October 7-13 is Fire Prevention Week. There’s no better time to turn our attention to home fire safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds in 2010. In 2010, U.S. Fire Departments responded to 369,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 13,350 civilian injuries and 2,640 civilian deaths.
The good news is home fires can be prevented. Here are some common causes of fire and what you can do to protect your home and your family:
- Dryer Vents and Filters. A report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) indicated that failure to clean dryer vents was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings. Lint can accumulate in the dryer and/or dryer vent, blocking airflow and causing heat build-up which can result in a fire. To prevent dryer vent fires:
- Clean the lint filter before each use.
- Check clothes at the end of a normal drying cycle. If clothes are not dry or are taking longer than normal to dry, this could indicate the lint filter or vent is clogged. Check the vent outside the house while the dryer is operating to make sure air is being exhausted. If necessary, clean the dryer vent.
- Replace accordion-type flexible duct with rigid metal duct. Flexible accordion-type duct material can trap lint more readily.
- Don’t overload circuits or use use multiple outlet adaptors.
- Extension cords are designed for temporary use. Dispose of damaged extension cords.
- If any part of an extension cord is hot while in use, this is a warning sign that it may be overloaded. Take the extension cord out of service immediately. Check the cord for damage and assure that it is not overloaded.
- Cooking Fire Safety
- Don’t leave combustible materials (potholders, paper towels) near the stove.
- Don’t leave cooking pots unattended.
- Candles. Candles are a popular choice for home decoration. When used improperly, candles can be a source of home structure fires:
- Make sure candles are placed in sturdy, noncombustible holders.
- Keep candles away from combustible items such as curtains, furniture, bedding, etc.
- Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed.
- NEVER leave burning candles unattended.
- Maintain proper clearance around space heaters.
- Don’t leave portable heaters unattended.
Even with the best prevention methods, fires can still occur. Make sure you and your family are prepared by:
- Having at least one smoke detector on each level of your home. Check the batteries at least every 6 months.
- Purchasing a multi-purpose (ABC) portable fire extinguisher for your home. If you already have an extinguisher, check it periodically to make sure it is properly charged.
- Having an escape plan. Make sure everyone in your household knows the plan.
You can find more information on the causes of fire, as well as safety tips and fun games and activites to help teach your children about fire safety on the NFPA website. How have you and your family recognized Fire Protection Week?