For your home
Working Together for Home Fire Safety
More than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 18,300 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It's not a question of luck. It's a matter of planning ahead.
Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm
Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It's 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 ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Prevent Electrical Fires
Never overload circuits or extension cords. 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.
Use Appliances Wisely
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.
- Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
- Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
- 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.
Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers
When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable - they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.
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.
Caring for Children
Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Fifty-two percent of all child fire deaths occur to those under age 5. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.
- Smoke Alarms
- Escape Planning
- Residential Fire Sprinklers
- Candle Fire Safety
- Hazardous Materials Fire Safety
- Cooking Fire Safety
- Electrical Fire Safety
- Fire Extinguishers
- Bedroom Fire Safety
- Earthquakes and Fire Safety
Why should I have a working smoke alarm?
A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
What types of smoke alarms are available?
There are many different brands of smoke alarms available on the market, but they fall under two basic types: ionization and photoelectric.
It cannot be stated definitively that one is better than the other in every fire situation that could arise in a residence. Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different, yet potentially fatal fires, and because no one can predict what type of fire might start in a home, the USFA recommends that every residence and place where people sleep be equipped with:
- Both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR
- dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors
In addition to the basic types of alarms, there are alarms made to meet the needs of people with hearing disabilities. These alarms may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms when they sound.
What powers a smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired into the home’s electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced.
These batteries must be tested on a regular basis and, in most cases, should be replaced at least once each year (except for lithium batteries). See the Smoke Alarm Maintenance section for more information.
Are smoke alarms expensive?
Smoke alarms are not expensive and are worth the lives they can help save. Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms cost between $6 and $20. Dual sensor smoke alarms cost between $24 and $40.
In the event of a fire, remember that every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.
Prepare and practice your fire escape plan twice a year with everyone in your household, including children and people with disabilities. It's also a good idea to practice your plan with overnight guests. Some tips to consider when preparing your escape plan include:
- Draw a map of each level of your home and show all doors and windows. Find two ways to get out of each room. Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily.
- Only purchase collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory. Use the ladder only in a real emergency.
- Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
- Have a plan for everyone in your home who has a disability.
- Practice your fire escape plan at night and during the daytime.
Security Bars Require Special Precautions
Security bars may help to keep your family safe from intruders, but they can also trap you inside in the event of a deadly fire! Windows and doors with security bars must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened immediately in an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
Immediately Leave the Home
When a fire occurs, get out fast: you may only have seconds to escape safely. Take the safest exit route, but if you must escape through smoke, remember to crawl low, under the smoke and keep your mouth covered. The smoke contains toxic gases, which can disorient you or, at worst, overcome you.
Never Open Doors that are Hot to the Touch
When you come to a closed door, feel the doorknob and door to make sure that fire is not on the other side. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your secondary escape route. If the door feels cool, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
If you can't get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors to keep the smoke out. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
Designate a Meeting Place Outside and Take Attendance
Designate a meeting location a safe distance in front of your home. For example, meet under a specific tree or at the end of the driveway or front sidewalk to make sure everyone has gotten out safely and no one will be hurt looking for someone who is already safe. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number and that your house number can be seen day or night from the street.
Once Out, Stay Out
Remember to escape first and then notify the fire department using the 9-1-1 system or proper local emergency number in your area. Never go back into a burning building for any reason. Teach children not to hide from firefighters. If someone is missing, or pets are trapped inside your home, tell the firefighters right away. They are equipped to perform rescues safely.
How Fire-Safe Is Your Home?
You won’t know until you do a fire safety walkthrough.
Conduct a fire safety walkthrough of your home on a regular basis. Use the following tips to help you in your walkthrough:
- Keep clothes, blankets, curtains, towels, and other items that can easily catch on fire at least three feet from space heaters and away from stove burners.
- Place space heaters where they will not tip over easily.
- Have chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a professional.
- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces and leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
- Never leave cooking unattended.
- Be sure your stove and small appliances are off before going to bed.
- Check for worn wires and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
- Never overload electrical sockets.
- Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
- Never leave cigarettes unattended and never smoke in bed.
- Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. The cigarette needs to be completely stubbed out in the ashtray or run under water.
It is the official position of the U.S. Fire Administration that all Americans should be protected against death, injury, and property loss resulting from fire in their residences. All homes should be equipped with smoke alarms and automatic fire sprinklers, and families should prepare and practice emergency escape plans. Read Position Statement »
Sprinkler Systems in Industry
Schools, office buildings, factories, and other commercial buildings have benefited from fire protection sprinkler systems for over a century. To protect investments in buildings and machinery, the textile mills in New England began using sprinkler systems over 100 years ago following a series of devastating fires that claimed many lives and destroyed entire businesses.
Sprinklers in Homes
But what about our homes? Although we protect our businesses from fire, what actions do we take to protect our families, our homes, and our possessions from fire? Millions of Americans have installed smoke alarms in their homes in the past few decades, but a smoke alarm can only alert the occupants to a fire in the house ... it cannot contain or extinguish a fire. Residential sprinkler systems can!
Fires in residences have taken a high toll of life and property. In 2010 there were:
- 362,100 residential building fires
- 2,555 civilian fire deaths
- 13,275 civilian fire injuries
- $6.6 billion in property damage
Source: U.S. Fire Administration
Studies by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's United States Fire Administration indicate that the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems could have saved thousands of lives; prevented a large portion of those injuries; and eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in property losses.
What Are Home Fire Sprinkler Systems?
Using quick response sprinklers and approved piping, homes can be built or even retrofitted to include low-cost automatic sprinkler systems connected to the domestic water supply.
Sprinkler systems offer advantages to the homebuilder:
- A low-cost reliable safety option that would attract many buyers.
- Trade-offs between sprinklers and code requirements that can result in lower construction costs, more units per area of land, etc. (5 to 15 percent)
For homeowners, the advantages include assurance of a safer environment for their families, protection of their investment and irreplaceable family possessions, and lower insurance rates 5 to 15 percent.
Advantages of Newly Designed Home Sprinkler Systems
Residential sprinklers, listed by Underwriters Labs, are now available. They are designed to respond to a fire much faster than standard commercial and industrial sprinkler systems. The new home sprinklers react automatically to fires more quickly because of their improved sensitivity.
At the present time, cost of a home sprinkler system is targeted at approximately $1.61 per square foot in new construction. It is hoped that the cost will decrease as the use of home fire protection grows. It is also possible to retrofit existing homes with sprinkler systems.
For residential systems, the sprinklers will be smaller than traditional, commercial, and industrial sprinklers, and can be aesthetically coordinated with any room decor.
Minimal Installation Work
When homes are under construction or being remodeled, a home sprinkler system will require minimal extra piping and labor.
Low Water Requirement
These systems will require less water than the systems installed in industrial or commercial establishments and can be connected to the domestic water supply.
The use of plastic pipe has brought down the cost of installation in new construction and the retrofit of existing structures.
Some notable successful applications of residential sprinklers and approved piping include:
- Addison, TX
- Prince George's County, MD
- Scottsdale, AZ
A Growing Number of Communities Promote Home Fire Sprinklers
The fire loss in this country in residential occupancies is alarming. Manual firefighting methods are not the answer. The way to attack the problem is to limit the fire growth where it occurs in dwellings. We have the technology to do that.
Residential Automatic Sprinkler Systems. Ordinance No. 745; Adopted May 28, 1969; by the San Clemente, California City Council
Proposition 13 was a major factor in promoting the ordinance. There is also a shift within the fire service toward more fire prevention and less suppression emphasis. San Clemente and Corte Madera, California were some of the first communities in the United States to enact a home sprinkler ordinance. Other communities that have initiated or plan to initiate residential sprinkler ordinances include:
- Livermore, California
- Montgomery County, MD
- Long Grove, Illinois
- Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Germantown, Tennessee
- Scottsdale, Arizona
- Altamonte Springs, Florida
Test Your Home Sprinkler System's I.Q.
Here are five statements about home sprinkler systems. Are they true or false?
- When one sprinkler goes off, all the sprinklers activate.
