National Fire Prevention Week
Autumn ushers in amazing, colorful foliage, crazy corn mazes, and pumpkin patch fun. Fall also opens the door to our major holiday seasons of the year when we find ourselves celebrating with cherished family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when we face a greater risk of fires in our homes.
Therefore, it’s no coincidence, that National Fire Prevention Week falls on the second week of October. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most house fires occur each year during the long holiday season, making it the most dangerous time of the year.
Fire departments respond to a fire every 23 seconds, with a home fire every 86 seconds. In 2015, residential fires in the United States caused 3,280 civilian deaths and 15,700 civilian injuries. Tragically, residential fires claim almost nine lives every day, and at least one of those lives is a child’s. These home fires include one- and two-family homes, apartments, town homes, and manufactured homes.
Early warning saves lives.
Working smoke alarms save lives because every second counts when escaping a house fire. If you haven’t already, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas. If your fire alarms aren’t hardwired into your home electrical system, make sure you are testing and cleaning alarms monthly and replacing batteries when needed. All smoke alarms should be less than 10 years old.
The NFPA reports that almost all U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm. However, three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires where alarms weren’t properly maintained or functioning.
Killer fumes—Smoke, Carbon Monoxide.
And it’s not just the flames that are life-threatening, smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. As a house burns it produces poisonous gases. Look around your home, many of the synthetic materials we own, produce dangerous gases when burned. These gases and vapors when inhaled can make you disoriented and drowsy. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns three-to-one. Oftentimes smoke and fumes incapacitate people so quickly they can’t make their way to accessible exits.
Heat from the fires itself is a hazard, as it can burn our respiratory tracts. One breath can kill if the air is hot enough. So know the quickest way out of your home, and once you’re outside, stay out.
Menacing Carbon Monoxide.
As furnaces are turned on with cooler temperatures this time of year, it’s important to have a working carbon monoxide alarm in your home, too. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and highly toxic gas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning with flu-like symptoms, headaches, and dizziness. Sadly, 500 more people will die, many in their own homes. Carbon monoxide alarms should be located on each level of your home and be less than 7 years old.
Hone in on Home Hazards.
In two minutes, a fire can become deadly. In five minutes, your home could be engulfed in flames. What can you do to make your home safer?
Start with the leading causes of home fires.
Start in the kitchen.
Cooking! Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States, and the rate of fires in the kitchen spikes during the holidays. Never leave the kitchen when you have something cooking on the stove or in the oven. Always turn pot and pan handles inward so curious kids can’t pull the pot or pan down onto themselves. Make sure your cooking area is free of items that could catch fire easily, like dish or paper towels. Wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves so you don’t come into contact with stovetop burners.
Grease is the word.
Especially dangerous are grease fires or those originating from frying foods. So keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, make certain to turn them off when you are finished with them. More than half of all cooking fire injuries occur when people tried to fight the fire themselves. In the event, of a stovetop fire, try to cover the burning pot with a lid, turn the stove off, evacuate the house, and call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or your neighbor’s home.
Heat your home safely.
Home heating equipment brings danger during cooler weather as it contributes to one of every five home fire deaths. Ranked second in the cause of home fires, heating equipment like portable and fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, are involved in more fires than central heat. Annually, chimneys and furnaces should be cleaned and inspected. Ensure your fireplace and wood stove ashes are placed outdoors in a covered metal container at least three feet from anything that can ignite.
Check to make sure heaters are approved by a national testing laboratory and have a tip-over shut-off function. Never use extension cords with a space heater. Always have your furniture at least three feet from fireplaces, wall heaters, baseboards, and space heaters.
Electrical fire factors.
Electrical distribution or lighting equipment plays a role in many home fires. From electrical cords that are frayed or cracked, electrical cords running under rugs, overloaded adapters, and outlets all create the perfect conditions for a dangerous electrical fire. So be smart, use circuit-protected, multi-prong adapters for additional outlets. Plug large and small appliances directly into wall outlets. Keep your clothes dryer lint filter and venting system clean, too. Preventing lint buildup greatly minimizes the chance of a laundry room fire.
Safely decorate for the holidays.
Who can resist decorating for all of the festive holidays? Jack-o’-lanterns with flickering candles, holiday trees, holiday lights, decorations…I love them all! But I know in order to keep my family safe, I must take necessary fire prevention precautions.
Let there be light.
When decorating with lights, purchase only those certified by Underwriter Laboratory or their equivalent. Use extension cords sparingly, and make sure they are not damaged or frayed. Be careful not to overload the electrical outlets, and always unplug lights before leaving your home or going to sleep. Use lights labeled for outdoor use only for outside decorating.
Always keep candles, as well as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children and pets. And never leave your children or pets in a room alone with candles. Be sure to keep candles from anything that could ignite such as curtains, and other décor. Before you leave a room or go to bed, be sure to snuff them out.
By using common sense and intentionally taking preventive fire measures, you can keep yourself, loved ones, and home safe. There is no time like the present to make your family and home safer, so do it today!
Come back soon to take a look at part two: Creating your family’s fire escape plan.