Home fire statistics are scary. On average, they account for 92% of civilian fire deaths per 2020 figures shared by the Zebra. House fires cause nearly 12 billion dollars in damage each year and an average of 358,300 housefires (NFPA) and result in 7 deaths every day. The top three causes of fires in homes are cooking, heating equipment and electrical malfunction. However, we have the power to improve these statistics by practicing safe habits that can protect us from fire disasters. Here are five of many impactful ways:
1) Have an adequate number of fire/smoke alarms. To save lives, a fire alarm should be installed in every room and on every floor of a home. Bear in mind that it’s best to install smoke detectors 10-feet-away from stoves and cooking appliances to reduce false alarms. It is also advised to test fire alarms on a regular basis, once a month as recommended by the Red Cross. Batteries should be checked frequently and replaced yearly. Tip: Some people regularly change batteries every year on the same holiday or birthday, or during daylight savings clock changes, marking an easy way to remember when it’s time for new batteries.
2) Keep a fire extinguisher handy and learn how to open and use it. The acronym PASS is a handy way. P= Pull the pin A= Aim low at the fire’s base S= Squeeze the handle slowly S= Sweep the nozzle from side to side. Understand that there are four classes of fire extinguishers (A, B, C, & D) and each class can put out a different type of fire. Class A extinguishers will put out fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood and paper. Class b is for flammable liquids like grease, gas, and oil. C is suitable for electrically energized fires, and D is for flammable metals. Multipurpose extinguishers can be used on different types of fires and come with labels. Safety tip: It’s a great idea to take a fire safety class. Contact your local fire department for information.
3) 50% of home fires start in the kitchen. Heed this warning: Do not leave food on the heat unattended. If you need to walk away or leave the house, turn the oven/stove off. If an oven is on fire, do not open the oven door. Turn off the heat if you can and exit the home and call for help. Reminder: Do not pour water on oil or grease fires as that may cause splattering. If possible, turn off heat source and put a lid on the fire to put it out. Or use the suitable fire extinguisher if within reach. Never put oneself in harm’s way. If you cannot easily extinguish the flame, exit the home, and call the fire department for help. Safety tip: Do not attempt to carry something on fire (such as a flaming pan to a sink) as that may cause burns or spread the fire.
4) Have fire chimneys regularly checked. It’s estimated that a total of 21,510 house fires per year are caused by chimneys. Per FEMA, always keep a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent embers from jumping out. Never burn paper in a fireplace. Paper burns fast and can produce flames that shoot up and ignite creosote in the chimney, creating a fire risk. Or burning paper can be toxic. Also, all fires should be completely put out before going to sleep. Ashes should be placed in metal containers with a lid and placed at least 3 feet from the house. Safety tip: Dirty chimneys can cause fires, thus they should be regularly inspected and cleaned.
5) Get your dryer cleaned on a regular basis. Clogged vents, ducts, and filters are the main causes of dryer fires. It’s vital to be sure that the dryer vent is properly installed, that lint is removed after every use, and that the ducts and vent are regularly inspected and cleaned. Some older ducts may be deemed hazardous; thus, it is best to make sure your ducts are smooth and meet current industry standards for safety. If your dryer catches on fire, do not open the dryer door. Keep it closed, safely exit the home, and call for help. Safety tip: Never use a dryer with the lint screen missing. Also do not dry clothes that have been in contact with flammable substances.
There are a great many ways to improve fire safety at home. This includes creating and practicing a fire escape with two ways out of every room, installing and maintaining fire prevention devices, being thoughtful about the use of appliances, and consistently incorporating fire safety practices. Engaging in fire safety education, and the sharing of knowledge with family and friends on the topic of fire safety, can prevent accidents and make a huge impact in saving lives.
This article is purely informational. For the ultimate in fire safety knowledge, contact your local fire department and sign up for a fire safety class near you.
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