"More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 20,000 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 practicing and planning ahead."
Bedroom Fire Safety
Bedrooms are a common area of fire origin. Nearly 600 lives are lost to fires that start in bedrooms each year. 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.
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.
Cooking Fire Safety
Recipe for Safer Cooking: Follow these tips to protect you and your family when in the kitchen. Whether stirring up a quick dinner or creating a masterpiece four-course meal, here's a recipe for safer cooking you need to use daily.
To Prevent a Cooking Fire in Your Kitchen
- Keep an eye on your cooking and stay in the kitchen. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires.
- Wear short or close-fitting sleeves. Loose clothing can catch fire.
- Watch children closely. When old enough, teach children to cook safely.
- Clean cooking surfaces to prevent food and grease build-up.
- Keep curtains, towels and pot holders away from hot surfaces and store solvents and flammable cleaners away from heat sources. Never keep gasoline in the house.
- Turn pan handles inward to prevent food spills.
To Put Out a Cooking Fire in Your Kitchen
- Call the fire department immediately. In many cases, dialing 911 will give you Emergency Services.
- Slide a pan lid over flames to smother a grease or oil fire, then turn off the heat and leave the lid in place until the pan cools. Never carry the pan outside.
- Extinguish other food fires with baking soda. Never use water or flour on cooking fires.
- Keep the oven door shut and turn off the heat to smother an oven or broiler fire.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Make sure you have the right type and training.
- Keep a working smoke alarm in your home and test in monthly.
Fires resulting from cooking continue to be the most common type of fire experienced by U.S. households. This is true for fires reported to fire departments and those handled by private individuals. Cooking fires are also the leading cause of home fire injuries. As a result, the U.S. Fire Administration has partnered with the National Fire Protection Association to research the types of behaviors and sequences of events that lead to cooking fires and develop sound recommendations for behavioral mitigation strategies that will reduce such fires and their resultant injuries and fatalities.
This study of the causes of cooking fires and cooking injuries and the effectiveness of strategies to prevent them also considers as part of its scope cooking burns of all types from all types of products involved in preparing and serving food or drink. Although many cooking injuries result from knives or broken glass and many people are made ill by improperly handled food, these other issues are beyond the scope of this project.
Findings from the project include:
- Cooking equipment was involved in 31 percent of home structure fires reported in 2003.
- Males face a disproportionate risk of cooking fire injury relative to the amount of cooking they do.
- Young children and older adults face a higher risk of death from cooking fires than did other age groups.
- Young children are at high risk from non-fire cooking-related burns.
- Unattended cooking is the single leading factor contributing to cooking fires.
- Many other cooking fires begin because combustibles are too close to cooking heat sources.
- Frying is the cooking method posing the highest risk.
- More than half of the home cooking injuries occur when people try to fight the fire themselves.
- Educational effectiveness may be enhanced by linking burn prevention and fire prevention.
- Technology may be the best long-term solution to dealing with the cooking fire problem
Manufactured Home Fire Safety
Fires in manufactured homes claim the lives of over 300 Americans each year and injure 700 more. Many of these fires are caused by heating and electrical system malfunctions and improper storage of combustibles. You can prevent the loss of life and property resulting from fires in manufactured homes by being able to identify potential hazards and following these safety tips.
During a typical year, manufactured homes account for 17,700 fires, hundreds of deaths and $155 million in property losses. Manufactured homes have a fire death rate per 100,000 housing units 32-50 percent higher than the rate for other dwellings.
Young children account for more than one-fifth of all fire deaths in manufactured homes. A recent study of rural fires showed that smoke alarms were less likely to be present or operating in manufactured homes.
Electrical system malfunctions and heating fires are the leading causes of fire in manufactured homes. Together, they account for one-third of manufactured housing fires. Electrical distribution fires occur nearly twice as often in manufactured homes as in one- and two-family dwellings.
- Have a minimum of two smoke alarms installed in your home regardless of sleeping space arrangements.
- Install smoke alarms in accordance with smoke alarm manufacturer guidelines. Test your smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.
- Maintain your home heating system by having it serviced at least once a year by a professional.
- Do not store combustibles or flammables near heat sources.
- Never overload outlets, extension cords or electrical circuits. If the circuit breaker trips or fuses blow, immediately call a licensed electrician to check your system.
- Have an escape plan and practice escape routes with your family.
- Space heaters need their space. Do not place portable space heaters close to drapes, clothing or other combustible materials.
- Install skirting material to keep leaves and other debris and combustible items from blowing under your manufactured home.
- When considering a new home, ask if residential sprinklers are available as an option.
- If there is a fire - get out immediately, go to a neighbor's and notify the fire department using the 911 system or the proper local emergency number in your area.
Electrical Fire Safety
Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.
During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 67,800 fires, 485 deaths, and $868 million in property losses. Home electrical wiring causes twice as many fires as electrical appliances.
