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Fire Prevention and Safety Tips

Did you know? Roughly 80% of fire deaths occur in the home. Raleigh's number one type of fire is kitchen fires.

Last Modified: September 08, 2012

Each year approximately 3,000 people die in fires. Those most likely to die in home fires are children under five years old and adults over 65. The United States and Canada have the highest fire death rates of any industrialized countries.

Nearly all home fires are preventable. We can all work together to help keep fires from starting. The Raleigh Fire Department encourages everyone to review our Fire Safety Checklist to see how safe their home is. Each item you are not able to check-off is an opportunity for you take the steps necessary to keep your home fire safe.

General Tips

Prevent Fires

  • Install smoke alarms and test them monthly to make sure they are in good working order.
  • Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. Monitor smokers and, if you smoke, don't smoke in bed. Check under and around cushions and furniture for smoldering cigarettes.
  • Be careful when you cook, and never leave cooking unattended.
  • Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet away from combustibles. Never leave them on when you leave home or go to bed.
  • Matches and lighters are tools, not toys. Keep them out of the reach of children
  • Use electricity safely. Unplug malfunctioning appliances, replace frayed or cracked electrical cords, and don't run cords under rugs or across walkways. Most importantly, never use electric appliances in or near water.

During and After a Fire

  • Cool a burn. Run cool water over a burn for 3 to 5 minutes, but never apply ice, butter or other grease to a burn. If burned skin blisters or is charred, see a doctor immediately.
  • Get Low and Go. During a fire, smoke and poisonous gases rise with the heat. Cleaner, safer air is near the floor.
  • Stop, Drop and Roll. If your clothes catch on fire, don't run. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll over and over to smother the flames.

Plan To Get Out Alive

Draw an escape plan

Knowing what to do before a fire occurs can save your life. Develop an escape plan for your family - and practice it - today.

Make a Plan

Draw a floor plan and know at least two exits from every room. If one is a window, be sure every family member knows how to open it and that it opens easily. Print out your own escape plan grid from the National Fire Protection Association's website, or draw your own floor plan on a piece of paper.

Mark two ways out of every room and include windows on your plan. Every member of your household should be part of the planning. Pick a meeting place outside. Tell everyone to meet there after they've escaped. That way you can count heads and tell the fire department if anyone's trapped inside. If you live or sleep above the ground floor, you may consider purchasing a fire escape ladder to assist you should your primary escape route become blocked.

If you live or work in a high-rise building, know the location of the exit stairs. Never take the elevator during a fire.

Practice it!

Plans are great, but the only way to know if they work is to practice them. Hold a home fire drill at least twice a year. Getting out of your own home sounds easy, but your home can look very different if it's full of smoke. Children in particular need to practice what to do. They should be taught that they need to get out of a fire.

Have someone press the button on the smoke alarm as the signal for the drill to start. Remember that a fire drill is not a competition. Get out quickly, but safely. Everyone should go to the meeting place. Make time to plan and practice your family's escape today!

Time Matters

According to the National Fire Protection Association, one-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. The time available is often less. And only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

Smoke Alarms - Best Line of Defense

Most fatal fires occur at night when people are asleep. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke usually will not wake a sleeping person; instead, the poisonous gas and smoke quickly numb the senses, causing a deeper sleep.

But you CAN get out alive with the help of a simple device - a smoke detector. By alerting you to the fire and giving you time to escape, smoke detectors can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly half.

Minimum protection requires a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. If someone in the house sleeps with the bedroom door closed, also install a smoke alarm in the bedroom.

Smoke alarms wired to high-intensity strobes or that vibrate under the pillow should be used by those with a hearing impairment.

Dozens of brands of smoke alarms are sold in hardware, department and discount stores. Whatever kind you buy, make sure it bears the label of approval from an independent testing laboratory.

Remember: Only a working smoke alarm can protect you. Test your smoke detector weekly, clean it regularly. and install new batteries at least once a year. Never borrow the smoke alarm batteries for other uses.

Home Sprinkler Systems - Another Good Idea

Automatic sprinkler systems have been common in factories, warehouses, hotels and public buildings throughout the 20th century. But, since the early 1980s, sprinkler systems have become more popular in private homes, too.

New standards have made these residential sprinkler systems both more affordable and more practical. In addition, residential sprinkler systems can result in a significant reduction in homeowner's and rental insurance. Nationally, on average, home fire sprinkler systems add 1% to 1.5% of the total building cost in new construction.

Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.

Each sprinkler is individually activated by heat. Despite "sight gags" on TV sit-coms, smoke does not trigger sprinkler operation. The rest of the sprinklers in a house will not activate unless there is also a fire in that location.

Having a sprinkler system typically reduces the chance of dying in a fire and the average property loss by one-half to two-thirds compared to where sprinklers are not present.
(From NFPA's U.S. Experience with Sprinklers and NFPA's Fire Loss in the United States, November 2003, Kimberly D. Rohr.)

When A Fire Occurs

When the smoke alarm sounds or fire strikes, leave the building immediately. Do NOT go back in. Follow your escape plan and call 9-1-1 for help.

If you are awakened by the smoke alarm, get out of bed and crawl low under the smoke. The heat and smoke is intense in a fire; you will not be able to see, and temperatures at the ceiling could reach more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit - enough to kill you immediately.

If your door is closed, feel the door with the palm of your hand. If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly. If there is fire on the other side, close the door and seek another escape route.

If it is safe to leave the room, stay low and get out by the quickest and safest route.

Keep doors closed to keep out smoke and fire. If you go through a door, close it behind you. Block off the smoke with towels, throw rugs or clothing. A door is one of the best protections against fire.

  • Put a damp cloth over your nose and mouth to make it easier to breathe.
  • Crawl to a window and open it carefully to let in fresh air. If smoke begins to enter through the open window, close it immediately.
  • If it is safe to have the window open, wave a sheet, clothing or other bright object to attract attention. You also can hang the sheet or cloth out of the window.
  • If there is a telephone in the room, call 9-1-1 to let emergency personnel know where you are. If not, yell out the window and make noise to attract attention.

Did you know?

90% of all home fires are contained with a single sprinkler. Installing both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system reduces the risk of death in a home fire by 82%, relative to having neither.

Four-fifths of all fire deaths occur at home and, according to a study by the National Institute of Standards Technology, 60 to 70 percent of those deaths could be prevented by adding sprinkler systems to houses and apartments.

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