Fire Prevention Week Tips

More fires occur during the winter months than any other time, and steps taken during October can help keep you safe at home. October 4-10 marks National Fire Prevention Week with the theme, “Stay Fire Smart, Don’t Get Burned.”

A home fire is reported every 81 seconds in the United States, and roughly eight persons die in a home fire every day, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Most home fires originate in the kitchen. After cooking and smoking, heating sources and electrical equipment were among the most common causes as well.

PECO offers the following fire safety tips to ensure that you and your family can stay safe:

  • Have your home heater cleaned and inspected to ensure safe, efficient operation at least every other year, and keep the area around the heater clean at all times. An inspection by a qualified contractor can ensure the heater vent or flue is not blocked, a common problem leading to carbon monoxide poisoning and fires.
  • Make sure there is sufficient space between heating equipment, such as free-standing space heaters -- and combustibles like furniture and drapes. Never leave an operating portable heater unattended, especially when there are children and pets nearby, or when you are sleeping. When home fires result in fatalities, the NFPA reports portable and space heaters often are involved.
  • Take time to inspect conditions around your home. Look for any loose or frayed cords on all electrical appliances. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets. Use only one appliance for each receptacle when possible. Avoid the use of devices that allow the connection of multiple appliances into a single receptacle.
  • Have plastic covers on all unused electrical outlets in homes with small children.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp’s recommended wattage.

A small percent of all home fires are caused by candles, most being used in the bedroom. Seventy-percent of households use candles. Lit candles should never be left unattended, and candles should always be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Make sure candles are on a firm base so they will not tip over, and avoid placing candles near curtains, furniture and other flammable materials.

In addition to fire prevention, fire experts want all homes to be equipped with smoke alarms or detectors, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and home sprinkler systems when possible. Families should check smoke detector batteries once a month, replace the batteries once a year, and occasionally dust the inside of the unit to prevent false alarms. Fire officials say smoke alarms -- properly installed and maintained -- play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries.

  • Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a fire in half.
  • A 2008 survey found that nearly all U.S. households had at least one smoke alarm, yet no smoke alarms were present or none operated in two out of five of reported home fires between 2003 and 2006.
  • No smoke alarms were present in 40 percent of the home fire deaths.
  • Almost two-thirds of reported home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • In more than half of the reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, batteries were missing or disconnected.
  • Families need to plan fire escape routes in case of an emergency and practice the routes with all members of your household -- especially children.

Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871.

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