Each and every year, we lose nearly 2,500 people as a result of fire deaths. During the same time period, another 12,600 are injured after involvement in a fire. In the United States alone, the annual cost of fire damage exceeds $7 billion dollars.
What might be the saddest part about these statistics is that most of it can be prevented. To fully protect yourself, you need to have a basic understanding of the characteristics of fire. All fires have the potential to spread VERY quickly.
In fact, it can take less than 2 minutes for a small fire to become life threatening. In many cases, it can take as little as 5 minutes for an entire home to become overtaken by flames. What most people don’t realize is that the smoke from a fire can be even more dangerous than the actual flame.
The flames produce superheated air, which can sear the insides of your lungs. When a fire is burning, it also produces poisonous gases, which are just as dangerous.
Note: The #1 killer when it comes to fires is asphyxiation, which means you don’t get enough air to survive. About 3x more fire deaths are caused by asphyxiation than burns.
Understanding the Characteristics of Fire
If you’re going to have a fighting chance at protecting yourself and your family, you absolutely need to understand the characteristics of fire. You need to know that fire is fast, hot, dark and deadly.
All it takes is about 30 seconds for a tiny flame to grow completely out of control. Within minutes, thick, black smoke can fill an entire home. The majority of fires that end up being deadly occur inside of the home while the occupants are asleep.
TIP: One of the major mistakes that can cost you your life occurs when you wake up to a wire. After awaking to a fire in their home, many people try to grab their valuables and belongings. The smoke spreads so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to grab ANYTHING before getting out of the home. Avoiding this behavior could save your life!
Fire is REALLY hot. The heat produced by a fire can be even more dangerous than the actual flames. When there is a fire inside a room, the temperature at ground level, such as the space under your bed, can be 100 degrees. At eye level, temperatures can exceed 600 degrees. In case you didn’t know, this temperature can actually melt clothing to your skin. Within just 5 minutes, the temperature inside of a room can rise do dramatically that EVERYTHING in the rooms ignites all at once. This is actually what fire experts refer to as a ‘flashover’.
Fire is DARK. When the average person thinks about a fire, he or she probably envisions a bright light source. The reality is that fire is really pitch black. While it starts out somewhat bright, it quickly produces massive amounts of black smoke, which blocks out light and causes total darkness. Oftentimes, people wake up during a fire, and their home is filled with so much black smoke that they cannot find their way out, which leads to death.
Fire is DEADLY. Statistics show that toxic gases and smoke actually kill more people than the flames. Another issue is that fire depletes the oxygen that you need to breathe. Inhaling even a small amount of toxic gas and smoke can make you feel short of breath, disoriented and drowsy. The colorless, odorless fumes can send you into a deadly deep sleep before the flames ever come close to you.
The List of Fire Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life
1.- Most smoke alarms will expire after 10 years of use. If your smoke alarms are getting close to this time frame, make sure to replace them.
2.- Purchase and install modern smoke alarms that come with a 10-year battery.
3.- Daylight Savings Time can help you remember when to check your smoke alarms. You should replace any conventional batteries once per year, even if your alarms are wired directly into your home’s electrical system.
4.- For optimal protection, install smoke alarms on each level of your home. Install one in every bedroom and in sleeping areas.
5.- You can cut your risk of dying from a fire in half just by making sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. Non-functional smoke alarms are completely worthless.
6.- If you have kids, talk with them about fire safety and make sure to designate an outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance away from the home.
7.- Create an escape plan and practice it often. The plan should include at least two different ways out of every room in the home.
8.- Make sure to practice feeling the cracks around doors, doorknobs and doors themselves using the back of your hand. By practicing this with your kids, it will build muscle memory, so if a fire occurs, they can easily check their bedroom door to see if it’s too hot to open.
9.- Create a fire plan that designates a specific person to get small children and infants out of the home. It’s also a good idea to create a backup plan for small children that can be used in the event the primary adult is overtaken by smoke.
10.- The smoke from fire is incredibly toxic. Teach your children to get low and get out. This is important because smoke flows upwards, so if children get low to the ground, it could save their lives.
11.- It’s usually best to wait until everyone is out of the home to call 911.
12.- If you’re ever involved in a fire, immediately leave your home, and once you get out of the house, make sure you stay out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is safe to go back in for valuables.
13.- If you happen to live in a building, make sure to know your building’s fire escape exits. In a building, always use the stairs to get out of the building and away from the fire.
14.- In the event of a building fire, make sure to pull the fire alarm on your way out. However, avoid going too far out of your way to find and pull an alarm.
15.- When trapped inside a structure with a fire for any length of time, attempt to block the areas where smoke can come into your room.
16.- Use a flashlight or light colored cloth in a window to signal for help.
17.- Always store gasoline-powered devices in locked areas where they’re inaccessible by children. Also, make sure gasoline is stored in child-safe containers.
18.- Make sure you always turn space heaters off when you exit a room.
19.- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any material that can catch fire.
20.- A great way to prevent a fire is to avoid overloading electrical sockets. For example, never connect multiple electrical power strips to each other.
