Did you know home fires are the most common disaster in this country and are so dangerous that they claim more lives in a typical year than all natural disasters combined. Tragically, seven lives are lost each day in the U.S. to home fires. So far this year 847 people have lost their lives in home fires across the country.
Since January 1, the American Red Cross has responded to more than 20,700 home fires, providing help to almost 78,000 people. Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by these tragedies.
HOME FIRE SAFETY
Every second counts when there’s a home fire. To help protect your household, test your smoke alarms each month and practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes.
- Test your smoke alarms monthly. Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, and inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. Change the batteries at least once a year, if your model requires it. Also, check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they need to be replaced because the sensor becomes less sensitive over time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes. To create your home fire escape plan, include at least two ways to exit every room in your home. Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet. Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency.
Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires. Here are the top eight ways to avoid a cooking fire:
- Keep an eye on what you fry. Never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains.
- Keep and pets at least three feet away.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.
- When frying food, turn the burner off if you see smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner.
- Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.
- Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.
CHILDREN AND FIRE SAFETY
Each year, thousands of home fires occur from children playing with fire. Take time to talk with your children about home fires and practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes.
- Familiarize children with the sound of your smoke alarm, and teach them what to do when they hear it
- Teach your children not to be afraid of firefighters. Take them to your local fire department to meet them, see their gear they wear and learn about fire safety.
- Educate children to tell you or a responsible adult when they find matches or lighters at home or school. At home, keep matches, lighters and other ignitable substances in a secured location out of reach of children. Check under beds and in closets for burnt matches to ensure your child isn’t playing with fire.
- Dress children in pajamas that meet federal standards for being flame-resistant. Avoid loose-fitting, 100% cotton garments.
HIGH-RISE APARTMENT & CONDOMINIUM SAFETY
Although high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums are more likely to have sprinklers and fire alarms, it’s still critical to have a fire escape plan and working smoke alarms in your unit. If you live in a multi-unit building, take these steps to stay safe:
- Learn the fire safety features of the building, including fire alarms, sprinklers and evacuation plans.
- Make sure all exits are clearly marked and not blocked. Know the locations of all available exit stairwells on the floor, as one or more of the exits might be blocked by fire.
- Individuals with access or functional needs, including a disability, should learn where the closest area of safe refuge is.
- If smoke or fire enters your unit and you cannot immediately escape, call 911 to report your location. Open a window slightly. Wave a bright cloth or a light at night to identify your location. • If smoke enters the unit, stay low to the floor to breathe the best air.
RED CROSS HOME FIRE CAMPAIGN
In 2014, the Red Cross launched its Home Fire Campaign to help educate people about home fire safety and install free smoke alarms in neighborhoods at high risk for fires. Since then, the effort has helped save more than 1,240 lives and installed more than 2.3 million free smoke alarms, helping to make more than 975,000 homes safer across the country.