Safety Council: Prepare for fires

October is Fire Safety Month and the Home Safety Council, a national nonprofit organization, is urging families to take action to prepare for and prevent home fires.

Fires and burns are the third leading cause of home injury and result in more than 3,400 fatalities annually; yet new research by the council shows that only 37 percent of Americans have taken any steps to protect themselves against fires.

When asked about fire safety practices, only 13 percent of respondents said they have planned and practiced a family fire drill — an essential step that increases the ability to respond quickly and appropriately in the event of a fire. While the majority of fatal fires happen at night, the council also found that only half of those surveyed (51 percent) have installed smoke alarms in their bedrooms. Additionally, only 8 percent of respondents live in a home protected by fire sprinklers.

"Unfortunately, our research indicates that too many families don’t understand or appreciate the danger of home fires and as a result, have not taken even the most basic steps to prepare for a fire emergency," said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. "With less than three minutes to escape if a fire occurs, every home needs a well-rehearsed escape plan and working smoke alarms. They are critical to saving lives."

The council offers the following guidelines for household smoke alarms and fire escape plans:

* Only purchase smoke alarms that are listed by a national testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL.

* Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. At the least, make sure there is an alarm near every sleeping area. The council recommends additional smoke alarms be installed inside all bedrooms.

* For the best detection and notification protection, install both ionization- and photoelectric-type smoke alarms throughout. Some models provide dual coverage.

* Smoke rises, so smoke alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings.

* Choose an installation location that is well away from the path of steam from bathrooms and cooking vapors from the kitchen, which can result in nuisance alarms. Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.

* Put new batteries in your smoke alarms at least one time each year, and any time the alarm signals low battery power.

* Use interconnected smoke alarms. Interconnected alarms are linked together so that if one alarm detects a fire, they all signal together.

* If your smoke alarms are 8-10 years old, get new smoke alarms.

* Make a fire escape plan with every member of your family. Sketch out a map of your home, including all rooms, windows, interior and exterior doors, stairways, fire escapes and smoke alarms.

* Make sure windows and doorways open easily and unlock easily from the inside, without a key. Make sure stairs and doorways are never blocked.

* If you have security bars on doors and windows, have a "quick-release" latch on the inside. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to use the latch.

* Find two ways out of every room — the door and maybe the window. You might need an escape ladder to get out of upstairs windows. If so, they should be part of your fire drill.

* Children and many older adults will need help escaping a fire. Plan for this. If anyone in the household has a hearing impairment, purchase special smoke alarms that use strobes and/or vibrations to signal a fire.

* As a family, agree on a place to meet in front of your home. Once you get out, don’t go back inside for anything.

* Practice makes perfect. Hold family fire drills frequently and at various times until the escape plans become second nature. Once you’ve mastered the escape process, hold a drill when family members are sleeping so you can test each family member’s ability to waken and respond to the smoke alarm.

For additional tips, visit


Information courtesy Home Safety Council

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