False! Only the sprinkler over the fire will activate. The sprinkler heads react to temperatures in each room individually. Thus, fire in a bedroom will activate only the sprinkler in that room.
- A sprinkler could accidentally go off, causing severe water damage to a home.
False! Records, which have been compiled for well over 50 years, prove the likelihood of this occurring is very remote. Furthermore, home sprinklers will be specifically designed and will be rigorously tested to minimize such accidents.
- Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage.
False! The sprinkler system will limit a fire's growth. Therefore, damage from a home sprinkler system will be much less severe than the smoke and fire damage if the fire had gone on unabated or even the water damage caused by water from firefighting hose lines.
- Home sprinkler systems are expensive.
False! Current estimates suggest that when a home is under construction, a home sprinkler system could cost 1%-1 1/2% of the total building price.
- Residential sprinkles are ugly.
False! The traditional, commercial-type sprinklers as well as sprinklers for home use are now being designed to fit in with most any decor.
Sprinklers Are a Good Investment for Homebuilders
Through the use of construction trade-offs, homebuilders and developers can achieve reduced construction costs if residential sprinkler systems are installed. Home sprinkler systems offer both safety and financial advantages to homebuyers, a rare combination.
Sprinklers Are a Good Investment for the Homebuyer
- A fire occurs in a residential structure every 87 seconds, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. To the homebuilder, this fact means that a large share of potential customers now have knowledge of the terror and destruction caused by fire.
- Families with children, senior citizens, and handicapped members have special fire protection needs. Home sprinkler systems provide added protection for these people.
- In case of a home fire, firefighters will have less risk of injury or life loss since they will be fighting a fire of less intensity.
- Allocation of community resources can be improved with the adoption of home sprinkler technology.
- Communities will be able to make better utilization of available land and thereby increase their tax base.
Insurance from homeowner underwriters will vary depending on type of coverage. The discounts now range between 5-15%, with a projected increase in available discounts.
The Move Toward Home Sprinkler Systems
The U.S. Fire Administration's research in home fire sprinkler systems successfully focused on systems that would be low cost, fast acting and reliable. As a result, residential fire sprinklers have gained increased acceptance.
In November 1980, the National Fire Protection Association adopted the NFPA 13D Residential Sprinkler installation standard. The standard is based on technical data from the comprehensive full-scale fire tests, which were sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration.
Residential Sprinkler Program
Dedicated to reducing this Nation's staggering loss of life and property caused by fire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration has joined with private industry and the fire service to advance the development of residential sprinklers. Since 1976, the Fire Administration has promoted research studies, development and testing, and demonstrations of residential sprinkler systems.
Use Candles with Care
Candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries, and $539 million in estimated direct property damage each year.
- Over half (55%) of home candle fires start because the candle is too close to some combustible material.
- More candle fires (38%) begin in the bedroom than in any other room.
- Falling asleep is a factor in 12% of home candle fires and 26% of the associated deaths.
- Half of all civilian candle fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6am.
- December is the peak month for candle fires; Christmas is the peak day.
- Young children and older adults have the highest death risk from candle fires.
- The risk of a fatal candle fire appears higher when candles are used for light.
Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - Candle Fires, September 2007.
Tragic and Preventable Candle Fires
- Three sleeping boys died when a candle left burning in the living room ignited nearby combustibles.
- A man and his three children died in a fire when hot wax from an unattended candle dripped on curtains, igniting them.
- Eleven members of a family died in a fire when a lighted candle ignited a mattress.
- Two children died in a fire when a lighted candle rolled under the Christmas tree.
- A mother and young baby died when a burning candle used for religious observances ignited cabinetry.
Fact: The majority of candle fires result from human error and negligence.
Candle Fire Safety Tips
- Avoid using lighted candles.
- If you do use candles, ensure they are in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
- Set a good example by using matches, lighters, and fire carefully.
- Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
- Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Extinguish candles after use.
- Establish a fire-safe home, especially a safe sleeping environment.
- And NEVER leave burning candles unattended!
