Fire Prevention In the Home
- Children & Grandchildren
- Clothes Dryer
- Electrical Hazards
- Fire Extinguishers
- Fire Safety
- Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults
- Furnace/Space Heaters
- Gasoline & Other Flammable Liquids
- Safety Tips for Grilling
- Smoke Detectors
- Thinking Ahead: Your Exit Plan
One-fourth of all fire-deaths of children are from fires started by children.
- Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
- Never leave children unattended with fire or space heaters.
- Children are naturally curious about fire, so keep an eye on them. But if a child repeatedly plays with fire or seems to have a morbid fascination with fire, seek professional help at once.
- If youngsters live with you or stay overnight occasionally, be sure that they know how to escape from every room and are part of your emergency exit plan.
Under some circumstances, dangerous heat can build up in a dryer.
- Never leave home with the clothes dryer running.
- Dryers must be vented to the outside, not into a wall or attic.
- Clean the lint screen frequently to keep the airway clear.
- Never put in synthetic fabrics, plastic, rubber, or foam because they retain heat.
Electricity, the silent servant, can become a silent assassin.
- It is better not to use extension cords. If you feel you must use one, make sure that it is not frayed or worn. Do not run it under a rug or twist it around a nail or hook.
- Never overload a socket. In particular, the use of "octopus" outlets, outlet extensions that accommodate several plugs, is strongly discouraged.
- Do not use light bulb wattage which is too high for the fixture. Look for the label inside each fixture which tells the maximum wattage.
- Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, loose wires, or loose lighting fixtures. Sparking means that you've waited too long.
- Allow air space around the TV to prevent overheating. The same applies to plug-in radios and stereo sets, and to powerful lamps.
- If a circuit breaker trips or a fuse blows frequently, immediately cut down on the number of appliances on that line.
- Be sure all electrical equipment bears the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
- In many older homes, the capacity of the wiring system has not kept pace with today's modern appliances. Overloaded electrical systems invite fire. Watch for these overload signals: dimming lights when an appliance goes on, a shrinking TV picture, slow heating appliances, or fuses blowing frequently. Call a qualified electrician to get expert help.
Remember, you're deliberately bringing fire into your home; respect it.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying.
- Don't store newspapers, kindling, or matches near the fireplace or have an exposed rug or wooden floor right in front of the fireplace.
- Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned to remove combustible creosote build-up if necessary.
- Install a chimney spark arrester to prevent roof fires.
- When lighting a gas fireplace, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.
They remain your best bet if you're on the spot when a fire begins.
- Fire extinguishers should be mounted in the kitchen, garage, and workshop.
- Purchase an ABC type extinguisher for extinguishing all types of fires.
- Learn how to use your fire extinguisher before there is an emergency.
- Remember, use an extinguisher on small fires only. If there is a large fire, get out immediately and call 911 from another location.
Basic types of fire extinguishers
- Class A fires are ordinary materials like burning paper, lumber, cardboard, plastics, etc.
- Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, and common organic solvents.
- Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment, such as appliances, switches, panel boxes, power tools, hot plates and stirrers. Water is a particularly dangerous extinguishing medium for class C fires because of the risk of electrical shock.
- Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium as well as pyrophoric organometallic reagents such as alkyllithiums, Grignards and diethylzinc. These materials burn at high temperatures and will react violently with water, air, and/or other chemicals.
- Some fires may be a combination of these! Your fire extinguishers should have ABC ratings on them. These ratings will often have numbers on them that look something like "3-A:40-B:C". Higher numbers mean more firefighting power.
Water Extinguishers are suitable for class A fires, but not for class B, C, and D such as burning liquids, electrical fires or reactive metal fires. In these cases, the flames will be spread or the hazard made greater.
Dry Chemical Extinguishers are useful for class ABC fires and are your best all around choice. They have an advantage over CO2 extinguishers in that they leave a blanket of nonflammable material on the extinguished material which reduces the likelihood of re-ignition. They also make a terrible mess, but if the choice is a fire or a mess, take the mess! There are two kinds of dry chemical extinguishers:
- Type BC fire extinguishers contain sodium or potassium bicarbonate.
