Prevent and Prepare: Simple Tips Can Protect Against Home Fire Tragedies


October is fire prevention month, but practicing prevention and preparation throughout the year to protect your home, your family and yourself.

October is fire prevention month, but practicing prevention and preparation throughout the year can protect your home, your family and yourself. 
Every year 3,000 people die in fires at home. Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk. Think about your candle use, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, electricity and heat sources and fire escape plans. Are you and your family prepared for a fire?

October is fire prevention month, but prevention and preparation should be practiced all year. Consider the following safety tips to protect yourself and your family.

Candle Use

Home fires caused by candle-burning have tripled over the past 15 years. While candles may look and smell nice, everyone must remember that candles are also open flames. The following tips can help you prevent candle fires:

  • Extinguish all candles when going to sleep or leaving the room.
  • Keep candles away from flammable liquids and other materials.
  • Use sturdy candleholders that can collect dripping wax, will not burn and cannot tip over.
  • Don’t burn candles around fire-prone objects like upholstered furniture, curtains, clothing and books.
  • Avoid carrying candles (e.g., during power outages); use flashlights instead.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors have been widely available throughout the United States for 35 years. In that time, the rate of deaths caused by home fires has been cut in half. But smoke detector upkeep is just as important as smoke detector ownership.

  • Equip your home with smoke detectors on every level — particularly outside of bedrooms and other sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries twice each year: once when you change your clocks in the spring and again in the fall.
  • Teach children the uses, locations and alarms of smoke detectors in your home.

Fire Extinguishers

Using a fire extinguisher to put out or contain a small fire until the fire department arrives can prevent extended property damage and save lives. Consider these safety tips for fire extinguisher use:

  • Keep fire extinguishers in places like the kitchen, furnace, garage and anywhere else a fire may start in and around your home.
  • Train all family members in proper use of the fire extinguisher.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher in the kitchen for use in grease and electrical fires.
  • Know a way out of your home. Be sure that you have a safe escape in the event that you cannot extinguish the fire.

Electricity and Heat Sources

From Christmas trees and Halloween decorations to space heaters and curling irons, many common household items and utilities can become fire hazards. To be a mindful and safety-conscious user, be sure to observe the following measures:

  • Inspect wires and replace worn or exposed wiring immediately.
  • Clean and inspect your chimney once each year.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not being used.
  • Use space heaters according to instructions.
  • Don’t overtax your electrical system; contact a certified electrician if you are concerned or uncertain about your electricity use.
  • Keep all flammable materials away from heat sources (e.g., iron, curling iron, furnace)

Fire Escape Plans

Do you have a fire escape plan at home? Fires spread rapidly and leave only a few minutes to escape safely once the smoke detector sounds. Use these safety tips when drawing up and discussing a fire escape plan in your home:

  • Draw a map that is easy for all family members and visitors to understand.
  • Devise an escape route from each area of the house and designate an outside meeting spot.
  • Find at least two escape routes from each bedroom area.
  • Close bedroom doors when sleeping. If you suspect there is a fire, feel the door and knob for heat before opening.
  • Teach children not to hide from fire or smoke, and to go to firefighters who are there to rescue them.
  • Instruct all inhabitants of multi-story buildings how to use fire escape ladders.
  • Make sure everyone knows never to reenter the house/building after escaping.

For more information on protecting your house, your family and yourself from house fires, visit the National Fire Protection Association Web site. If you have any questions about home fire prevention and preparedness, please contact the Department of Public Safety, Occupational Health and Safety Services, at 330-672-9565 or jdunlap@kent.edu.

(Sources: National Safety Council and the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Week Web site.)

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