Fire Safety

Fire Safety Tips

 
(All materials on this page reproduced from NFPA’s website, www.nfpa.org/publiceducation. © NFPA.)

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top fire causes are

:
  • COOKING.  Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.  By following a few safety tips, you can prevent these fires. Download the cooking safety tip sheet.  
  • HEATING.  Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2012-2016, accounting for 15% of all reported home fires during this time. These fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage. With a few simple safety tips and precautions you can prevent most heating fires from happening.  Download the heating safety tip sheet.
  • ELECTRICAL.  Electricity makes our lives easier.  However we need to be cautious and keep safety in mind.  Get tips that help reduce the potential for electrical damage and injury.  Download the electrical safety tip sheet.
  • SMOKING.   Smoking materials, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, started an estimated 17,200 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2014. These fires caused 570 deaths, 1,140 injuries and $426 million in direct property damage. Smoking materials caused 5% of reported home fires, 21% of home fire deaths, 10% of home fire injuries, and 6% of the direct property damage.*
    *Source: NFPA’s "Latest Estimates of Home Fires Started by Smoking Materials - 2014"   Smoking material fires are preventable. Download the smoking safety tip sheet.
  • CANDLES.  From  2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 7,610  home structure fires that were started by candles per year. These fires caused an annual average of 81  deaths, 677  injuries and $278 million in direct property damage.  Learn to avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.  Download the candle safety tip sheet.

​Make a Home Fire Escape Plan

Your ability to get out of your home during a fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.  

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as one or two minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home.

Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.

Download  Home Fire Escape Planning tips 
Use this escape grid to make your plan

​Smoke Alarms

It’s important to have enough smoke alarms in your home. Fire research has demonstrated that with today’s modern furnishings, fires can spread much more rapidly than in the past when more natural materials were used. Because of this, having a sufficient number of properly located smoke alarms is essential to maximize the amount of available escape time. For many years NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, has required as a minimum that smoke alarms be installed inside every sleep room (even for existing homes) in addition to requiring them outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. (Additional smoke alarms are required for larger homes.) Homes built to earlier standards often don’t meet these minimum requirements. Homeowners and enforcement authorities should recognize that detection needs have changed over the years and take proactive steps make sure that every home has a sufficient complement of smoke alarms.

If you need assistance in obtaining a smoke alarm for your residence, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign may be able to help!

Installing smoke alarms


  • Choose smoke alarms that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.
  • Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm).
  • If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm within 3 feet of the peak but not within the apex of the peak (four inches down from the peak).
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds they all sound. Interconnection can be done using hard-wiring or wireless technology.
  • When interconnected smoke alarms are installed, it is important that all of the alarms are from the same manufacturer. If the alarms are not compatible, they may not sound.
  • There are two types of smoke alarms – ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization-photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.
  • Keep manufacturer’s instructions for reference.

Testing smoke alarms


  • Smoke alarms should be maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
  • Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working well. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.
  • Smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
  • Smoke alarms with any other type of battery need a new battery at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or manufacturer’s instructions. Manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used. The smoke alarm may not work properly if a different kind of battery is used.
Interconnected smoke alarms increase safety.  In a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey of households with any fires, including fires in which the fire department was not called, interconnected smoke alarms were more likely to operate and alert occupants to a fire.1 People may know about a fire without hearing a smoke alarm.  When smoke alarms (interconnected or not) were on all floors, they sounded in 37% of fires and alerted occupants in 15%.  When smoke alarms were not on all floors, they sounded in only 4% of the fires and alerted occupants in only 2%.  In homes that had interconnected smoke alarms, the alarms sounded in half (53%) of the fires and alerted people in one-quarter (26%) of the fires.
1 Michael A. Greene and Craig Andres. 2004-2005 National Sample Survey of Unreported Residential Fires. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, July 2009.

Download the smoke alarm safety tip sheet.
Download the smoke alarm safety tip sheet for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

​Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.  A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.

In 2016, local fire departments responded to an estimated 79,600 carbon monoxide incidents, or an average of nine such calls per hour. This does not include the 91,400 carbon monoxide alarm malfunctions and the 68,000 unintentional carbon monoxide alarms.

Data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2017, 399 people died of unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning. 
Source: NFPA's Applied Research Division

Safety Tips


  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.

The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.

  • 50 ppm: No adverse effects with 8 hours of exposure.
  • 200 ppm: Mild headache after 2-3 hours of exposure.
  • 400 ppm: Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure.
  • 800 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
  • 1,000 ppm: Loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
  • 1,600 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes of exposure.
  • 3,200 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 5-10 minutes; collapse and unconsciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.
  • 6,400 ppm: Headache and dizziness after 1-2 minutes; unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 minutes of exposure.
  • 12,800 ppm: Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness and danger of death after 1-3 minutes of exposure.
Source: NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition.

Download the Carbon Monoxide safety tip sheet.

​Portable Fire Extinguishers

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 #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.
Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. 

​Safety Tips


  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, 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.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • 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.
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • 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.
Download the fire extinguisher fact sheet.

​Home Sprinklers

Home fire sprinklers can dramatically reduce the heat, flames, and smoke produced in a fire. Properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers help save lives.

Fire sprinklers have been around for more than a century, protecting commercial and industrial properties and public buildings. What many people don't realize is that the same life-saving technology is also available for homes, where roughly 80 percent of all civilian fire deaths occur.

Download the home sprinkler tip sheet.

​Fire Safety for Kids

Watch these short videos from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) with your children and discuss how to improve fire safety in your home.  

Making a home fire escape plan
I Spy Cooking safety
I Spy Fire Safety
Look, listen and learn with Simon to discover more about fire safety
Look for places fire could start
Learn 2 ways out of every room
Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm


NFPA's Sparky the Fire Dog has his own web page with activities, games and videos for children to explore!  This is a fun way for kids to learn about fire safety, check it out!   Sparky the Fire Dog page

Sparky the NFPA fire dog

 If you have additional questions about fire safety, please feel free to call the Fire Department at 715-395-1680.