December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires. Fire deaths are highest in winter months which call for more indoor activities and increase in lighting, heating, and appliance use. Most electrical wiring fires start in the bedroom.
Most electrical fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Problems with cords and plugs, such as extension and appliance cords, also cause many home electrical fires.
In urban areas, faulty wiring accounts for 33% of residential 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.
The home appliances most often involved in electrical fires are electric stoves and ovens, dryers, central heating units, televisions, radios and record players.
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don't overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- When buying electrical appliances look for products which meet the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) standard for safety.
- Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
- 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.
- 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. Use safety closures to "child-proof" electrical outlets.
- Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
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.
Campus Fire Safety
Every year college and university students experience a growing number of fire-related emergencies. There are several causes for these fires; however, most are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention.
In cases where fire fatalities occurred on college campuses, alcohol was often a factor. There is a strong link between alcohol and fire deaths. In more than 50% of adult fire fatalities, victims were under the influence at the time of the fire. Alcohol abuse often impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts. Cooking is the leading cause of fire injuries on college campuses, closely followed by careless smoking and arson.
Many factors contribute to the problem of dormitory housing fires.
- Improper use of 911 notification systems delays emergency response.
- Student apathy is prevalent. Many are unaware that fire is a risk or threat in the environment.
- Evacuation efforts are hindered since fire alarms are often ignored.
- Building evacuations are delayed due to lack of preparation and preplanning.
- Vandalized and improperly maintained smoke alarms and fire alarm systems inhibit early detection of fires.
- Misuse of cooking appliances, overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords increase the risk of fires.
- Provide students with a program for fire safety and prevention.
- Teach students how to properly notify the fire department using the 911 system.
- Install smoke alarms in every dormitory room and every level of housing facilities.
- Maintain and regularly test smoke alarms and fire alarm systems. Replace smoke alarm batteries every semester.
- Regularly inspect rooms and buildings for fire hazards. Ask your local fire department for assistance.
- Inspect exit doors and windows and make sure they are working properly.
- Create and update detailed floor plans of buildings, and make them available to emergency personnel, resident advisors and students.
- Conduct fire drills and practice escape routes and evacuation plans. Urge students to take each alarm seriously.
- Do not overload electrical outlets and make sure extension cords are used properly.
- Learn to properly use and maintain heating and cooking appliances.
Rural Fire Safety
Self-reliance is the rule for fire safety for many people. If you live in an area where the local fire department is more than a few minutes away because of travel time or distance, or if you are outside the limits of the nearest town, be sure you know how to be self-reliant in a fire emergency. Use these fire safety tips to help you protect yourself, your home and its surroundings from fire.
Rural Fire Safety and Prevention
A move from an urban center to a suburb or rural area requires you to rethink fire safety. First, you must be aware of special fire hazards near wooded areas. Second, geographic location may create longer response times for fire and rescue services.
If you live in the rural-urban interface, the point where homes meet combustible vegetation, you must increase your role to protect lives and property in your community beyond the city limits.
Fire Facts about Rural Living
- Once a fire starts outdoors in a rural area, it is often hard to control. Wildland firefighters are trained to protect natural resources, not homes and buildings.
- Many homes are located far from fire stations. The result is longer emergency response times. Within a matter of minutes, an entire home may be destroyed by fire.
- Limited water supply in rural areas can make fire suppression difficult.
- Homes may be secluded and surrounded by woods, dense brush and combustible vegetation that fuel fires.
Tips for Making Your Property Fire Resistant
- Keep lawns trimmed, leaves raked, and the roof and rain-gutters free from debris such as dead limbs and leaves.
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from your home.
- Store flammable materials, liquids and solvents in metal containers outside the home at least 30 feet away from structures and wooden fences.
- Create defensible space by thinning trees and brush within 30 feet around your home.
- Landscape your property with fire resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.
- Post home address signs that are clearly visible from the road.
- Provide emergency vehicle access with properly constructed driveways and roadways, at least 12 feet wide with adequate turnaround space.
- Make sure water sources, such as hydrants and ponds, are accessible to the fire department.
- Burning yard waste is a fire hazard. Check with your local fire agency on a non-emergency number for fire permit requirements and restricted burning times.
Protect Your Home
- Use fire resistant, protective roofing and materials like stone, brick and metal to protect your home. Avoid using wood materials that offer the least fire protection.
- Cover all exterior vents, attics and eaves with metal mesh screens no larger than 6 millimeters.
- Install multipane windows, tempered safety glass or fireproof shutters to protect large windows from radiant heat.
- Use fire-resistant draperies for added window protection.
- Have chimneys, wood stoves and all home heating systems inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist.
Prepare Your Family
- Know how to contact fire emergency services in your area.
- Plan ahead. Make sure you and your family are prepared for a fire emergency.
- Develop and practice escape and evacuation plans with your family.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long-life smoke alarms.