Compiled by Dick Oakes
Fires - General
Most fire deaths occur in the home. There is a low-cost, easily obtainable device that has proven itself in saving lives: a smoke detector. Deaths from fire in the home have been substantially reduced in communities where smoke detectors are reuired. A smoke detector should be placed as close as possible to the bedrooms. It is also a good idea to install a smoke detector on each level near stairways to the rest of the house. Each member of your family should know what to do if the smoke detector goes off. A little time spent selecting escape routes and practicing what to do may save lives if a fire occurs in your home.
Before a Fire
- Make sure your home (especially basements, garages, and attics) is free of unnecessary combustible materials.
- Know where your main gas and electrical switches are so you can shut them off in an emergency.
- Rememember the three basic ways to put out a fire:
- Take away its fuel.
- Take away its air (smother it).
- Cool it with water or fire-extinguishing chemicals.
- Whichever method you use, act immediaely. Special types of fires require special methods.
- Never use water on an electrical fire. Use only fire extinguishing chemicals specially designed for electrical fires. If you can turn off the electricity, you can then use water or anything else available to smother the fire.
- Oil and grease fires (most of which occur in the kitchen) can be smothered with baking soda, salt, or by putting a lid over the flame, if it is burning in a small pan on the stove.
- Small fires can be controlld with water or fire extinguishers, but don't try to fight a fire that is getting out of control. Get everyone out of the house and call the fire department.
- Most fire departments have free brochures and pamphlets on a variety of safety topics. Contact your local fire department or public safety office for additional information.
- Do not overload extension cords or outlets; an extension cord used to connect an appliance should always be the proper size and capacity for the appliance.
- Do not store flammable liquids inside the home.
- Store gasoline and other flammable liquids in proper containers and in well-ventilated areas.
- Never use gasoline, benzine, naptha, and similar liquids indoors--their fumes will readily ignite from any kind of spark.
- Rags soaked with cleaning fluids or turpentine sometimes catch fire by themselves (this is called spontaneous combustion), and they should be safely discarded after use.
- Do not run wires under carpets or rugs.
- Do not store matches or cigarette lighters where children can get to them.
- Do not leave cooking unattended.
- If you smoke, do not smoke in bed or in other positions where you may doze.
- If you smoke, have many large ashtrays in the home.
- If you smoke, never do so while handling flamable liquids.
- Always have two ways out of every room.
- Have fire extinguishers near the kitchen and garage.
- Have escape ladders for all windows higher than eight feet off the ground.
- Install a smoke detector in every bedroom, in every hallway outside of a bedroom, and at least one on every level of the house.
- Test smoke detectors monthly and change batteries in the smoke detectors in the fall when you change your clocks.
- Have furnace, stoves, chimneys, and flues inspected, cleaned, and (if necessary) repaired.
- Always place a screen in front of a fireplace.
- If using a wood-, coal-, or kerosene-burning stove, be sure there is proper ventilation to the outside.
- Make sure there is adequate space around the heater and that the floor and nearby walls are properly insulated.
- When stoves or heaters have an open flame, keep the unit away from walls, furniture, draperies, and other flamable items.
- Store matches in a closed metal container, out of reach of children and heat sources.
- Plan and practice a family fire drill twice a year (day and night), drawing a floor plan of the home, and identifying two ways out of every room.
- Make sure children know what to do if a fire starts.
- Agree on a place to meet outside so no one tries to go back into a burning building to look for someone needlessly.
During a Fire
- Do NOT waste time saving property; leave the house immediately!
- If you are inside and have time, make sure everyone is out.
- Take the safest exit route, but if it's necessary to escape through smoke, remember to crawl low, under the smoke, keep your mouth covered (smoke contains toxic gases that can cause disorientation or worse, overcome you), and get out of the building.
- If you are outside, stay outside.
- Do not return to your home for anything.
- Do not re-enter the building until appropriate authorities have given permission.
- Watch to see that nobody else goes back inside to rescue anything or anyone.
- If you are inside, get out and go to the nearest house or building.
- Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's home in the event of a fire. Report the address and type of fire. Listen and follow instructions.
- Go to a family meeting place.
- If you are in a closed room or office, do not open the door without first feeling it and the door knob. If it is warm or hot, do not open it, but unlock it to help rescue and fire personnel.
- If you cannot use the door or other means of escape to exit and if there is smoke, use clothes, sheets, etc. to stop the smoke from coming in. Go to the window and yell or blow a whistle.
- If you see someone on fire, use a coat, blanket, etc., but not your bare hands, to smother the flames.
- If possible, turn off the gas and electricity from outside the house.
- In a public building, know two ways out. If you hear a fire alarm, immediately exit the building regardless of what you are doing. Follow the established evacuation instructions.