See the below fire safety tips to ensure you and your family stay safe throughout the entire year.
Use extreme caution whenever you store gasoline, which is a flammable liquid that gives off vapors that are easily ignited with a spark or small flame. Gasoline should only be used as a motor fuel and never as a degreaser or cleaning solvent. Using gasoline for any other purpose other than motor fuel is dangerous, and gasoline should be stored in tightly capped containers intended for that use. Gasoline should be stored in a garage or an outdoor shed, but never in the basement or home itself.
Avoiding Smoke Inhalation
Most people have a natural fear of fires and burns but feel relatively safe in smoke. However, the Tinley Park Fire Department warns that smoke is the real killer in fire. About eight out of every 10 fire deaths are attributed to breathing poisonous smoke and gases. Some victims never even see the flames.
Since smoke is lighter than air, it rises. In buildings, smoke goes to the ceiling first and then back down. It winds up stairs and down hallways. To prevent smoke inhalation, get low and go. Crawl to the nearest exit as quickly as possible, and once out of the building, stay out. Although you can’t see it, smoke is filled with toxic gases.
Plastics in particular give off a highly poisonous gas when burned. Since most homes have large amounts of plastic furnishings and contents, these fires can be deadly. Smoke also contains carbon dioxide, a tasteless, odorless gas that causes confusion, reduced mental capacity and eventually death. It is important to stay low to avoid breathing a large amount of these poisons.
Maintaining Smoke Detectors
It also is important to install and maintain smoke detectors to provide early warning to fire and smoke. Exposure to smoke for even a few seconds or minutes can be fatal. Smoke detectors give you the extra edge you need to escape safely. Every family should have a home fire escape plan that includes the use of smoke detectors and knowledge of the “Stay Low and Go” method. Even young children can be taught to respond properly.
No matter where a fire is – in a home, shopping center, hotel, office, church or anywhere – your response should be the same: Get down on your hands and knees below the smoke and crawl to safety!
Because home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are once again jointly sponsoring a special initiative titled “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires” to help raise public awareness about winter fires.
“These fires are a painful reminder of what we see every year – the temperatures drop and fires increase,” NFPA President Jim Shannon said.
According to NFPA statistics, space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires and approximately 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.
The USFA’s Winter Residential Building Fires report shows that each winter an estimated 108,400 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and $1.7 billion in property loss. Cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36 percent, followed by heating at 23 percent. Winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 to 8 p.m.
“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires, more than at any other time of year,” USFA’s Deputy Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines said. “Home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating. Winter storms can also interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources that contribute to the increased risk of fire during the winter months.”
Winter Fire Safety Tips
The USFA and NFPA recommend following these safety tips to prevent winter home fires:
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.
- Space heaters need space; keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from each heater.
- Check electrical cords often, and replace cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do not try to repair them.
- Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. They are not designed for this purpose and can be a fire hazard. In addition, carbon monoxide (CO) gas might kill people and pets.
- Do not put your live Christmas tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- Avoid using lighted candles. If you must use candles, place them in sturdy candleholders that won’t burn.
- If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.
For more information about the causes of winter fires, winter storm fire safety, holiday fire safety, and tips that will help prevent the incidence of fire in the home, visit the USFA website at www.usfa.fema.gov/winter and the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org/winter.