October is Fire Prevention Month; do you know how to keep your family safe? Every year, 20,000 people are injured in fires, and 4,000 more are killed. Seventy-five percent of fires happen in homes; in 2010, a home fire occurred every 85 seconds.
- The best thing you can do is make sure you have plenty of smoke alarms. At a minimum, there should be one outside every sleeping area and in the kitchen. If they’re battery operated, check them every month to be sure they’re working. About two-thirds of deaths in home fires happen when there is no working smoke alarm in the home. When they are installed and working, smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a fire in half.
- Next on important fire safety checklists is having two escape routes from every room in the house. You should have two, so that you know what to do in case the main route is impassible. Practice these routes at least twice a year. Make sure children know to keep low to avoid smoke and to touch doors with the back of their hand to check for heat. Of those families that have escape plans, only about one-third has practiced them. Since you may have only a minute or less to get out of your home, practice is essential.
- Keep a fire extinguisher that will work on any type of fire on each level of your home and know how to use it.
- Anything that uses combustion to work should be checked annually. Think about the things in your house that have a pilot light: furnace, water heater, stove. Annual maintenance is essential to ensure that tiny flame doesn’t get out of control.
- Heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of home fire deaths (cooking is number one), and the number one reason that heating equipment catches fire: failure to keep them clean. Change air filters monthly and ensure that you have all heating equipment cleaned each season. If you have a chimney, have it inspected annually for creosote buildup and cleaned as necessary. Incomplete combustion caused by dirty chimneys and furnaces can release carbon monoxide into the air, which can be deadly.
- If you use portable heaters, keep them away from anything that may be flammable, such as curtains or furniture. If you need a portable heater because your furnace is inefficient, look into having it replaced. You’ll enjoy improved comfort, energy savings, and safety.
- When having your furnace tuned-up, make sure the technician checks the controls, shutoffs, and all other safety features.
- Don’t store anything combustible near your furnace, fireplace, or any other heating equipment.