at-home fire safety

Advice for preparing, planning, and practicing a fire escape plan, plus basic advice for preventing fires in your home

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At-Home Fire Safety
Prepare and practice your fire escape plan, and do all that you can to prevent fires at home
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Plan, Prepare, Practice

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A fire plan (along with smoke detectors) can be the difference between life and death when a fire occurs in your home. Flames and smoke can engulf your home or apartment in a matter of minutes, which is why your family should plan, prepare and practice a fire plan.
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Preparing Your Plan

Before you write your plan, it's important that you thoroughly walk through the entire interior and exterior of your home, making note of all windows, doors, and possible means of exiting your house. When you are ready to work on your plan, keep the following points in mind:
    1. Have two escape routes per room if possible

    2. Make sure everyone knows about the plan, including the kids

    3. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year, and make sure everyone knows it by heart

    4. Keep housekeepers, nannies, or babysitters aware of the plan.

    5. Keep a written version of the plan posted in a place where older children can read it

FEMA has more tips and advice for creating a family escape plan and going over it with your preschool age kids here.

Sparky the Fire Dog also has kid-friendly tips and activities for teaching fire safety to kids.

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Practicing Your Plan

Once you have created your family escape plan, make sure you practice an escape from every room of the house. Keeping the following points in mind:

  • Remove any clutter or obstacles that could block your escape routes.

  • Arrange to have a meeting place outdoors a good distance away from the fire.

  • Assign someone in the family to escort, carry, or supervise any infants or people with limited mobility out of the house.

  • Assign someone in the family to be responsible for the family pet, if possible.

  • If you have security shutters or bars on your windows, make sure there is a quick-release mechanism so that evacuation is not stalled or slowed down.

  • Once everyone is safely evacuated, do not go back into the house to save valuables. It's too dangerous.

  • Make a game with your kids out of crawling on hands and knees to access the escape route. When crawling on your hands and knees teach kids to keep their bodies low enough to the floor to move quickly.
  • Never walk through a smoky room to escape. Smoke rises and can contain poisonous fumes. And don't belly crawl either because poisonous sediment from the smoke can settle on the floor.

  • If escape is impossible, choose a safe room where you can seal yourself in with duct tape or wet towels to block door jams and seams. Open a window and wait near it for help from the fire department.

  • Teach your children how to test a door for heat, being certain to let them know that they should not open a hot door, unless a fireman or rescuer tells them to do so.

  • When fleeing a room, close the door behind you, as it may help to contain the fire in the empty room.
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Kids & Fire

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Unfortunately preschoolers are responsible for a disproportionate number of home fires, often by playing with matches and lighters. Here's what you can do to prevent a tragedy:
  • Keep matches and lighters well out of reach and out of sight. Lock them up if you can.

  • Kids like to copy adults, so don't show them tricks with matches or lighters. Always remind your kids that matches and lighters are for adults only.

  • If you do have a cigarette lighter, make sure that it's child-resistant. Never disable that function for your own convenience.

  • If you think your child has a strong fascination with fire or might be tempted to play with fire, contact your local fire house to see if you can bring her there to talk with a fireman about the dangers of fire. Having an authority figure discuss the dangers may be a positive influence for your kid.
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Candle Safety

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By some estimates, candles account for 5 percent of all home fires. To avoid becoming part of that statistic, remember these tips when burning candles in your home:
  • Always supervise your children when you have candles lit for festive or religious occasions. When not in use, keep candles well out of children's reach.

  • Never leave a lit candle unattended, and always extinguish candles before leaving the house or sleeping

  • Keep lit candles away from open windows and window dressing like curtains and cords from blinds and shades which are highly flammable

  • Use sturdy candle holder with a large base to collect wax drips and which won't tip over easily

  • Keep candles away from flammable materials and liquids as well as pressurized spray cans, which can explode when heated.

  • Avoid using candles during a power outage. Use flashlight, and hand-cranked lamps to illuminate your home until the power returns.
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Cooking Safety

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Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and injuries. Electric ranges and stoves have a higher incidence of fires but gas stoves have a greater rate of fire deaths or injuries.
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Don't walk out of the kitchen while cooking on the stovetop; keep a close watch of what's in the oven.
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Keep the area clear of possible combustibles--oven mitts, rags, food packaging.
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Keep kids and pets about 3 feet away from the stove.
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Don't wear lose, dangling sleeves; they can catch fire on the stovetop.
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Don't use a wet oven mitt; there's a potential scalding hazard.
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If a small pan fire starts, put on an oven mitt and carefully put the lid over the pan. Turn off the jets.
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Do not pour water on a grease fire and don't extinguish pan fires with a fire extinguisher, as it might spread the fire by shooting the grease throughout the kitchen.
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For an oven fire, close the door and turn off the heat.
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For a microwave fire, keep the door closed and disconnect the plug.
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If any fires become uncontrollable, implement your family evacuation plan and call the fire department immediately.
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Electrical Safety

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Electrical fires are responsible for 1 in 12 home fires. Most electrical fires are a result of outlets that are faulty and have old wiring. Here's what you can do to prevent these preventable fires:
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Check, repair, or replace worn or frayed electrical wires.
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Don't run extension cords under carpets or rugs.
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If you have small children, always place safety covers over electrical outlets.
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Read and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for electric appliance use.
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Replace outlets that are hot to the touch or cause lights to flicker.
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Place lamps and other light sources away from combustible or flammable materials.
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Don't overload outlets; if you have a high-wattage appliance, consider plugging it in to its own outlet.
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Heating Devices

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Heating devices are the leading cause of home fires in December, January, and February. Here's how you can minimize the dangers to your family:
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Buy a quality, certified space heater with an Underwriter's Laboratory safety listing and have it installed by a qualified technician. Make sure that the unit will automatically shut off if it is knocked over.
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Keep the space heater about 3 feet away from walls or anything else that can burn.
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Turn off space or portable heaters whenever you leave the house.
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In rooms heated with gas-fueled devices, adequate ventilation is crucial for safety; check manufacturer's recommendations.
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Have your wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys professionally inspected each year. If you have a wood burning stove, only use properly seasoned wood. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a moisture content of 20-25 percent for wood stoves. Never use green wood, as it is full of harmful creosote.
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Ensure that your fireplace has a sturdy screen that prevents sparks or hot ashes from flying around the room.
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Always supervise your children around hot stoves, fireplaces, and heating devices.
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Do not allow kids to play or go near any home heating device. Create a safe zone around these devices into which they may not pass.
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Smoking-Related Safety

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Tragically, indoor smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, other) is the leading cause of fire death in the country. Approximately 25 percent of all fire deaths are caused by careless smoking.
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If you must smoke at home, the most common materials associated with smoking-related deaths are mattresses, bedding, and upholstery.
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To keep it safe and healthy for your family, smoke outdoors.
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If you are drowsy, on heavy medication, or intoxicated never smoke in bed or on upholstered furniture.
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Don't put ashtrays on couches, sofas, or any other upholstered piece of furniture. When you flick your ashes, make sure they go into your ashtray and not onto your furniture or carpeting.
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Run your extinguished butts and ashes under water before throwing them in the trash.
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Remember to keep your lighters and matches well out of the reach of your young ones. Little ones are very curious and will grab your lighter or matches while you're not looking.
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For more information on fire safety, see the Web site of the U.S. Fire Administration. Include your kids through games and puzzles at FEMA Kids.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has comprehensive home fire-safety checklists and information for families.
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Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. NickJr.com does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see Nickjr.com's Terms of Use.
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