Home Hazardous Materials Fire Safety
Practicing home hazardous materials safety is important in preventing home fires. Many people use chemicals in their homes safely every day, but as the number of chemical products increases, the risk for improper use and injury also increases.
What Are Household Hazardous Materials?
When most of us think of "hazardous materials," we picture trucks full of chemicals, factories, or dumps oozing slime. However, every home can be a warehouse of hazardous materials, containing items such as:
- Automotive fluids
- Barbecue products
- Health and beauty products
- Home maintenance products
- Household cleaners
- Laundry products
- Lawn and garden products
- Medicines and medical supplies
- Paints and thinners
In addition, asbestos or lead paint present in older homes, and mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), may become exposed during or after a home fire.
How Can I Make My Home Safer?
Home hazardous materials can pose serious fire, health, or environmental hazards. For these reasons, proper use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials at home is extremely important.
Use and Storage Tips
- Buy only the amount of product that you need to reduce the quantity of hazardous materials in storage.
- Familiarize yourself with each product, its location, and purpose.
- Follow use and storage instructions on the product’s label. Mixing some products can create deadly poisonous fumes or cause fires.
- Store hazardous materials in their original containers. Changing containers is not only dangerous - it is illegal.
- Use only portable storage containers listed by an independent testing laboratory for flammables and combustibles.
- Store flammable products - such as gasoline, kerosene, propane gas, and paint thinner - away from the home.
- Only fill portable gasoline containers outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Place the container on the ground to fill.
- Never store flammables in direct sunlight or near an open flame or heat source.
- Inspect storage areas regularly for leaky containers, poor ventilation, and the smell of fumes.
- Store hazardous materials out of the reach of children and pets.
- Use guardrails and safety locks on shelves and cabinets to prevent containers from tipping over or falling out, especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area.
- Wear suitable protective clothing including gloves and eyewear as recommended by the product manufacturer.
- Follow disposal instructions on the product's label.
- Aerosol cans sometimes contain flammable or poisonous chemicals. If you dispose of them in the trash, they can be punctured and explode or start a fire.
- In the event of a spill, thoroughly clean the area and place disposal containers in a well-ventilated area. If you cannot control the spill, or are in doubt about cleanup and disposal, call your local fire department.
- If your community has a designated household hazardous waste collection day or collection facility to dispose of hazardous materials, use this service whenever possible.
- Pay special attention to chemical products when moving them from place to place. The same rules apply for proper transportation as they do for storage.
Tips to Avoid a Hazardous Materials Emergency During a Natural Disaster
Follow these tips to help prevent hazardous materials from posing an added danger during a natural disaster:
- Always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting.
- Knowing how to shut off the gas outside at the meter can save your life during an emergency. Once you shut off the gas only the gas company should turn it back on!
- Mount or chain propane cylinders securely to prevent them from floating away during a flood.
- Secure fuel tanks to a cement slab to prevent them from tipping over or floating away during a flood. Elevate tanks to prevent damage to the valves.
- Install flexible gas lines from cylinders or tanks to all gas and fuel appliances in your home.
- Make sure freestanding sheds, garages, and small barns where hazardous materials are stored are tied down securely to the ground. Reinforce double entry or garage doors.
Many families gather in the kitchen to spend time together, but it can be one of the most hazardous rooms in the house if you don't practice safe cooking behaviors. Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Cooking equipment is also the leading cause of unreported fires and associated injuries.
Safe Cooking Behaviors
It's a recipe for serious injury or even death to wear loose clothing (especially hanging sleeves), walk away from a cooking pot on the stove, or leave flammable materials, such as potholders or paper towels, around the stove. Whether you are cooking the family holiday dinner or a snack for the children, practicing safe cooking behaviors will help keep you and your family safe.
Choose the Right Equipment and Use It Properly
- Always use cooking equipment tested and approved by a recognized testing facility.
- Follow manufacturers' instructions and code requirements when installing and operating cooking equipment.
- Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
Use Barbecue Grills Safely
- Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
- Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking food.
- Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.
- Use only outdoors! If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, barbecue grills pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to carbon monoxide.
- Purchase the proper starter fluid and store out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
- Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.
- Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.
