HOME FIRE SAFETY

Did you know if a fire starts in your home you may have as little as two minutes to escape? When fire strikes, your early warnings from working smoke alarms and a practiced fire escape plan can save lives. These simple protocols can help keep your family and loved ones safe! Check out how you can be prepared in the face of home fire danger.

TOP FIRE SAFETY TIPS

Follow these 5 simple practices in your home to prepare your family for a fire emergency.

  1. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas.
  2. Test your smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  3. Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year. This is especially important for young children!
  4. If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

SMOKE ALARMS

It is essential to have working smoke alarms throughout your home in case of fire. When maintained, these devices are able to provide you ample warning of fire, helping to save lives and avoid fire injury.

If a fire starts, smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying nearly in half. Smoke alarms sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and flaming fires.

    • In new homes: The National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) requires hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms with battery back-up on every level of the home, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Alarms must be wired together so that if one sounds, they all sound.
    • In existing homes: If smoke alarms are not already in place, at a minimum install them on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area. If a fire occurs inside a bedroom, dangerous gases can cause heavier sleep. For the best protection, install interconnected smoke alarms in each bedroom and throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
    • To prevent nuisance alarms, vacuum cobwebs and dust from your smoke alarms monthly. Never disable a smoke alarm, even if you experience nuisance alarms while cooking or showering. Instead, use the alarm’s “hush” button. If nuisance alarms are a persistent problem, look for a different type of smoke alarm and ensure they are installed in the correct areas in the home.
    • Use the test button to test your smoke alarms at least monthly. The test feature tests all electronic functions and is safer than testing with a controlled fire (matches, lighters, cigarettes).
      • If the manufacturer's instructions permit the use of an aerosol smoke product for testing the smoke alarm, choose one that has been examined and tested by a third-party product testing laboratory, and use it in accordance with the product instructions.
    • If you have battery-powered smoke alarms, replace the batteries at least once a year. Some agencies recommend that you replace batteries when the time changes from standard to daylight savings each spring and then back again in the fall. "Change your clock, change your batteries." Replacing batteries this often will not hurt, but fresh batteries typically last at least a year, so more frequent replacement is not necessary unless the smoke alarm begins to chirp.
      • If your local area does not observe daylight savings time, pick an easy-to-remember anniversary, such as your birthday or a national holiday, as the day to change the batteries each year.
      • Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide (CO) alarms at the same time you replace your smoke alarm batteries.
    • Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. This is the recommendation of the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Smoke alarms become less sensitive over time.
  • Be sure to install smoke alarms in areas where pets are and in other buildings that house animals where humans can hear them.

In addition to properly maintaining your smoke alarms, it is essential for you and your family members to know the meaning of the different beep patterns. Watch this video for a rundown of what the different beeps on your detector mean.

CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2016, local fire departments responded to an estimated 79,600 carbon monoxide incidents, or an average of nine such calls per hour. This does not include the 91,400 carbon monoxide alarm malfunctions and the 68,000 unintentional carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2017, 399 people died of unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning.

Safety tips

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes. Please see these safety tips for more information.

WHAT TO DO IF A FIRE STARTS

In the event of a fire, follow these practices to keep your family safe:

  1. Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
  2. Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT, and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
  3. Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
  4. If closed doors/door handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  5. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
  6. If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  7. Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.

If your clothes catch on fire:

  1.  Stop what you’re doing.
  2. Drop to the ground and cover your face if you can.
  3. Roll over and over or back and forth until the flames go out. Running will only make the fire burn faster.

Once the flames are out, cool the burned skin with water for three to five minutes. Call for medical attention.

RECOVERING AFTER A HOME FIRE

Immediately after a home fire, take these 4 steps:

  1. Call 9-1-1. Give first aid where needed; cool and cover burns to reduce the chance of further injury or infection.
  2. Let friends and family know you’re safe.
  3. People and animals that are seriously injured or burned should be transported to professional medical or veterinary help immediately.
  4. Stay out of fire-damaged homes until local fire authorities say it is safe to re-enter.

Fire is traumatic and many will experience emotional responses. During this time it is important to care for your loved ones. 

  • Pay attention to how you and your loved ones are experiencing and handling stress.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot.
  • Watch pets closely and keep them under your direct control.
  • Help people who require additional assistance – infants and children, older adults, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.

For additional fire safety resources and checklists, visit the American Red Cross Home Fire Safety page HERE.

  • Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself in safe locations.
  • Learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitations) from your local Red Cross Chapter or other community organization.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Learn how to shut off gas, water and electricity in case the lines are damaged. (Safety note: Do not attempt to relight gas pilot. Call the utility company.)
  • Check chimneys, roofs, walls, and foundations for stability. Make sure your house is bolted to its foundation.
  • Secure water heater and appliances that could move enough to rupture utility lines.
  • Keep breakables and heavy objects on bottom shelves.
  • Secure heavy tall furniture that can topple, such as bookcases, china cabinets or wall units.
  • Secure hanging plants and heavy picture frames or mirrors (especially over beds).
  • Put latches on cabinet doors to keep them closed during shaking.
  • Keep flammable or hazardous liquids such as paints, pest sprays or cleaning products in cabinets or secured on lower shelves.
  • Maintain emergency food, water and other supplies, including a flashlight, a portable batter-operated radio, extra batteries, medicines, first aid kit and clothing.
photo of fire extinguisher
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