21.- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen at all times.
22.- Learn how a fire extinguisher works. Although it might be hard to believe, A LOT of people have no idea how to arm and use an extinguisher.
23.- Always keep anything combustible away from your stovetop, which would include wooden spoons and dishtowels.
24.- Whenever you’re cooking, make sure to limit distractions. Avoid leaving a hot stovetop unattended. In fact, this is one of the leading causes of kitchen fires.
25.- If your home is frequented by small children, you should consider installing a safety fate around wood stoves and fireplaces.
26.- When using a wood stove or fireplace, only burn seasoned hardwood in it, such as maple, ash or oak.
27.- Use a sturdy screen to protect your fireplace. Also keep in mind that glass screens can take quite a while to cool down.
28.- Make sure kids never play with lighters or matches. Avoid storing these items anywhere near children and teach your kids that it’s very dangerous to play with them.
29.- Always store lighters, gasoline and matches in a safe location. They should always be out of your children’s reach. While there is no doubt they’re neat, novelty lighters can be especially dangerous when left around children.
30.- Candles should be kept at least 12 inches away from all combustible materials. Never leave candles unattended for more than a few seconds.
31.- For optimal protection, it’s a good idea to install both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms, or you always have the option of installing dual-sensor alarms, which contain both of these sensors.
32.- Test smoke alarm batteries every month.
33.- When installing smoke alarms, make sure to always follow the manufacturer recommended instructions.
34.- Replace entire smoke alarms at least once every 8 to 10 years.
35.- While it can be obnoxious to have smoke alarms activate while cooking, make sure to never disable them. The best way to handle such a false alarm is to open windows and use a pillow to fan smoke away from the alarm.
36.- Make sure any collapsible ladders you purchase are recognized by the Underwriters Laboratory.
37.- Regularly check to make sure windows are not stuck. Also check to see if screens can be removed easily. If your home has security bars, make sure they can be opened quickly in the event of a fire.
38.- Teach the entire family how to open security bars and doors if you have these devices installed.
39.- Teach your children that they shouldn’t hide from firefighters because they’re trying to save their lives.
40.- Caregivers should always check the smoke alarms of clients who cannot do it themselves.
41.- There are special smoke alarms for the visually or audibly impaired. You can purchase these in the form of vibrating or flashing alarms.
42.- Consider installing a strobe smoke alarm on the outside of your home, which would alert neighbors in the event of a fire in your home. This could dramatically cut the response time of firefighters.
43.- Always sleep with your door closed because it can block the bulk of smoke from a house fire.
44.- Make sure whoever uses the fire extinguisher in your home is actually trained to use it.
45.- For optimal protection, an automatic fire sprinkler should be installed in your home.
46.- To make sure your home is extra safe, contact a local fire department and ask them to come and inspect your home. They can catch things that you might’ve missed.
47.- During a fire, get low and crawl to an exit if there is a lot of smoke. The poisonous gases and heavy smoke will always rise to the ceiling first.
48.- The moment you hear a smoke alarm, get out as quickly as possible. Depending on the situation, you might only have seconds to get away.
49.- Always make sure you have two ways to get out of every room.
50.- Smoke from fire is incredibly toxic, so if there is a lot of smoke between you and the exit, get as low as possible.
51.- Before attempting to open a door, always check the doorknob and make sure it’s not too hot to touch. You can do this by placing the back of your hand close to the doorknob without touching it. Use the back of your hand because it’s more sensitive than the front.
52.- If you must open a door, make sure to open it slowly, so you can shut it quickly if there is a huge amount of smoke on the other side.
53.- Let firefighters attempt to rescue pets. Although we love our pets dearly, they’re not worth our lives.
54.- If your clothes catch on fire, you need to stop, drop and roll. Continue to roll until your clothes are no longer on fire. If it’s not possible to stop, drop and roll, you can use a blanket or towel to smother and put out the flames.
55.- Check home or apartment windows to make sure they’re not painted or nailed shut. Also check security gratings to make sure they open easily.
56.- If your residence has multiple levels, it might be a good idea to purchase an escape ladder.
57.- Teach kids and family members to always stay low during a fire.
58.- Clean out and de-clutter storage areas frequently. Never allow trash, such as old newspapers, to accumulate inside of your home.
59.- If you live in an apartment building, try to choose a ground floor unit. It will let you escape much more easily.
60.- If you or a family member uses a wheelchair or walker, make sure these items will fit through emergency exits.
61.- To get temporary housing after fire has made your home uninhabitable, contact The Red Cross. They might also be able to supply you with medicines and food.
62.- If you have home insurance, contact your insurance company after a fire and find out what you need to do next.
63.- After the fire is completely extinguished, make sure to have the local fire department give the all-clear to enter the residence.
64.- Never attempt to reconnect utilities, such as natural gas, yourself. Utilities should be reconnected by professionals.
65.- If you leave your home after a fire, make sure to notify the local police department.
