Fire Safety & Prevention Tips
Learn how to keep you and your loved ones safe.
A fire is one of the scariest emergencies one can experience in their lifetime that is, unfortunately, becoming all too common. An estimated 350,000 home fires occur annually in the US, with 50% starting in the kitchen. It can be devastating to see life and property go up in literal flames, but by familiarizing yourself with the common causes of fires and how to prevent them, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Where There’s Smoke…
Smoke alarms are your best early warning system in the event of a fire. You should have a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement and outside each sleeping area. If you sleep with the door closed, you’ll also want to install one inside your bedroom. Test fire alarms monthly and replace the batteries once a year or whenever the alarm “chirps” to signal low battery power. Resist the urge to “borrow” a battery from another smoke alarm as a disabled alarm can’t save a life. Replace all alarms every ten years, and consider installing an automatic sprinkler system for complete home protection.
Invest in More Fire Protection
It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your home to quickly put out small fires and understand how to use it properly. But do your homework before purchasing because five different fire extinguisher classes are designed for specific types of fires. A Class A extinguisher is meant for wood or paper fires, while a Class D is used on flammable metals and is generally meant for factories. People should select a multipurpose extinguisher for the home that combines classes A, B, and C. Class B for flammable liquids and grease and Class C for use on electrical appliances and equipment. Home use extinguishers may be labeled as B-C or A-B-C extinguishers.
To use a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS – pull the pin, aim low, squeeze the lever slowly, and sweep from side to side. To ensure extinguishers are functioning correctly, check them from time to time to ensure the pressure gauge is still in the green zone and the pin is still in place.
Space Heaters Need Space
In the winter months, staying warm is essential to staying comfortable, but be mindful that using space heaters comes with an added level of responsibility. Keep portable heating devices at least three feet (one meter) away from anything that can burn, no matter how long you leave it turned on. Keep children and pets away from heaters and turn them off when you leave home or go to sleep. The same goes for fire places — make sure all flames are extinguished completely.
Make an Escape Plan
You must get out fast if a fire occurs in the home. Start preparing now by sitting down with your family members and working out an escape plan for the entire household, which includes humans and pets. Be sure that everyone is familiarized with at least two unobstructed exits, which may include windows, from every room of the house and make a meeting place outside. If you live in an apartment, remember to use the stairs, not the elevator to exit the building. It is recommended to practice your escape plan at least twice a year and tweak as necessary.
Know the Risks of Smoking
Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire death in North America, and smoking in bed or when you are drowsy could have unintended consequences. If you or someone you live with smokes, keep a large, deep, non-tip ashtray close by, and soak butts in water before discarding. Before you fall asleep or leave home, check under cushions and around upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes.
Remember, matches and lighters are tools for adults only! Purchase child-resistant lighters and store all matches and lighters where kids can’t see or reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach children that matches and lighters are dangerous and, if found, bring them to an adult.
Keep the Kitchen Safe
The majority of structure fires are started by cooking every year. By simply being careful and mindful of what’s happening in the kitchen, you give your home the best chance of protection. It’s easy to get absent-minded during food prep, but keep cooking areas clear of combustibles, and wear clothes with short, rolled-up, or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. You should also turn pot handles inward on the stove to prevent yourself or your children from accidentally bumping or grabbing them. Enforce a “kid-free” zone at least three feet (one meter) around the kitchen range. If grease catches fire in a pan, slide a lid over the top to smother the flames and turn off the heat source. Leave the cover on until the pan is completely cool.
Accidents happen. If you burn yourself cooking with an oven, toaster, or other kitchen appliance, the first step of treatment is to identify the severity of the burn.
First-degree burns will have a superficial redness like a sunburn, cover an area no larger than 3 inches, and will usually heal itself in 7-10 days. If you burn yourself, run cool water over it for 10 to 15 minutes instead of applying ice, butter, or any other form of grease, take Ibuprofen to reduce swelling, and keep clean with loose gauze or antibiotic cream.
If the skin blisters or looks charred, see a doctor. Second-degree burns are blistered and more painful. They can require medical attention depending on the size and location of the burn. Third-degree or major burns require immediate medical attention. They will have a white, leathery appearance or char.
Be Mindful of Electricity Safely
If an electric appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately, and have it serviced before using it again. Replace any electrical cords that are cracked or frayed. Plug only one electrical cord into each outlet and avoid running cords under rugs. Don’t tamper with the fuse box or use improper-sized fuses. Never touch anything electrical with wet hands or bare feet.
Stay Low if Smoke Billows
Smoke can actually pose a bigger health risk than the fire itself as it can contain a mix of chemicals and particles that can be harmful when inhaled. Smoke can cause respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
If you encounter smoke while escaping a fire, try to find an alternative exit route. If you must escape through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) above the floor, where the air will be clearer.
Stop, Drop, and Roll
As the saying goes, if your clothes catch fire, don’t run. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over to smother the flames. Cool the burn with water and contact your local fire department for help.
Beaumont Fire & Rescue is here to answer any questions you may have on preventing fires.
Did You Know?
Beaumont Fire-Rescue offers FREE on-site live fire extinguisher training and car seat installation and inspections. To request a firefighter come out to your location, call 409-880-3905.