- If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:
- Turn off the propane tank and grill.
- If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
- If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
- If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
- All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
- Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
- Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
Watch What You Heat
- The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you're cooking.
- Stay alert! To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won't be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
Keep Things That Can Catch Fire and Heat Sources Apart
- Keep anything that can catch fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains - away from your stovetop.
- Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean.
- Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
If Your Clothes Catch Fire
If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll. Stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover face with hands. Roll over and over or back and forth to put out the fire. Immediately cool the burn with cool water for 3 to 5 minutes and then seek emergency medical care.
Use Equipment for Intended Purposes Only
Cook only with equipment designed and intended for cooking, and heat your home only with equipment designed and intended for heating. There is additional danger of fire, injury, or death if equipment is used for a purpose for which it was not intended.
Protect Children from Scalds and Burns
- Young children are at high risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove.
- Keep young children at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from any place where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried. Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges.
- When young children are present, use the stove's back burners whenever possible.
- Never hold a child while cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
- Teach children that hot things burn.
- When children are old enough, teach them to cook safely. Supervise them closely.
Prevent Scalds and Burns
- To prevent spills due to overturn of appliances containing hot food or liquids, use the back burner when possible and/or turn pot handles away from the stove's edge. All appliance cords need to be kept coiled and away from counter edges.
- Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or stovetops. Never use wet oven mitts or potholders as they can cause scald burns.
- Replace old or worn oven mitts.
- Treat a burn right away, putting it in cool water. Cool the burn for 3 to 5 minutes. If the burn is bigger than your fist or if you have any questions about how to treat it, seek medical attention right away.
Install and Use Microwave Ovens Safely
- Place or install the microwave oven at a safe height, within easy reach of all users. The face of the person using the microwave oven should always be higher than the front of the microwave oven door. This is to prevent hot food or liquid from spilling onto a user's face or body from above and to prevent the microwave oven itself from falling onto a user.
- Never use aluminum foil or metal objects in a microwave oven. They can cause a fire and damage the oven.
- Heat food only in containers or dishes that are safe for microwave use.
- Open heated food containers slowly away from the face to avoid steam burns. Hot steam escaping from the container or food can cause burns.
- Foods heat unevenly in microwave ovens. Stir and test before eating.
How and When to Fight Cooking Fires
- When in doubt, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
- If you do try to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
- Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
- After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.
Nuisance Smoke Alarms
- Move smoke alarms farther away from kitchens according to manufacturers' instructions and/or install a smoke alarm with a pause button.
- If a smoke alarm sounds during normal cooking, press the pause button if the smoke alarm has one. Open the door or window or fan the area with a towel to get the air moving. Do not disable the smoke alarm or take out the batteries.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
A Factsheet on Home Electrical Fire Prevention
Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 280 Americans each year and injure 1,000 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures, but many more are caused by incorrectly installed wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords.
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) would like consumers to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from electrical fires.
During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 26,100 fires and $1 billion in property losses. About half of all residential electrical fires involve electrical wiring.The Problem
December and January are the most dangerous months for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use. The bedroom is the leading area of fire origin for residential building electrical fires. However, electrical fires that begin in the living room/family room/den areas result in the most deaths.
- Most electrical distribution fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Problems with cords (such as extension and appliance cords), plugs, receptacles, and switches also cause many home electrical fires.
- Light fixtures and lamps/light bulbs are also leading causes of electrical fires.
- Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as overloading circuits, poor maintenance, and running the cords under rugs or in high traffic areas.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Replace any electrical tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out, or gives off smoke or sparks.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
- Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons, and hair dryers.
- Use safety closures to "child-proof" electrical outlets.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate.
The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool. However, a majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.
Should I Use a Fire Extinguisher?
Consider the following three questions before purchasing or using a fire extinguisher to control a fire:
1. What type of fire extinguisher is needed?
Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, a grease fire and an electrical fire require the use of different extinguishing agents to be effective and safely put the fire out.