66.- After a fire, always check with an accountant or IRS employee to find out about special benefits available to people who’re recovering from fire loss.
Fire Safety Tips for Preventing Fires
67.- Whenever you’re broiling, grilling or frying, make sure to stay in the kitchen. Always turn off the stove even when you leave the kitchen for a very small period of time.
68.- Always wear close-fitting, tightly rolled or short sleeves when cooking in the kitchen.
69.- Keep barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from deck railings and siding. Also keep grills 10 feet away from overhanging branches and eaves.
70.- Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from the stove at all times, and enforce this rule constantly.
71.- If you’ve been drinking alcohol, or you’re sleepy, don’t cook.
Preventing Fires Caused by Smoking
72.- Never smoke in bed. If you’re very sleepy or have taken medication that makes you drowsy, make sure you don’t smoke.
73.- Don’t smoke in a home where the use of oxygen is present. Oxygen is actually explosive, and it can make a fire burn faster and hotter. Even if the oxygen is turned off, never smoke near it.
74.- Never place an ashtray on a sofa or similar piece of furniture. If ignited by a cigarette butt, sofas will burn extremely quickly and set the rest of the house ablaze.
75.- When you’re finished smoking, always be sure to completely extinguish the cigarette. You should never empty an ashtray into the trash if you’ve smoked and put a cigarette out with it recently.
76.- The majority of fires that are caused by smoking take place inside the home, so the best way to prevent fires from smoking is to smoke outside of your home.
Preventing Electrical and Appliance Fires
77.- Replace light switches that get hot immediately.
78.- Extension cords should be used wisely. Never overload an extension cord or electrical circuit.
79.- Always make sure three-prong plugs are never forced into a two-prong electrical outlet.
80.- It’s a good idea to try to purchase electrical products that have been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories.
81.- Always replace worn, damaged or old wires. Many fires are caused by frayed electrical fires. Never run cords under furniture or rugs.
Prevent Fires Caused by Space Heaters
82.- When using a kerosene heater, don’t use anything but crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Also, make sure to never overfill it and use the heater in a room that is well-ventilated.
83.- Before using a kerosene space heater, check to make sure that it’s safe to use in your community.
84.- Make sure your portable heaters have a thermostat function, so they can switch off automatically if they fall over.
85.- Only buy heaters approved by Underwriters Laboratories.
86.- Make sure combustible items are stored at least three feet away from space heaters.
Preventing Fires Caused by Woodstoves and Fireplaces
87.- Always store cooled ashes inside of a tightly sealed metal container, outside of your home.
88.- Before going to bed or leaving the house, make sure your fireplace is completely extinguished.
89.- Use a fireplace screen that will cover the entire fireplace and make sure it can stop a rolling log from exiting the fireplace.
90.- Never burn green wood, paper or trash in your fireplace.
91.- Check woodstoves monthly for obstructions, damage and clogged chimneys.
Preventing Fires Caused By Children
92.- Regularly check to make sure your children aren’t playing with fire. Check in closets and under beds for burned matches and other signs of experimentation.
93.- Never leave children alone around burning candles and operating stove, even for just a few moments.
94.- Teach children that it’s dangerous to pick up lighters and matches. Children should be taught to tell adults about lighters or matches immediately.
95.- Keep all lighters, matches and similar devices inside of a locked cabinet.
96.- Try to take the mystery out of fire by teaching children that it’s a tool and not to be played with.
Additional Fire Prevention Tips
97.- Make sure to never use a portable generator indoors. Generators should only be refueled outdoors and in areas that are well ventilated.
98.- Make sure to store flammable liquids far away from heat sources.
99.- Replace all mattresses in your home that were made before 2007.
100.- Never use an oven or range to heat the inside of your home.
Preventing Fires in the Laundry Room
101.- Try to avoid plastic duct work. This type of duct is easily melted or ignited. Instead, go for a duct made from hard metal. Also make sure the duct has minimal bends.
102.- Make sure your dryer duct vents outside of the home. The dryer should never vent to a room inside of the home.
103.- Always remove lint from the dryer duct. The lint trap should be cleaned after every use. The dryer should be dismantled as often as possible to clean between the heating element and dryer drum.
104.- Make sure a smoke detector is installed in the laundry room.
How to Safely Use a Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher should only be used by someone who has been trained to use it. It’s probably a good time to use an extinguisher if the fire department has already been called, your family has exited the residence, the room you’re planning to use it in has not filled with smoke and the fire is confined to a small area.
When you’re going to use an extinguisher, remember the word PASS. It stands for:
P – Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.
A – Aim low and point the extinguisher towards the base of the fire.
S – Squeeze the lever evenly and slowly.
S – Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Over 50 percent of fire deaths occur during the hours of 11 P.M. and & A.M., which is when most people are sleeping. About 25 percent of home fires occur in the bedroom.
These are just some of the shocking facts regarding fire deaths. If you value a fighting chance for your family and yourself, you will use these fire safety tips to keep safe. By following these tips, your risk of becoming another statistic should drop dramatically. Stay prepared, be ready and stay safe.