everyone in your family knows at least two escape routes from their bedrooms. Once out of the house, stay out. Going back into a burning home can be deadly. If you do not see fire, but only smoke, do not assume that it is safe to save possessions. Smoke from fire is toxic and can be deadly in short periods of time. Most often deaths from fire are not from burns but from smoke inhalation.
Call your local fire department, they can help you create and practice a fire escape plan for your family and identify any hazards and methods to reduce the risk. Prevention is key in fire safety and protecting lives and property. Your fire department is an exceptional resource that is available long before a fire is every started.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." - Benjamin Franklin