Basically, there are five different types of extinguishing agents. Most fire extinguishers display symbols to show the kind of fire on which they are to be used.
|Class A extinguishers put out fires in ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and many plastics.|
|Class B extinguishers are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints.|
|Class C extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.|
|Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. These are typically found only in factories working with these metals.|
|Class K fire extinguishers are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Class K extinguishers are now finding their way into the residential market for use in kitchens.|
There are also multi-purpose fire extinguishers - such as those labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C" - that can be used on two or more of the above type fires.
2. Is the fire at a point where it might still be controlled by a fire extinguisher?
Portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be properly used so that this material is not wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher. By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate. Only trained firefighters can safely extinguish such fires.
Use a fire extinguisher only if:
- You have alerted other occupants and someone has called the fire department;
- The fire is small and contained to a single object, such as a wastebasket;
- You are safe from the toxic smoke produced by the fire;
- You have a means of escape identified and the fire is not between you and the escape route; and
- Your instincts tell you that it is safe to use an extinguisher.
If all of these conditions are not present, you should NOT try to use a fire extinguisher. Alert other occupants, leave the building following your home escape plan, go to the agreed upon meeting place, and call the fire department from a cell phone or a neighbor's home.
3. Am I physically capable of using the extinguisher?
Some people have physical limitations that might diminish or eliminate their ability to properly use a fire extinguisher. People with disabilities, older adults, or children may find that an extinguisher is too heavy to handle or it may be too difficult for them to exert the necessary pressure to operate the extinguisher.
Fire extinguishers need to be regularly checked to ensure that:
- The extinguisher is not blocked by furniture, doorways, or any thing that might limit access in an emergency.
- The pressure is at the recommended level. Some extinguishers have gauges that indicate when the pressure is too high or too low.
- All parts are operable and not damaged or restricted in any way. Make sure hoses and nozzles are free of insects or debris. There should not be any signs of damage or abuse, such as dents or rust, on the extinguisher.
- The outside of the extinguisher is clean. Remove any oil or grease that might accumulate on the exterior.
- Shake dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling or packing. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Pressure test the extinguisher (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Find out from the owner's manual, the label, or the manufacturer when an extinguisher may need this type of testing.
- Immediately replace the extinguisher if it needs recharging or is damaged in any way.
Sound Decision Making. Training. Maintenance.
All are required to safely control a fire with an extinguisher. For this reason, USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate. Contact National Fire Protection 808-848-8811 for information on training in Hawaii.
Helps You Sleep Soundly at Night
Each year, fire claims the lives of 3,500 Americans and injures approximately 18,300. Bedrooms are a common area of fire origin. Nearly 600 lives are lost to fires that start in bedrooms. Many of these fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, such as overloading extension cords or using portable space heaters too close to combustibles. Many other bedroom fires are caused by children who play with matches and lighters, careless smoking among adults, and arson.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from bedroom fires.
Kids and Fire: A Bad Match
Children are one of the highest risk groups for deaths in residential fires. At home, children usually play with fire - lighters, matches and other ignitables - in bedrooms, in closets, and under beds. These are "secret" places where there are a lot of things that catch fire easily.
- Children of all ages set over 35,000 fires annually.
- Every year over 400 children nine years and younger die in home fires.
- Keep matches and lighters locked up and away from children. Check under beds and in closets for burnt matches, evidence your child may be playing with matches.
- Teach your child that fire is a tool, not a toy.
Appliances Need Special Attention
Bedrooms are the most common room in the home where electrical fires start. Electrical fires are a special concern during winter months which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use.
- Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
- Take extra care when using portable heaters. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
- Only use lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.
Tuck Yourself In For A Safe Sleep
- Never smoke in bed.
- Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.
Finally, having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Place at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home and in halls outside bedrooms. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.
A wide range of natural disasters occurs within the United States every year. Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on you and your home. The U.S. Fire Administration encourages you to use the following safety tips to help protect yourself, your family and your home from the potential threat of fire during or after an earthquake. You can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty by being able to identify potential hazards and following the outlined safety tips.
Some Types of Fire Related Hazards Present During and After an Earthquake
- Appliances, furniture, and household products can shift, fall, and spill.
- Gas, chemical and electrical hazards may be present.
