We all have heard the old saying 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. There is wisdom in those words. You can prevent a fire by using common sense and paying attention to what you are doing. For example, a common reason for home fires is human error; people often leave stoves, ovens, toasters, clothing irons, barbecues, and candles unattended. So make it a house rule to NEVER leave these sources unattended! If you have children, they need to be educated as well about basic fire safety and prevention.
Another important preventative measure is making sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order. It is recommended that you check all of these alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least every year, preferably twice a year- every time you change your clocks in the spring and fall. Smoke alarms should be replaced with new units every 10 years, and CO detectors every 7 years.
A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.
Use a portable fire extinguisher when: the fire is confined to a small area 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.
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 or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher trainings.
Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.
To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
P - Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
A - Aim low
. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
S - Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
S - Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
Fire Escape Ladders
In the event of a fire, you need to have at least 2 different escape routes. If you live in a two or three story home and a fire is blocking the stairs, you will need to exit through a window to safety. A fire escape ladder can be a life saver in these cases.
These ladders are fairly simple to set up and use, and most can be stored in a closet or under the bed. If you need to use it, you simply pull it out, hang it on your window sill and the ladder will extend itself down the side of the home. Many of these are designed to safely sustain the weight of an adult and a child going down at the same time.
Other models can be installed directly into the wall cavity below the the window itself, saving storage space and more importantly, they are always there in case of an emergency.
Fire Escape Plans
It's been said that 'when we fail to plan, we plan to fail'. Do you remember practicing fire drills when you were in school? It wasn't done just for fun, it was to prepare everyone to know what to do in the event of a real fire emergency. The NFPA, all other Safety orginizations and Fire Departments strongly recommend having a Fire Escape Plan in place, and practicing that plan at least twice a year. Everyone, but especially children, need to know what that plan is.
For additional information on these topics and a printable template on creating your Family Fire Escape Plan, go to the 'Additional Resources' sub-page on this tab.