Fire Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

Did you know home fires are the biggest public safety threat facing U.S. and Canadian families today, with one home fire reported every 86 seconds?

As professional firefighters, it is our duty to help change that stat by educating our community on fire prevention, so we’ve created one place for you to come for vital fire safety information that just may help save lives.

Please read the helpful tips below and check back often for more!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FIRE

Before we can tell you how to prevent and protect yourself from fire, we need to tell you about fire itself.

Fire is FAST. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.

Fire is HOT. Heat is more threatening than flames. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.

Fire is DARK. Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.

Fire is DEADLY. Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a 3-to-1 ratio.

HOW TO MAKE A HOME FIRE ESCAPE PLAN

Every second counts when it comes to fire. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • A secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • Make sure windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly and security bars can be properly opened.
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters.
  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice each year.

HOW FIRE ALARMS SAVE LIVES

A smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire…if it works. Check out our tips for ensuring your smoke alarm does the job when it matters most.

  • Install both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
  • Test batteries monthly and replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year (except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 8-10 years or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking – it can be a deadly mistake.

TIPS FOR OLDER ADULTS AND PEOPLE WITH ACCESS OR FUNCTIONAL NEEDS

If you or someone you love is an older adult or has functional needs, you’ll want to read these tips for fire safety, prevention, and action.

  • Live near an exit. You’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the ground floor and near an exit.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you get through the doorways.
  • Make any necessary accommodations, such as providing exit ramps and widening doorways, to facilitate an emergency escape.
  • Speak to your family members, building manager or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
  • Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency line and explain your special needs. Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.

Use these tips for finding the right smoke alarm:

  • Audible alarms for visually impaired people should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that they can listen to the instructions or voices of others.
  • Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired. Contact your local fire department for information about obtaining a flashing or vibrating smoke alarm.
  • Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home to catch the attention of neighbors and emergency call systems for summoning help are also available.
  • Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.

WHAT TO DO DURING A FIRE

You’ve made your escape plan, but if the unthinkable were to happen, would you know what to do DURING the fire, or if something doesn’t go as planned? Here are some tips to help get you and your loved ones out of a fire safely:

  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit. Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot or if there’s smoke coming around the door, leave it closed and use your second way out.
  • If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if you see heavy smoke or fire.
  • If you can’t get to someone needing assistance, leave the home and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is. If pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters right away.
  • If you can’t get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep out smoke. Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
  • If your clothes catch fire, you know the drill: STOP, DROP & ROLL! Stop immediately, drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out. If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for three to five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.

WHAT TO DO AFTER A FIRE

You’ve just experienced a fire. You’re shaken, but alive. Now what? Use the checklist below as a quick guide to follow after a fire strikes:

  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food, and medicines.
  • If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting your property, conducting inventory, and contacting fire damage restoration companies.
  • If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for help.
  • Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Watch out for any structural damage caused by the fire.
  • The fire department should make sure that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
  • Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on your income tax.
  • Notify your mortgage company of the fire.

HOW TO PREVENT HOME FIRES

What’s for dinner tonight? As we mentioned earlier, cooking is one of the main culprits of house fires. Read our tips for serving up safety at home, in and out of the kitchen:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time turn off the stove.
  • Wear short, close-fitting, or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of three feet around the stove.
  • Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Never use a stove range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
  • Portable generators should NEVER be used indoors and should only be refueled outdoors or in well ventilated areas.
  • Make digital copies of valuable documents and records like birth certificates.
  • Sleep with your door closed.
  • Contact your local fire department for information on training on the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
  • Consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your residence.

CANDLE SAFETY

Candles are a great way to quickly cozy up a room, and even make it smell good. But while candles are beautiful, they may also be deadly. Keep your home and family safe with these tips:

  • Place candles in a sturdy holder that won’t tip over
  • Keep candles away from anything combustible
  • Never leave a candle burning unattended
  • Consider flameless candles

HOW TO HAVE A SAFE HOLIDAY

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. Keep it that way by following these fire prevention safety tips when it comes to decking your halls:

  • Use non-flammable decorations
  • Check holiday lights for excessive wear
  • Don’t link more than 3 strands of holiday lights
  • Keep Christmas trees away from heat sources and exits
  • Water real Christmas trees daily

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PETS SAFE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Pets are family too, and we want to help you keep them healthy and safe during the holidays! You may want to treat them a little extra, but many of our favorite foods and spices aren’t good for our furry friends. Check out what to keep your pets away from while cooking, baking, and decorating. Some of it may surprise you!

  • Bread in yeast form
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Onions
  • Nutmeg
  • Xylitol/sugar-free items
  • Eggnog 🐱 Turkey bones
  • Plants, like mistletoe
  • Tinsel
  • Lights and candles
  • Christmas tree water

HOW TO NIP CIGARETTE FIRES IN THE BUTT

Nearly 1,000 smokers and nonsmokers are killed every year in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials, making smoking the NUMBER ONE cause of home fire deaths in the United States.It’s also 100% preventable.Most fires caused by smoking materials start on beds or furniture, or in the trash. If you do smoke, please help prevent unnecessary death or injury by following these simple safety tips:

  • Tobacco and everyday products are shown side by side i.e. vape pen and real pen, usb port and vape pen, vape juice box, kid’s juice box, and the viewer is asked if they can spot the difference.

  • Smoke outside and completely stub out butts in an ashtray or sand-filled can.

  • Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.

  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off.

  • Don’t smoke in bed. If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.

EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE A MULTI-PURPOSE FIRE EXTINGUISHER

Fire extinguishers can help save lives in a home fire, but proper use is vital. Please follow these tips before purchasing or using your home extinguisher:

  • Only use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called, and the room is not filled with smoke. 
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory. 
  • Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments may even offer fire extinguisher training. 
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled.
  • If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.