Fire Prevention and Preparedness Guide

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When Fire Safety is mentioned, the images that come to mind are most popularly a fire extinguisher, “Stop, Drop and Roll” drills from our elementary school years, but how informed are we on actual fire safety in our own homes?

Before we get into fire prevention… let’s take a moment to look at why it’s so important.

- U.S. fire departments respond to an average of one home fire every 86 seconds.
- Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 358,500 home structure fires per year. These fires caused 12,300 civilian injuries, 2,510 civilian deaths, and $6.7 billion in direct damage.
- On average, seven people per day die in U.S. home fires.
- Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries.
- For decades, smoking has been the leading cause of home-fire deaths.
- Heating equipment was involved in one in every five home-fire deaths.
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According to the U.S Fire Administration, Arkansas had the FOURTH highest fire death rate in 2016 with 20.7 percent. 62 deaths in 2016 were due to fires in the home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association:

Christmas trees are the leading cause of fires in the home during the holiday season.
- Between 2012-2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 4 deaths, 15 injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage annually.
- On average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.
- Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43% of home Christmas tree fires.
- In one-quarter (27%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
- More than one-fifth (22%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional. 
- Forty-two percent of reported home Christmas tree fires occurred in December and 33% were reported in January. 
- Two of every five (40%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.

Source: NFPA Winter holiday fires by the numbers


"A live Christmas tree burn conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows just how quickly a dried out Christmas tree fire burns, with flashover occurring in less than one minute, as compared to a well-watered tree, which burns at a much slower rate."

In order to prevent fires, check your home for the following items:

1. Smoke alarms/ smoke detectors.
- Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of the home, even the basement, as well as a smoke alarm outside every sleeping area in the home. 
- Check the batteries twice a year
- Replace alarms every 10 years
- Looking for a fancier version? Check out these hardwired alarms that can sync to other alarms, have a voice prompt announcing to children there is a fire, and even location features.

2. Carbon Monoxide detectors. 
These detect the silent but deadly and non-odorous gas, CO. You should have at least one in every home, and also check that it’s working twice a year.

3. Clean Chimney
- Animals can build nests in chimneys and leaves and other flammable debris can pileup during the months when they are not in use
- A substance called creosote can build up in a frequently used fireplace and is extremely flammable when not cleaned properly. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) – “clean chimneys don’t catch fire.” - Hire a professional to clean/sweep your chimney prior to its first use of the year.
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4. Fire Extinguisher
Experts recommend having one in the kitchen, garage and workshop if you have one.
Look for one that is designed for home use and rated for multiple types of typical home fires.

Always remember PASS:
Pull the pin. Release the lock with the nozzle pointing away from you.
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

5. Clean Dryer Filter
Lint, just like clothing, is flammable. The buildup on your dryer filter can cause a fire. Dryers come equipped with a removable lint filter.Each time you put a load of laundry into the dryer, be sure to clean it.

6. Safety Ladder 
These will allow for easier escape from 2nd or 3rd story rooms. Some experts recommending keeping one in every bedroom located above ground level.

7. Fire-Resistant Lock Box or Safe. 
This is a great place to keep irreplaceable items, such as birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, etc. During a fire, seconds count. Making sure your important documents are regularly stored in a protected place, leaves you free to make sure yourself and family members are safe. 

8. Check windows. 
Make sure that windows in every room are easy to open and not painted or nailed shut. This may be your only exit in a fire. 

9. Close Your Doors. 
Based on over 10 years of UL Firefighter Safety Institute research, closing your bedroom door(s) will help slow the speed of a fire and potentially save lives.

 

Other ways to prevent house fires would be to eliminate the hazards:

- Make sure your electrical appliances, cords and outlets are in good condition. Check for exposed wires and evidence of overheating.
- Avoid overloading outlets with multiple plug ins.
- Don’t run electrical wires under rugs.
- Don’t let lamps or night-lights touch bedspreads, drapes or other fabrics.
- Never place a space heater too close to a bed. They should be at least 3 feet from anything flammable.
- Keep newspapers, magazines and clothing/fabrics away from space heaters, radiators or fireplaces
- If you smoke, make sure the cigarette butts are completely out before tossing them out
- Keep your garage clean. Even a thin layer of sawdust can be set on fire if located near a heating appliance.
- Use proper heat sources and have them maintained regularly. Never use an oven to heat a home.
- Eliminate clutter. 
- NEVER use water to put out a grease fire. If you don’t have immediate access to a fire extinguisher, you can try to suffocate the flame by covering it with a pot lid.

 

Annually Reviewing 'What To Do' with your child(ren), is a good review for adults:
- Run from a fire, do not hide from it.
- Cover  mouths and noses with a moist towel or clothing to keep out dangerous fumes while evacuating
- Crawl under the smoke to safety, and stay as low to the ground as possible (remember smoke always rises)
- Touch any closed door (not the doorknob) to see if it’s hot, and if it is, do NOT to open it. Find another exit (remember closed doors slow the spread of fire).
- If you live in an apartment building, help kids find the nearest Fire Exit stairways, and to always avoid elevators during a fire
- Never stop to grab belongings or even to call 911. That phone call can be made once everyone is safely out of the home
- Never go back inside a burning building
- Stop drop and roll to extinguish flames on your body
- How to safely dial 911
- Practice drills at ALL times. Do regular drills, but also do some "surprise" drills. Alert children that sometime during the week you'll be doing a fire drill. Test the alarm when they're not expecting it. Talk about what they did right/wrong and what to do if there was really a fire. Talk them through the fear so if a fire does happen, they know how to stay calm.

 

For more Fire Safety Resources visit:

FireFacts.org

FireSafeKids.org

KidsHealth.org

Safety.com