- Leaking gas lines, damaged or leaking gas propane containers, and leaking vehicle gas tanks could explode or ignite.
- Pools of water or even appliances can be electrically charged.
- Look for flammable liquids like gasoline, lighter fluid, and paint thinner that may have spilled.
- Thoroughly clean the spill and place containers in a well-ventilated area.
- Keep combustible liquids away from heat sources.
- If you can safely get to the main breaker or fuse box, turn off the power.
- Look for items that might have jarred loose during the earthquake.
- Appliances or power connectors could create a fire hazard.
- Assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged. This includes cable TV feeds.
- Look for and replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs, and plugs.
- Exposed outlets and wiring could present a fire and life safety hazard.
- Appliances that emit smoke or sparks should be repaired or replaced.
- Have a licensed electrician check your home for damage.
- Smell and listen for leaky gas connections. If you believe there is a gas leak, immediately leave the house and leave the door(s) open.
- Never strike a match. Any size flame can spark an explosion.
- Before turning the gas back on, have the gas system checked by a professional.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines when using generators.
- Use a generator or other fuel-powered machines outside the home. CO fumes are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.
- Use the appropriate sized and type power cords to carry the electric load. Overloaded cords can overheat and cause fires.
- Never run cords under rugs or carpets where heat might build up or damage to a cord may go unnoticed.
- Never connect generators to another power source such as power lines. The reverse flow of electricity or 'backfeed' can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.
- Kerosene heaters may not be legal in your area and should only be used where approved by authorities.
- Do not use the kitchen oven range to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.
- Alternative heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least 3 feet away.
- Make sure your alternative heaters have 'tip switches.' These 'tip switches' are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.
- Only use the type of fuel recommended by the manufacturer and follow suggested guidelines.
- Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.
- Refuel heaters only outdoors.
- Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, and at least 3 feet away from combustible materials. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation.
- Use a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby carpets, furniture or other combustible items.
- Always use a flashlight - not a candle - for emergency lighting.
- Some smoke alarms may be dependent on your home's electrical service and could be inoperative during a power outage. Check to see if your smoke alarm uses a back-up battery and install a new battery at least once a year.
- Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home.
- All smoke alarms should be tested monthly. All batteries should be replaced with new ones at least once a year.
- If there is a fire hydrant near your home, keep it clear of debris for easy access by the fire department.
Danger Above: A Factsheet on High-Rise Safety
Recent fatal fires in high-rise structures have prompted Americans to rethink fire safety. A key to fire safety for those who live and work in these special structures is to practice specific high-rise fire safety and prevention behaviors.
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) would like you to know there are simple fire safety steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property in high-rise fires.
Be Prepared for a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Never lock fire exits or doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out during the fire and slow the spread of fire and smoke. Never prop stairway or other fire doors open.
- Learn your building evacuation plan. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm sounds. Plan and practice your escape plan together.
- Be sure your building manager posts evacuation plans in high traffic areas, such as lobbies.
- Learn the sound of your building's fire alarm and post emergency numbers near all telephones.
- Know who is responsible for maintaining the fire safety systems. Make sure nothing blocks these devices and promptly report any sign of damage or malfunction to the building management.
Do Not Panic in the Event of a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Do not assume anyone else has already called the fire department.
- Immediately call your local emergency number. Early notification of the fire department is important. The dispatcher will ask questions regarding the emergency. Stay calm and give the dispatcher the information they request.
If the Door is Warm to the Touch
Before you try to leave your apartment or office, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door feels warm to the touch, do not attempt to open it. Stay in your apartment or office.
- Stuff the cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.
- If there is a phone in the room where you are trapped, call the fire department again to tell them exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see fire apparatus on the street below.
- Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a sheet.
- If possible, open the window at the top and bottom, but do not break it, you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.
- Be patient. Rescuing all the occupants of a high-rise building can take several hours.
If the Door is Not Warm to the Touch
- If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack. What you are doing is checking for the presence of smoke or fire in the hallway.
- If there is no smoke in the hallway or stairwells, follow your building's evacuation plan.
