Fire Safety in the Home

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By Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb

Would you know what to do if a fire starts in your home? Would your child?

Take time to review fire safety facts and tips so your family will be better prepared in the event of a fire emergency in your home. Of course, the best way to practice fire safety is to make sure a fire does not break out in the first place. That means you should always be aware of potential dangers in your home.

Start by checking whether your electrical appliances are in good condition, without loose or tattered cords or plugs. Are your outlets not overloaded with plugs from the TV, computer, printer, video game system, hi-fi, heater, DVD player, iron, etc.? Are you not overusing an extension cord? Does your home contain circuit breakers which prevent electrical shock and fire by shutting off defective circuits? Look around your house for potential problems. Many home fires are caused by improper installation of electrical devices.

Electricity, the silent servant, can become a silent assassin.

Be especially vigilant about moveable heaters. Never place a heater where a child or pet could accidentally knock it over. Never place a heater too close to a bed. Keep newspapers, magazines, clothes or bedding away from heaters.

Be careful in the kitchen. Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. Never leave cooking unattended. The kitchen is rife with ways for a fire to start – food left unsupervised on a stove or in an oven or microwave; grease/fat spills; a dish towel too close to the stove plate; a coffee pot accidentally left on. Make sure to practice safe cooking habits – like turning all pot handles in so they can’t be accidentally knocked over and not wearing loose-fitting clothing that could catch fire around the stove.

Beware of cigarettes. Most cigarette-lit fires are started when hot ashes or burning cigarette butts fall into sofas and chairs. If you smoke, be especially careful around upholstered furniture. Never smoke in bed and be sure cigarettes are completely out before you throw them into the dustbin.

Never let your child play with matches and lighters. Children playing with matches are still the leading cause of fire-related deaths and injuries. Always keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.

Use candles safely. If you light candles, keep them out of reach of kids and pets, away from curtains and furniture and extinguish them before you go to bed. Make sure candles are in sturdy holders made of non-flammable material that won’t tip over. Don’t let kids use candles unsupervised in their rooms.

Keep fire extinguishers nearby. Be prepared for any accidents by having fire extinguishers strategically placed around your house. (It should be an all-purpose extinguisher, meaning it can be used on fat/oil and electrical fires). If you’re ever in doubt about whether to use an extinguisher on a fire, don’t try it. Instead, leave the house immediately and call the fire brigade.

Plan escape routes. Planned escape routes are a necessity, especially if a fire were to occur during the night. Inspect the rooms to make sure that furniture and other objects are not blocking doorways or windows. Make sure that the windows in every room are easy to open. If you live in an apartment building, make sure any safety bars on windows are removable in an emergency. Be sure to know the locations of the closest stairways or fire escapes and where they lead. Be sure any babysitter/domestic worker in your home knows all escape routes and plans in case of a fire.

Teach your children the facts about fire. Unfortunately, many kids will try to hide from a fire, often in a wardrobe, under a bed or in a corner. Teach your child that fires spread quickly and they should learn to cover their mouths and noses with a moist towel or an article of clothing to keep out dangerous fumes while evacuating; crawl under the smoke to safety and staying as low to the ground as possible (smoke always rises). If they live in an apartment building, show them how to locate the nearest stairs marked “fire exit” or “fire escape” ?

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