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Preventing House Fires: 8 Tips for Family Fire Safety

In the 1970s, it would take about 30 minutes for a fire to take over a room. TodaFire Safety Infographicy, it can take as little as 5 minutes.– Underwriters Laboratories

 1. Have a working smoke alarm.

A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the first thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you're awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke. Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear the alarm sound.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

     -How often should I replace the batteries in the smoke alarm? Test your smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries at least once, if not twice, a year.  A great reminder time is to change them when you change your clocks to or from daylight savings time each fall and spring.

Smoke alarms are powered by battery or by your home's electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. Alarms that get power from your home's electrical system, or “hardwired,” usually have a back-up battery that will also need to be replaced once a year.

Firefighters fight fires differently when they know that people are still inside the home.  Certainly, it’s a much more dangerous job when they must go into a burning building and find a person.  By putting smoke alarms in every room, you not only increase the chances of saving your own family members by getting them outside…you also potentially save the life of a firefighter by allowing them to not have to run into your burning home.

     -How many smoke detectors do you need The National Fire Protection Association recommends homes should have smoke alarms installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. So that means a 2 story, 3 bedroom house needs a minimum of five smoke alarms. Click here for a great quiz to see if you have enough alarms for your house and if you know what to do when they go off.

2.  Store 9 volt batteries safely.

Store loose 9V batteries in a way that they cannot touch anything else or place a small piece of electrical tape over the metal terminals.  9 Volt batteries sitting loose in a drawer or bag (waiting for recycling) could potentially start a fire.

3. Plan, Prepare, and Practice home fire drills.

If possible, have two ways out from each room in the house.  Draw a map including doors and windows.  If you have a second story or basement, make an escape plan for those floors as well.  Discuss the map with everyone who lives with you and practice at least two times each year.

Practice while family members are awake and consider doing a practice while children are asleep. Some children may not awake as easily to the alarm sound.  It's hard to imagine anyone sleeping through the loud, high-pitched wail of a smoke alarm. But every parent knows: Some kids can sleep through anything. Families need to map out an escape plan in advance. Make sure each adult has a designated child to wake up in a real fire.

4. Practice kitchen stove safety.

Never leave the kitchen while something is cooking on the stove.  Keep combustibles (like towels, curtains, paper, etc.) at least 3 feet away from the cooktop.

5. Don’t overload extension cords.

If any part of the extension cord is hot while in use, it is a warning sign that it may be overloaded. Check if the extension cord is properly rated for the products that are plugged into it. Also, inspect the cord along its entire length to ensure it has not been damaged. Do not overload your extension cord by using it to power appliances beyond its capacity. You can check its capacity, or rating, by looking at the tag on the cord or its packaging.  Never run extension cords under rugs.

6. Keep the lint trap clean.

Clean dryer lint from the lint trap each time you use the dryer. Clean built-up lint from the vent line.

7. Be careful with candles.

Nearly 10,000 residential fires are caused each year by the careless or inappropriate use of candles.  Candles should be burned in tip-proof containers.  Burn candles only when you are awake and in the same room with them.  Keep them at least 3 feet from any combustibles. and keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.

8. Keep the matches up high.

Make a habit of placing matches and lighters in a safe place, out of children's reach.

house with extinguisherSmoke alarms, or smoke detectors, have been around since the 60’s.  Alarms are most people’s first line of defense against fire since you can't smell smoke when you are asleep. Just as dangerous as having no smoke alarms, is having ones that don’t work due to lack of maintenance, no power, or are just too old.