- Type ABC fire extinguishers contain ammonium phosphate.
CO2 (carbon dioxide) extinguishers are for class B and C fires. They don't work very well on class A fires because the material usually reignites. CO2 extinguishers have an advantage over dry chemical in that they leave behind no harmful residue - a good choice for an electrical fire on a computer or other delicate instrument. CO2 extinguishers are not approved for class D fires!
Metal/Sand Extinguishers are for flammable metals (class D fires) and work by simply smothering the fire. You should have an approved class D unit if you are working with flammable metals.
Using Fire Extinguishers
You are not required to fight a fire. Ever. If you have the slightest doubt about your control of the situation DO NOT FIGHT THE FIRE.
1. Use a mental checklist to make a Fight-or-Flight Decision. Attempt to use an extinguisher only if ALL of the following apply:\
- The building is being evacuated (fire alarm is pulled)
- The fire department is being called (dial 911).
- The fire is small, contained and not spreading beyond its starting point.
- The exit is clear, there is no imminent peril and you can fight the fire with your back to the exit.
- You can stay low and avoid smoke.
- The proper extinguisher is immediately at hand.
- You have read the instructions and know how to use the extinguisher.
If any of these conditions have not been met, don't fight the fire yourself. Call for help, pull the fire alarm and leave the area.
Whenever possible, use the "Buddy System" to have someone back you up when using a fire extinguisher. If you have any doubt about your personal safety, or if you can not extinguish a fire, leave immediately and close off the area (close the doors, but DO NOT lock them). Leave the building but contact a firefighter to relay whatever information you have about the fire.
- Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher.
- Stand several feet from the fire, depress the handle and sweep back and forth towards the fire. Note:
- Do not walk on an area that you have "extinguished" in case the fire reignites or the extinguisher runs out! Remember: you usually can't expect more than 10 full seconds of extinguishing power on a typical unit and this could be significantly less if the extinguisher was not properly maintained or partially discharged.
- The metal parts of CO2 extinguishers tend to get dangerously cold - practice using one beforehand or have someone show you the proper way to hold one.
- Again, proper training is usually required by state or federal OSHA!
- Direct the extinguisher at the base of the flames until the fire is completely out.
- Recharge any discharged extinguisher immediately after use. If you discharge an extinguisher (even just a tiny bit) or pull the pin for any reason, call your corporate Fire Marshal's office to arrange a replacement.
In 1999, according to the National Fire Protection Association, 3,570 Americans were killed and another 21,875 were injured as a result of fire. Direct property loss due to fires was estimated at $10 billion. Fire killed more Americans than all natural disasters combined. 82% of all fire deaths occurred in residences.
Protect yourself, prevention is the best way to keep your home safe from fire.
Be Kitchen Wise
Never leave cooking unattended. Wear clothes with tight fitting sleeve when you cook. Always set a kitchen timer to remind you to turn off the burners and oven. Keep stove surfaces free of clutter & built-up of grease.
Be Smoker Wary
Use large, deep, not tipping ashtrays. Empty ashtrays often, wetting the contents before dumping into the trash. Never smoke in bed of while drinking alcohol or while you are on medication that could make you drowsy or disorientated.
Give Space Heaters Space
Keep electric portable space heaters at least 3-feet from everything-including you! Just brushing against one could set your clothing on fire.
Install Smoke Detectors
Be sure to have smoke detectors outside all sleeping areas and on every level of your home, including the basement. Test your detector monthly, and change your batteries once a year. If you sleep in a room with the doors closed, install a smoke detector inside the room as well. If you are hearing impaired, use a tested and approved smoke detector that triggers a strobe light.
Used improperly, a space heater can be the most dangerous appliance in your house.
- Install and maintain heating equipment correctly. Have your furnace inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season.
- Don't store newspapers, rags, or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater, space heater, etc.
