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To Keep Home Fires From Burning

November 09, 1996|From Associated Press

According to the National Fire Protection Assn., nearly 5,000 people in North America die in fires each year in the place they feel safest--their home.

There are four steps to fire safety: reducing fire hazards, installing smoke detectors, devising an escape plan and learning how to escape a fire.

Preventing Hazards

* Smokers must use extreme caution. Extinguish smoking materials in large, heavy ashtrays. Never smoke in bed.

* Have a professional clean and inspect your furnace once a year, before the heating season. Keep combustible materials away from the furnace and water heater. Turn off portable space heaters when leaving a room or at night. Keep all heating appliances at least three feet from anything that can burn.

* Never overload an electrical outlet. Check plugs for damage. Replace frayed or cracked cords. Never run cords across traffic areas or under rugs.

* Check that all exits are clear and that doors and windows open easily.

* Don't leave food unattended on the stove or in the oven.

* Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach.

* Store combustible liquids in labeled and approved metal containers away from heat or flames. Keep only enough gasoline on hand to power your lawn mower or other equipment for a few hours.

Smoke Detectors

There should be at least one smoke detector on each level of your house and one outside each sleeping area. Follow manufacturers' directions for placement and maintenance. Test detectors monthly and replace batteries at least yearly. Never disconnect a smoke detector. If cooking vapors set off the alarm, move the detector.

Plan Your Escape

Draw a plan of your home. Plot two escape routes from each room--a primary route using the door and secondary one using a window. Go over the plan with your family.

* Assign someone to help young children, the elderly or the disabled.

* Choose another person to notify the fire department immediately from a nearby fire alarm box or from a neighbor's house. Don't use your phone if it may delay escaping.

* Designate a place to meet outside for a head count.

* Hold surprise fire drills.

* Make sure that everyone can unlock each window, remove the screen or storm window and get to the ground safely.

* Buy chain ladders that you can drop out of a window. Store them next to upstairs windows and practice using them.

* Know the location of the nearest fire alarm box.

* Hang fire extinguishers bearing the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label at key spots in your home. Teach your family when and how to use them.


If a fire occurs, stay calm. Regardless of the fire's size, first get everyone out of the house immediately. Don't get dressed or gather valuables.

* If you're in a room when a fire occurs, feel the door before opening it. If the door's hot, or there's smoke coming in underneath, don't open it. Otherwise, proceed quickly and cautiously, staying low if there's smoke.

* Go outside to the designated meeting spot. Count heads. Don't go back in the house.

* Note the location of fire exits any time you're in a public building, no matter how brief the visit. Don't use an elevator if a fire breaks out. Heat or power failure can make it stall or go to the floor that's burning.

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