Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center

Fire Safety Tips


Most of us think of our home as a place of safety and security, where we can relax and forget about some of the things that we have to worry about at work or school.When it comes to fire, however, that isnít true.The most deadly fires are the ones that occur in our home.In order to be safe from fires in our homes, we have to stay alert for situations that might cause a fire.The tips below can help you keep your home safe from fire.



1.      Install smoke alarms in your home!Smoke alarms are one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from fire.When they are properly installed and maintained, they can warn you of a fire in time to allow you to get out of the house.This is the simplest, most inexpensive fire protection that you can get.Remember, though, that smoke alarms with dead batteries or sensors blocked by dust wonít work, and wonít protect you.


2.      Have an escape plan, and practice it.Just knowing that a fire is occurring wonít help if you donít know how to get outside.Plan at least two ways out of every room if possible, so that you will have a second way out if fire or smoke blocks your primary escape route.Donít just make a plan - practice it.Talking about the plan with your family isnít enough; you have to actually practice it.Practicing the plan is especially important for young children and elderly individuals, who may be more likely to become confused during a fire.


3.      If a fire occurs, get outside and donít go back into a burning building.When people realize that their home is on fire, it is a common urge to want to fight the fire.Unless the fire is very small, and you are sure that you have a safe way out that canít be blocked by flames or smoke, donít try to fight the fire.Get out and stay out.Stay low, even if there doesnít seem to be any smoke in the air, and follow your escape plan.Donít go back into a burning building to rescue pets, valuables or personal treasuresÖ once youíre outside, stay there.


If you have young children it is very important to teach them to get out and stay out if a fire occurs.Young children often hide when they feel threatened, and they may try to hide inside the house if a fire occurs.It is also important to introduce them to firefighters in protective equipment (heavy coat, helmet and breathing apparatus).You can do this through images of firefighters on TV, by visiting your local fire department or by attending a fire safety event sponsored by the fire department.Firefighters in heavy gear may seem like monsters to young children, so it is important to teach children that firefighters in protective equipment are there to rescue them.


4.      Give space heaters some space!Space heaters are one of the most common causes of fatal fires in the home.Space heaters are intended for short-term supplemental heat in areas where people are working or playing.They are not really designed to provide long term heat, especially for areas where people are sleeping, and they are not a substitute for a permanent heating system.


If you must use a space heater, use a quality heater.Make sure that the heater has a thermostat that will turn it off once the area is warm and that it has an emergency shut off switch that will turn it off if it tips over.Keep the heater at least three feet in all directions (or further, if the heater directions say so) from any material that might be flammable.Donít forget to remove any flammable items hanging above the heater, and consider unusual problems, such as a pet dropping a flammable object near a heater.Never use a space heater to dry clothing.Never allow anyone to hang clothing over a space heater.


If you use a space heater that burns fuel, such as a kerosene or propane heater, make sure that the heater is located in an area with good ventilation.Carbon monoxide gas produced by heaters that burn fuel can be deadly in a poorly ventilated area.Never use gasoline, camp stove fuel or any fuel other than kerosene in a kerosene heater - it can flame up or explode.Always allow the heater to cool down until it is comfortable to touch before refilling it with fuel.Store extra fuel safely, and outside the home if possible.


5.      Smoking is hazardous to your health - especially if you do it in bed.If you smoke, never smoke in bed or when you are tired and relaxing on a couch or in a chair.If you go to sleep without putting out your cigarette, cigar or pipe it can start a fire.If you fall asleep while smoking and a fire starts, your chances of survival are low, because the fire will start very close to you.


6.      Pay close attention when you are cooking.Many home fires are caused by burning food, especially grease.In many cases grease fires can occur within a minute or two.Leaving the kitchen just long enough to answer the door, change a baby or listen to a short news story on the TV can be more than enough time for a kitchen fire to start.Grease should never be left unattended, even for a minute, while itís heating on the stove.If you are leaving home for any reason, turn off all cooking appliances.


7.      Check the wiring in your house, apartment or mobile home.If it is very old, damaged or wired incorrectly it can cause a fire.Outlets should accommodate 3-prong grounded plugs without the use of an adapter.Wire connections should be made tightly with UL-approved wire connectors.Fuse boxes or breaker panels should be clean and easily accessible.


8.      Do not overload outlets and electrical circuits.One of the most common causes of electrical fires is overloaded circuits.Do not use extension cords, power strips or multi-plug adapters to plug too many appliances or lamps into one outlet - this can overload the outlet and cause a fire.Never replace a fuse or circuit breaker with a larger one.If the fuse is blowing or the breaker is tripping, the is either a short on the circuit or the circuit is overloaded.Either one can cause a fire.Locate the problem and fix it.


9.      Keep matches, lighters and other ignition sources out of the hands of small children.Only responsible adults should use fire.If you have children in your home, do not allow them to play with fire, and teach them to leave matches or lighters alone and tell an adult if they find them.


10.  Use extreme caution with candles, fireplaces and other sources of open flame.These items are beautiful, but they are dangerous if not used carefully.Never leave an open flame burning when you are asleep, away from home or out of the room for more than a couple of minutes.Candles can easily tip over, or be knocked over by a pet or small child, and ignite nearby flammable materials.Watch them carefully, and avoid using candles near flammable materials.Use a properly designed fireplace screen or doors to keep fire where it belongs - in the fireplace.A fire-resistant rug or other protective surface should be used if you have carpet or wood flooring in front of a fireplace.


11.  Store flammable materials carefully.Paint, paint thinner, lubricating oils and many cleaning products are highly flammable.These items should be stored outside the house if possible.If they must be stored inside a home they should be stored in a metal cabinet in a cool, well-ventilated area.Gasoline and other motor fuels, and highly volatile solvents and cleaning products, should never be stored in a home.


Basements are not fireproof.Many people believe that unfinished basements are highly fire resistant because they generally have concrete floors and cinderblock walls.Even a small fire in a basement can easily reach the floor joists overhead, however.Storing flammable materials in a basement is not a substitute for storing them outside the home.


12.  Fire extinguishers are a worthwhile investment.An extinguisher can allow you to quickly and safely extinguish a small fire.Never forget, however, that extinguishers are designed only for small fires.They cannot stop larger fires, and small fires can become large in a matter of seconds.If you do choose to use an extinguisher, you should do so only when there is adequate ventilation and when you are sure that you have an escape route that cannot be blocked by the fire.Never get yourself into a situation where the only way out is to extinguish the fire.No matter how small it seems, a fire can grow with amazing speed.If you plan to extinguish the fire in order to get out, you will be trapped if the fire grows too quickly.