This year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme is “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep.” Take this week to educate yourself and your family on how to fireproof your home, while minimizing the odds of injury or death should a fire occur.
Avoid Becoming a Fire Statistic
In 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to nearly 370,000 home fires. These fires caused $7B in damages, killed 2,755 people and injured 12,200 more. That amounts to an average of 41 people killed or injured per day. Here are more eye-opening statistics:
- Half of fire deaths occur when families sleep, but just 20 percent of fires occur during the night
- A quarter of fire deaths are from bedroom fires, while another 25 percent of killer fires start in living rooms or dens
- The majority of fires start in kitchens due to cooking activities, but most fire deaths are from fires ignited by cigarettes or other tobacco products.
Check and Upgrade Smoke Alarms
Sixty percent of deadly home fires occur in homes lacking a working smoke alarm. When alarms are installed and working, fire deaths are halved. Make sure your alarm batteries are fresh. Use combo alarms with ionization and photoelectric sensors that detect both flaming and smoldering fires.
Be Extra Vigilant When Cooking
Forty percent of fires starting in the kitchen are the result of unattended cooking or excessive heat applied to flammable ingredients. Other causes are failing to clean grease and the ignition of loose, flammable clothing.
Boost Safety with a Security or Home Automation System
Strongly consider installing a home automation system or home security system with 24/7 monitoring of CO/smoke alarms plus emergency sensors for detecting gas leaks, water leaks or unusually high temperatures. Such systems notify emergency responders automatically. Built-in presets let you unlock doors and turn on all interior and exterior lights at the push of a button so that everyone can get out quickly and safely.
Install Fire Extinguishers in Central Locations
Keep a small UL-rated A/B/C fire extinguisher in the kitchen and a larger one in a central hallway at a minimum. Be sure everyone in the house knows where they are and how to use them.
Use Supplemental Heating Wisely
Half of home heating fires occur during the winter months. A third of these are caused by improper use of space heaters and another 28 percent from improperly maintained wood stoves or fireplaces. When fighting winter’s chill, be especially careful to avoid locating space heaters close to flammable materials such as upholstery, clothing or bedding. Keep your wood stove flue or fireplace chimney free of creosote.
Five Quick Tips to Avoid Electrical Fires
25,000 home electrical fires kill more than 1,300 people each year in the U.S. Here are ways to avoid those:
- Hire a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s electrical system
- Repair problems causing flickering lights, sparking outlets or buzzing breakers
- Only use power strips with thermal-overload protection
- Replace worn appliance, lighting and extension cords
- Keep furniture, curtains and clothing away from outlets
Plan Your Escape
NFPA’s escape planning grid is an easy way to create an escape route map for all floors of your home. Mark two exits from each room including windows and doors. Teach everyone how to check exit doors for heat and how to crawl on the floor to avoid smoke inhalation. Agree on a single meeting place outside.
National Fire Prevention Week or any week of the year is an ideal time for proactive fire prevention planning. The steps outlined above will substantially decrease the odds of a home disaster, avoid injuries and preserve lives.
Contributing Author: Beth Kelly is a freelance blogger and researcher. In her free time, she likes fixing old cameras and learning to speak new languages. She was born and raised in Michigan but now resides in Chicago, IL. Find her on Twitter.