Fire Prevention and Safety
Posted By: Lisa Clarke, Business Development Manager
Each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in home fires in the United States with direct property loss due to home fires estimated at $7.3 billion annually. Learning about fire prevention and safety is essential.
To protect yourself and prevent fire damage, it is important to understand the basic characteristics of fire. Fire spreads quickly; there is no time to gather valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.
Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.
Most home fires occur in the kitchen while cooking and are the leading cause of injuries from fire. Common causes of fires at night are carelessly discarded cigarettes, sparks from fireplaces without spark screens or glass doors and heating appliances left too close to furniture or other combustibles. These fires can be particularly dangerous because they may smolder for a long period before being discovered by sleeping residents.
Most home fires are preventable. The following are simple steps that each of us can take to prevent tragedy:
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling on a range or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
- Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of three feet around the stove.
- Position barbecue grills at least ten feet away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- If you smoke, smoke outside. Most home fires caused by smoking materials start inside the home. Put your cigarettes out in a can filled with sand.
- Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
- Chairs and sofas catch fire fast and burn fast. Don’t put ashtrays on furniture.
- Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.
- Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, do not smoke in bed.
Electrical and Appliance Safety
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
- Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
Portable Space Heaters
- Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
- Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Check to make sure the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
- Check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community.
- Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene in kerosene heaters and never overfill. Always use the heater in a well-ventilated room.
Fireplaces and Woodstoves
- Inspect and clean woodstove pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.
- Never burn trash, paper or green wood.
- Use a fireplace screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
- Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.
- Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
- Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight, preferably in a locked cabinet.
- Teach children not to pick up matches or lighters they may find. Instead, they should tell an adult immediately.
- Never leave children unattended near operating stoves or burning candles even for a short time.
- Check under beds and in closets for evidence your child may be playing with fire.
More Fire Prevention and Safety Tips
- Never use the range or oven to heat your home.
- Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.
- Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
- Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors or in well ventilated areas.
- Sleep with your door closed.
- Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your residence.
- Create and practice a fire escape plan.
- Properly install and maintain smoke alarms.
- Ask your local fire department to inspect your residence for fire safety and prevention.
- Only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers should consider using them when appropriate. Contact your local fire department for information on fire extinguisher training in your area and what kind to buy for your home.
The Duluth Firefighter’s Mutual Aid Association (FMA) knows first hand the importance of having a certified fire extinguisher on hand in your home or business. Whether you’re purchasing a new fire extinguisher for the first time or need an expert to recharge and test an extinguisher that has been used, contact the FMA at (218) 722-6271 or go to www.duluthfma.com for more information.
For more information on Fire Prevention and Safety, go to www.nfpa.org
To restore and recover from fire damage within your home or business, contact Dryco Restoration 24/7 Emergency Service at (218) 628-6101 for free board-up and tarping services and a professional estimate.