- Don't leave space heaters operating when you're not in the room.
- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that might burn, including the wall.
- Don't use extension cords with electrical space heaters. The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.
- When lighting a gas space heater, strike your match first, then turn on the gas.
- Never use a gas range as a substitute for a furnace or space heater.
Those cans aren't painted red just for the fun of it!
- Flammable liquids should be stored only in approved safety containers, and the containers should be kept outside the house and garage in a separate storage shed.
- Gas up lawn equipment and snowthrowers outside, away from enclosed areas and any source of sparks or heat.
- Start the equipment 10 feet from where you filled it with fuel.
- Don't fill a hot lawn mower, snowthrower, or other motor; let it cool first.
- Never clean floors or do other general cleaning with gasoline or flammable liquids.
Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. Never leave cooking unattended.
- It's wise to have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen. Keep it 10 feet away from the stove on the exit side of the kitchen.
- Never pour water on a grease fire; turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid, or close the oven door.
- Keep pot handles on the stove pointing to the back, and always watch young children in the kitchen.
- Don't store items on the stove top, as they could catch fire.
- Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off and disconnect them when not in use.
- Don't overload kitchen electrical outlets and don't use appliances with frayed or cracked wires.
- Wear tight-fitting clothing when you cook. Here's why: An electrical coil on the stove reaches a temperature of 800 degrees. A gas flame goes over 1,000 degrees. Your dish towel or pot holder can catch fire at 400 degrees. So can your bathrobe, apron, or loose sleeve.
- Be sure your stove is not located under a window in which curtains are hanging.
- Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly. and wipe up spilled grease as soon as the surface of the stove is cool.
- Operate your microwave only when there is food in it.
Sec. 10.23. Fires or Barbecues on Balconies or Patios.
Subd. 1. Unlawful Acts.
A. In any structure containing three or more dwelling units, it is unlawful for any person to kindle, maintain or cause any fire or open flame on any balcony above ground level, or on any ground floor patio within fifteen (15) feet of any structure.
B. It is unlawful for any person to store or use any fuel, barbecue, torch or other similar heating or lighting chemicals or devices in the locations designated in Subparagraph A.
Subd. 2. Exceptions.
A. Electric grills or gas fired barbecue grills which are permanently mounted, wired or plumbed to the building’s gas supply or electrical system and maintained in the minimum clearance of eighteen (18) inches on all sides and may be installed on balconies and patios when approved by the Fire Chief.
B. Completely non-combustible construction as addressed in the UBC.
Source: Ordinance No. 41, Series III Effective Date: 2-7-92
If you actually believe that you're immune from cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other ills, at least worry about burning to death.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Don't smoke when you are drinking or are abnormally tired.
- Use large, deep ashtrays, and empty them frequently.
- Never dump an ashtray into the trash without wetting the butts and ashes first.
Smoke is responsible for three out of four deaths.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside of sleeping areas.
- Test every detector at least once a month. [See your instruction book for the location of the test button.]
- Keep smoke detectors dust free. Replace batteries with new ones at least once a year, or sooner if the detector makes a chirping sound.
- If you have a smoke detector directly wired into your electrical system, be sure that the little signal light is blinking periodically. This tells you that the alarm is active.
- Inexpensive smoke detectors are available for the hearing impaired.
As with other things, the best motto is, "Be Prepared."
- Prepare a floor plan of your home showing at least two ways out of each room.
- Sleep with your bedroom door closed. In the event of fire, it helps to hold back heat and smoke. But if a door feels hot, do not open it; escape through another door or window.
- Easy-to-use window escape ladders are available through many catalogues and outlet stores. For instance, First Alert sells one for around $90.
- Agree on a fixed location out-of-doors where family members are to gather for a head count. Stay together away from the fire. Call 911 from another location. Make certain that no one goes back inside the burning building.
- Check corridors and stairways to make sure they are free of obstructions and combustibles.
- To help cut down on the need for an emergency exit in the first place, clear all unnecessary items from the attic, basement, garage, and closets.