Top 10 Tips For Home Fire Safety

When a home fire occurs, heat and smoke build and spread quickly and silently, leaving families with as few as three minutes to escape. Fire safety and survival begin with preparation. Yet, according to a recent national survey from the nonprofit Home Safety Council (HSC), only 37 percent of respondents have taken any actions at home to prevent fires.

HSC is partnering with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) to educate families that the best way to protect against a home fire is to have three things: working smoke alarms on each level of the home to warn of a fire, even late at night; a fire escape plan that the whole family has practiced; and an installed home fire sprinkler system to control a fire.

Most families know about the importance of smoke alarms and fire drills, but very few are familiar with home fire sprinklers. In fact, the Home Safety Council's recent survey revealed that only eight percent of adults in major cities across America live in homes protected by fire sprinklers and 41 percent of those surveyed didn't know that fire sprinklers were a safety option for their homes.

"It's definitely a concern that so many families are living without home fire sprinklers. They offer the ultimate fire protection and that can save lives," said Meri-K Appy, Home Safety Council president. "Fire sprinklers are available for homes, but too often people don't know to ask for them when they build or move. Many people believe the common myths about fire sprinklers, which may prevent them from wanting to install the system."

To show home fire sprinklers in action, and help dispel common sprinkler myths, HSC and NFSA have developed online animations that simplify and demonstrate how the technology works. The "Living Room" of -- the Home Safety Council's free, virtual home safety tour -- features animations comparing a fire burning in a home protected by sprinklers with one that is not. The interactive feature illustrates how quickly a fire grows out of control in the room without fire sprinklers, filling it with deadly smoke. In the home with fire sprinklers, the fire remains small and contained.

Home fire sprinkler systems are installed behind the walls like plumbing. Sprinklers are connected to a constant water supply, so they are always ready to extinguish fires. Only the heat of a fire will cause the sprinkler to flow -- not smoke.

If a fire starts, the sprinkler closest to it quickly controls the fire, keeping it small until the fire department arrives. That quick response controls heat and deadly smoke. With a fire under control and confined to just the area of the room where it started, families have more time to get outside to safety -- and survival.

"Smoke alarms are essential to alert people to a fire, especially when they're asleep and most vulnerable," Appy said. "But only sprinklers work automatically to control and even put out a fire when it's small. They're the very best protection a family can have against the tragedy of a home fire."

If you are considering buying a home or moving to a new building, choose one with a fire sprinkler system, if possible. When building a new home or doing a major remodel of an existing home, consider having a home fire sprinkler system installed. Contact your local fire department for help finding a qualified home fire sprinkler installer.

Even with fire sprinklers, every family needs working smoke alarms and a well-rehearsed fire escape plan for full protection. Follow the Home Safety Council's advice below to make sure your home is safe from fire.

  1. Put smoke alarms inside or near every bedroom. Test them monthly to make sure they work.
  2. Put new batteries in smoke alarms once a year, sooner if the alarm chirps.
  3. Make a fire escape plan for your family. Find two exits out of every room. Pick a meeting place outside. Practice makes perfect -- hold a family fire drill at least twice each year.
  4. Always stay in the kitchen while cooking.
  5. Keep BBQ grills at least ten feet away from other objects, including the home and any shrubs or bushes.
  6. Only light candles when an adult is in the room. Do not allow children to keep candles or incense in their rooms.
  7. Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet, out of reach for young children.
  8. Learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher.
  9. Space heaters need space. Keep them at least three feet away from things that can burn, such as curtains or stacks of newspaper. Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or falling asleep
  10. If you use gasoline, store only a small quantity in an approved gasoline container. Store it in an outdoor shed, away from your home. Never bring any amount of gasoline indoors.
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