- If you don't hear the building's fire alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm "pull station" while exiting the floor.
- If you encounter smoke or flames on your way out, immediately return to your apartment or office.
After a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Once you are out of the building, STAY OUT! Do not go back inside for any reason.
- Tell the fire department if you know of anyone trapped in the building.
- Only enter when the fire department tells you it is safe to do so.
Maintain and Install Working Smoke Alarms
No matter where you live, always install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility...Fire Stops With You!
More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings - in or near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites. There, homeowners enjoy the beauty of the environment but face the very real danger of wildfire.
Every year across our Nation, some homes survive - while many others do not - after a major wildfire. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone wildland areas. Said in another way - if it's predictable, it's preventable!
Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now - before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area. Follow the steps listed below to protect your family, home, and property.
Practice Wildfire Safety
People start most wildfires - find out how you can promote and practice wildfire safety.
- Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
- Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
- Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
- Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
- Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
- Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.
Before Wildfire Threatens
Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it. Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking, or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory. Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
Your best resource for proper planning is www.firewise.org which has outstanding information used daily by residents, property owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy officials, water authorities, architects and others to assure safety from fire - it really works. Firewise workshops are offered for free all across the Nation in communities large and small and free Firewise materials can be obtained easily by anyone interested.
Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home
Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
- Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
- Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
- Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
- Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
- Remove vines from the walls of the home.
- Mow grass regularly.
- Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
- Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
- Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
- Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory.
- Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.
Protect your home
- Regularly clean roof and gutters.
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
- Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
- Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
- Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
- Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
- Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
- Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
Plan your water needs
- Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
- Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
- Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
- Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.
When Wildfire Threatens
If you are warned that a wildfire is threatening your area, listen to your battery-operated radio for reports and evacuation information. Follow the instructions of local officials.
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Shut doors and roll up windows. Leave the key in the ignition. Close garage windows and doors, but leave them unlocked. Disconnect automatic garage door openers.
- Confine pets to one room. Make plans to care for your pets in case you must evacuate.
- Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative's home outside the threatened area.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately
- Wear protective clothing - sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Take your Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Lock your home.
- Tell someone when you left and where you are going.
- Choose a route away from fire hazards. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
If you're sure you have time, take steps to protect your home
- Close windows, vents, doors, blinds, or noncombustible window coverings and heavy drapes. Remove lightweight curtains.
- Shut off all utilities if possible, including bottled gas.
- Open fireplace damper. Close fireplace screens.
- Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from windows and sliding glass doors.
- Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
- Seal attic and ground vents with precut noncombustible coverings.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside.
- Connect the garden hose to outside taps.
- Set up a portable gasoline-powered pump.
- Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near aboveground fuel tanks. Wetting the roof may help if it is shake-shingled.
- Wet or remove shrubs within 15 feet of the home.
- Gather fire tools.
When wildfire threatens, you won't have time to shop or search for supplies. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need if advised to evacuate. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags, or trash containers.
- A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.
- One change of clothing and footwear per person and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.
- Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries.
- An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks.
- Sanitation supplies.
- Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
- An extra pair of eye-glasses.
- Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Assemble a smaller version of your kit to keep in the trunk of your car.
Create a Family Disaster Plan
Wildfire and other types of disasters - hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, hazardous materials spill, winter storm - can strike quickly and without warning. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together. Meet with your family to create a disaster plan. To get started:
Contact your local Emergency Management Agency or your local American Red Cross chapter
- Find out about the hazards in your community.
- Ask how you would be warned.
- Find out how to prepare for each type of disaster.
Meet with your family
- Discuss the types of disasters that could occur.
- Explain how to prepare and respond to each type of disaster.
- Discuss where to go and what to bring if advised to evacuate.
- Practice what you have discussed.
Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster
- Pick two meeting places:
- a place a safe distance from your home in case of a home fire.
- a place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
- Choose an out-of-state friend as a "check-in contact" for everyone to call.
Complete these steps
- Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.
- Show responsible family members how and when to shut off water, gas, and electricity at main switches.
- Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.
- Learn first aid and CPR. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and training.
Practice and review these steps!
This page was developed by the US Fire Administration and can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/