More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires, and approximately 25,000 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. The best way to prevent accidents involving fire is to be prepared. The following are some tips from the Memphis Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau and the U.S. Fire Administration.
Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It is inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. A working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after 10 years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer. Read more about smoke alarms.
Too often children are left alone and the result can be deadly. Children have a natural curiosity and the ability to copy the behaviors of their parents, such as using a lighter or match. These tools are nothing but a toy to a small child. For older children, using a lighter or match may be a way to act grown up. It only takes a few seconds for an unattended child to start a fire, so please make sure to discuss the dangers associated with these tools. Tragically, children set over 20,000 house fires every year. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
The U.S. Fire Administration’s Kids Fire Page is a fun Web site for kids that teaches important lessons about fire safety through games. The site is a good way to talk about fire with your kids.
When cooking, turn pot handles inward to prevent small curious hands from severely burning themselves. Keep stoves clean. Grease can ignite if, for example, turkey drippings spill over. Never leave food unattended. Do not cook overnight.
When using appliances, follow the manufacturer's safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.
Only use space heaters that have an automatic cutoff device if turned over. Place heaters at least three feet from furniture, drapes or other combustible materials. Never leave the heater on when you are out or asleep. Tell your children never to stand or sit too close to the heater. Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.
Chimneys and Wood Stoves
The use of fireplaces and wood stoves has increased in recent years. When enjoying your fire, make sure that ventilation is adequate. Clean your chimney or wood stove out once a year to prevent creosote build up. Be sure to use a fire screen to prevent sparks from popping out into the room.
Electrical Circuit Overloading
It’s tempting to plug lights, extension cords or other appliances into the handiest outlet. If you overload a circuit, you are asking for trouble. Never plug in more than two appliances in the same receptacle at one time. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced. This also includes outside lighting.
Plan Your Escape
Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out; then call for help.
This information was compiled from the City of Memphis Fire Services Web site and the U.S. Fire Administration’s Web site.