10 Fire Safety Tips
According to the American Red Cross, the first two minutes of any home fire are the most important for your personal safety.
These first two minutes represent your best chance to escape before the fire turns deadly. It really can happen that fast - and it does to families across the world every year.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) paints an even scarier picture. Last year alone there were nearly 1.3 million fires.
Every 93 seconds, somebody's home catches on fire. Every 65 seconds, another structure of some type starts to burn.
You really don't want your home or workplace to be next. These 10 fire safety tips are designed to reduce your risk and help you put emergency plans in place if a home or workplace fire happens to you.
1. Make sure you have working smoke detectors with fresh batteries
Just as fire control technology advances every year as new effective methods are developed, smoke detectors also get better with time.
You want to make sure you have a top notch working smoke detector installed.
But even the best, top-of-the-line smoke detector is only as good as its power source. Whether the smoke detector you install runs on batteries or is wired into your home's power, you want to be sure your smoke detector is getting power.
The latest information published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Fire Research (NIST-CFR) indicates that there are two main types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric.
Each type of smoke detector uses a different method to detect smoke. According to the NIST-CFR, one type is not "better" than the other. However, the two types respond differently to different types and stages of fires.
Photoelectric smoke detectors may respond faster to smoldering fires than flaming fires. Ionization smoke detectors may respond faster to flaming fires than smoldering fires.
For this reason, the NIST-CFR recommends choosing a dual smoke detector which uses both photoelectric and ionization smoke detection systems. Alternately, install both types of smoke detectors for maximum protection.
2. Install the right number of smoke detectors for your space
Unless you live in a tiny efficiency apartment, one smoke detector is not going to be sufficient for most spaces.
However, the right number of smoke detectors can be different depending on whether you are living in new construction or an older home.
New construction smoke detector requirements
When a new home is built, the fire alarm requirements are as follows:
Existing home smoke detector requirements
For an existing home, the fire alarm requirements are as follows:
According to the National Fire Alarm Code,
3. Schedule monthly smoke detector alarm tests
While it can be very reassuring to know that you have the proper smoke detector technology installed, that you have the right number of detectors installed and that each detector has a fresh power source, the only way to know for sure that your detectors are working is to test them.
You should schedule these tests in advance on your calendar so they don't get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list.
Whether you have a simple battery-powered smoke detector or a sophisticated "smart home" detector, you still need to do these monthly tests to be sure your smoke detection system is fully operational.
In most cases, all you need to do to test your smoke detectors is to press the alarm test button on the outside of the unit.
4. Put a family emergency fire evacuation plan in place and PRACTICE it
Most people are familiar with the printed evacuation signs near major exits in workplaces and commercial spaces. And most workers have participated in at least a once-annual fire alarm evacuation test at work.
But far fewer families have these same signs posted in visible locations at home. And relatively few families actually take the time to practice their evacuation plan regularly, if at all.
It is vital not to assume you will remain calm and cool if a fire starts in your home. This is especially the case if you have pets, kids or elders in your care.
You need to teach your children what a fire alarm sounds like and what to do if they hear the sound. You and your family must identify two effective exits in your home and how to get to them quickly (you need at least two in case the fire prevents use of one of them).
5. Teach your kids what to do if their clothing catches on fire
This fire safety tip is so simple it is easily overlooked - sometimes with fatal consequences.
STOP, DROP and ROLL is the most effective way to extinguish clothing fires. Everyone in your household should practice how to do this regularly.
6. Know the danger zones and take extra precautions
According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), these are the top four causes of home fires each year:
7. Put prevention plans in place (an evacuation plan is not enough)
The statistics you just read give you a heads-up about the most dangerous places and practices that can lead to home fires.
This means you need to implement extra preventative precautions in the kitchen, around outdoor grills, near space heaters or any heat-emitting appliance (including your HVAC) and take special care with candles and smoking.
8. Install home sprinklers INSIDE as well as outside your home
Remember those first two critical minutes in every home fire? This is where home sprinklers can literally save a life as well as salvage a dwelling - often faster than a fire department could even get to your home.
9. Keep any flammable materials away from kids
Matches, cigarette lighters, torches and fire starter materials (such as supplies for grilling or camping) should all be kept completely out of reach of kids.
10. Be extra cautious if you are inebriated or exhausted
It is fine to enjoy a beverage after a long day, but if you are tired, you are already going to have lower defenses against careless actions that might lead to a home fire.
This is especially true when it comes to activities like starting a fire in the fireplace, cooking or smoking.
By knowing the major risk factors and preventative actions, you can avoid ever having to endure the sight of your home going up in flames.