Fire in a home is a tragedy. A greater tragedy is that most home fires can be prevented. Learn the facts about fires and share them with your family.
Fire can become life-threatening in two short minutes and an entire house can be engulfed in flames in just five minutes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you see fire, don’t take time to make a call from your house or gather possessions. Just leave.
Flames are dangerous, but heat and smoke can be worse. Fire produces extreme heat and toxic gases that can quickly make you disoriented and drowsy, and your lungs can become seared by dangerously hot air, FEMA reports. For these reasons, many people who are sleeping during a fire fall into a deeper sleep. Slow the spread of fire and smoke by shutting bedroom doors at nighttime.
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors each time you change your clocks. According to FEMA, asphyxiation deaths in a fire outnumber deaths from burns three to one.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that 44 percent of fires that start in a home are related to cooking. If you have something frying on the stove or cooking under a broiler, stay in the kitchen. Leaving for a short minute could be enough to start a fire. Keep children away from stoves, and make sure your own clothing and sleeves don’t accidentally pass over flames on the stove.
Never use the stove or oven to heat your home, as the buildup of carbon monoxide can be poisonous or deadly. Other causes of home fires include barbeque grills placed too close to siding, deck railings and tree branches.
Nighttime fires are often caused by cigarettes not fully extinguished (they can smolder for hours before creating a flame), stray sparks from fireplaces that don’t have the screens or glass doors closed for protection, and heating appliances kept too close to furniture, curtains or other combustible materials.
Take simple steps to check that cigarettes are out, toys and clothes near heating elements are picked up, and that there is proper ventilation in rooms using fireplaces, wood stoves or kerosene heaters.
Never smoke in a home with an oxygen tank. Even if the tank is off, oxygen can explode and create a hotter fire that burns faster than usual.
Don’t leave burning candles unattended. If you have children, keep matches and lighters out of their reach. Tell children to tell an adult if they find matches or lighters – they should not handle them themselves.
Develop a fire escape plan with your family, choosing a safe meeting place, like a trusted neighbor’s porch, and practice your plan.
Most fires can be prevented, and you can be the key to starting a discussion about fire safety that protects your family for years to come.
Sources: PIAA, FEMA