Home Fire Safety

Candles and Fire Safety

According to the latest statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, from 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 9,300 home structure fires that were started by candles. These fires caused 86 deaths, 827 injuries and $374 million in direct property damage.

During the five-year period of 2009-2013:

Candles caused 3% of reported home fires, 3% of home fire deaths, 6% of home fire injuries, and 5% of the direct property damage in home fires.

Roughly one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in bedrooms. These fires caused 32% of the associated deaths and 47% of the associated injuries.

Falling asleep was a factor in 11% percent of the home candle fires and 30% of the associated deaths.

On average, 25 home candle fires were reported per day. 

More than half (58%) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle.

December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.

Keep these tips in mind when using candles:

  • Ensure candles are in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Set a good example by using matches, lighters and fire carefully.
  • Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
  • Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Never leave the house with candles burning.
  • Extinguish candles after use and never go to sleep while candles are still burning.
  • NEVER leave burning candles unattended!


Electrical Fire Safety

Electrical fires in homes claim many lives each year and cost millions of dollars in property loss. While some electrical fires are caused by system failures and appliance defects, most are caused by the misuse of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires.

  • Routinely check electrical appliances and tools for worn or frayed wiring. If you notice smoke, sparks or overheating, discontinue their use and replace them immediately.
  • Use electrical extension cords only for temporary purposes and never overload them.
  • Never set or use electrical appliances on wet surfaces.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters and never allow children to play close-by.
  • Never run electrical cords under rugs or in high traffic areas and never allow doors or windows to be closed on or bend electrical cords.
  • Never force an appliance with a three-prong plug into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
  • Use outlet plug covers on electrical outlets to protect children from electrical shock.


Fire Escape Planning

Time is of the essence when escaping a fire, so every second counts. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a building to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames, so proper escape planning will help your family get out quickly. 

  • Escape plans should be conducted at least twice per year. 

  • Make sure you have at least two ways out of every room, like the primary door and a window. Make sure windows haven’t been painted or nailed shut and that everyone knows how to open them. 

  • Escape ladders can be used for high windows but make sure they carry an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing. 

  • Each family member should practice feeling their way out of the house in the dark or with their eyes closed to simulate the dark, smoky conditions that exist in a fire.

  • When a fire occurs, time should never be wasted trying to save valuables and keepsakes. 

  • Crawl low under the smoke and keep your mouth covered. The smoke contains toxic gases which can disorient and overcome you.

  • Use the back of your hand to feel the door to see if it’s hot, which indicates fire is on the other side, so you should use your second escape route.  If the door is cool, open it slowly.  Quickly shut the door if smoke or heat comes in.

  • Designate a meeting location away from the building that all family members are aware of.  Then one person should call 911 from a neighbor’s house.

  • Never go back into a burning building for any reason!


Fireplace Safety

  • Fireplaces must be inspected and cleaned regularly because they build up creosote in their chimneys that can quickly start a fire.
  • Check for cracks or any obstructions.
  • Make sure the damper is open before starting a fire.
  • Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup.
  • Use a heavy screen to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
  • Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.


Home Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors, if properly installed and maintained, will give an early warning to your family in the event there is a fire, which could save the lives of your family members by quickly providing a chance to escape. There are many different brands of smoke detectors, but they come in two basic types: ionization and photoelectric.

Ionization detectors sound more quickly when a flaming, fast moving fire occurs. Photoelectric detectors are quicker at sensing smoldering, smoky fires. There are also dual sensor smoke detectors that combine ionization and photoelectric into one unit.
Because both types do a better job of detecting distinctly different fires, we recommend the installation of both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor smoke detectors.
In addition to the basic types of detectors, there are detectors made to meet the needs of people that are deaf/hard of hearing disabilities. These detectors may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke detectors when they sound.

Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement. Since many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning, we also recommend installing smoke detectors inside and outside of every sleeping area in your home. Always follow the manufacturer’'s installation instructions so that your family receives the warning at the earliest possible time to aid in escaping quickly from the fire.

Remember not to disable your smoke detector if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in the detector after cooking. Instead clear the air by waving a towel near the detector, leaving the batteries in place. The smoke detector also may need to be moved to a new location to avoid false alarms.

Most smoke detectors have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your detector so you will know when to replace it. In any event, always follow the manufacturer’'s instructions for replacement.

Some smoke detectors are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery backup. It’s important to test every smoke detector monthly and replace the batteries with new ones at least once a year.


Wood Stove, Space Heater & Kerosene Heater Safety

The misuse of wood stoves, portable space heaters and kerosene heaters are common risks in rural areas, where individuals are twice as likely to die in a fire as individuals living in cities and suburban areas.

Wood Stoves

When shopping for a wood stove, look for solid construction, like plate steel or cast iron. Then remember to closely follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Check for cracks in the body of the stove and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only well-seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, paper or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.

Electric Space Heaters

Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Buy only those heaters that have a thermostat control mechanism that will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don't dry clothes on top of heaters or lay objects on top of them. Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Kerosene Heaters

Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Only use them for their intended use and fuel them only with the manufacturer’s recommended fuel. Don't overfill the heater and only use it in a well ventilated room.

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