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Fire safety at home

Smoke alarms or detectors work even when you cannot smell smoke.

  • Install smoke alarms or detectors in hallways, in or near all sleeping areas, the kitchen, and garage.
  • Test them once a month, and change the batteries regularly, or at least once a year.
  • Dust or vacuum over the smoke alarm as needed.

Keep fire extinguishers in handy locations.

  • Know how to use a fire extinguisher. In an emergency, you must be able to act fast.
  • Have at least one extinguisher on each level of your home.

Escaping from Fires

Fires can be loud, burn fast, and produce lots of smoke. It is a good idea for everyone to know how to get out of their home quickly if one occurs.

Establish fire escape routes from every room in your house. It is best to have two ways to get out of each room, since one of the ways may be blocked by smoke or fire. Have twice-a-year fire drills to practice escaping.

Teach family members what to do in case of a fire.

  • Smoke rises during a fire so the safest place to be when escaping is down low to the ground.
  • Exiting through a door is best, when possible. Always feel the door starting at the bottom and working up, before opening it. If the door is hot, there may be fire on the other side.
  • Have a safe spot planned ahead of time for everyone to meet outside after escape.
  • Never go back inside for anything. Stay outside.

Preventing Fires

  • Do not smoke in bed.
  • Keep matches and other flammable materials out of reach of children.
  • Never leave a burning candle or fireplace fire unattended. Do not stand too close to the fire.
  • Never put clothes or anything else over a lamp or heater.
  • Make sure household wiring is up-to-date.
  • Unplug appliances (such as heating pads and electric blankets) when they are not in use.
  • Store flammable materials away from heat sources, water heaters, and open-flame space heaters.

Teach children about fires.

Explain how they are accidentally started and how to prevent them.

Children should understand the following:

  • Do not touch or get close to radiators or heaters.
  • Never stand close to the fireplace or wood stove.
  • Do not touch matches, lighters, or candles. Tell on adult right away if they see any of these items.
  • Do not cook without asking an adult first.
  • Never play with electrical cords or stick anything into a socket.

Children's sleepwear should be specifically labeled as snug-fitting or flame-resistant. Using other clothing, including loose-fitting garments, increases the risk of severe burns if the item catches fire.

Supervise children when they are using fireworks. Never assume that a child will read and follow safety instructions.

See also: Oxygen safety

Update Date: 9/26/2011

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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