Fire safety is no accident

Have you ever thought about what you’d do if there were a fire in your home? Do you have an escape plan? Have you practiced it with your family? Do you have a working smoke alarm in every room?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, your chances of becoming a fire statistic just went up. If you think that’s hyperbole, consider this: The senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services says the aid group responded to “more than 62,960 home fires in fiscal 2011.” And according to the National Fire Protection Association,  one home structure fire was reported every 87 seconds and seven people died in home fires every day in 2009.

Since October is National Fire Prevention Month, we thought it would be a perfect time to share a few safety tips — borrowed from the American Red Cross  and the NFPA — to keep you and your family safe.

  1. Make – and practice — a home fire escape plan. That means ensuring everyone knows at least two ways to escape every room of your home (consider escape ladders for sleeping areas on the second or third floor); designating a meeting spot that’s outside and out of harm’s way, and ensuring that everyone knows where it is. Then practice the escape plan during the day and at night — and make sure everyone practices low crawling and knows how to call 9-1-1. Do this at least twice a year.

  2. If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL for help.
  3. Identify and remove fire hazards. Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. During a home fire, working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan that has been practiced regularly can save lives.
  4. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Test them every month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, and about one in five smoke alarm failures was due to dead batteries. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  5. Keep matches and lighters away from and out of reach of children.
  6. Don’t leave the kitchen when you’re cooking, and never leave the home while frying, grilling or broiling food. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and associated injuries, and was tied for the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Unattended cooking was the leading cause of these fires.
  7. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of all reported home fires and home fire deaths. If you use solid-fuel heating equipment – wood stoves, fireplaces, coal stoves, etc. — make sure the chimneys are kept clean. And make sure to keep flammable materials clear of heating equipment.

For more fire safety tips, visit this Red Cross Web page and be sure to check out their fire safety fact sheets on the right side of the page.