Fire Safety Tips:
How to Prevent a Fire in Your Home
As part of our goal to create awareness of the seriousness of burns, the following should provide some comprehensive fire safety tips to be implemented in your home. The goal is to motivate the reader to take all possible preventive and safety actions at home or at work in order to avoid such an accident on your part or that of a family member.
In the kitchen
Unplug kettles, frying pans and other appliances when not in use.
Remove pans of cooking oils and fats from the stove when not in use (you could turn on the wrong burner).
Do not hang cloths over the stove to dry (they may fall on the burner).
Keep matches out of reach of children. Use only safety matches.
Have an approved fire extinguisher nearby for grease fires.
In the living room
Provide fire screens for fireplaces as sparks can easily start a fire.
When lighting a fire, never leave it unattended until all the safety precautions are in place.
Provide sufficient electrical outlets for your needs. Do not use extension cords.
Provide deep substantial ashtrays for smokers. Make sure the contents are placed in a metal container or flushed down the toilet before going to bed.
If you are installing a wood or coal stove, fireplace or solid fuel furnace, you should make sure the installation is certified and the products meets the requirements of major certifying agencies. Check this out before making your purchase.
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In the bedroom
Never smoke in bed. Many people are killed in fires as a result of bedding becoming ignited from a cigarette in the hands of a sleepy person.
In the basement and the attic
Remove all combustibles and flammables from the basement and attic areas. These could provide fuel to a fire once started and even make it easier for a fire to start.
Make sure a qualified service man checks out and cleans your furnace once a year. As well, the chimney and flue connections should be checked for leaks.
Remove oversized fuses. A 15-ampere fuse is required for regular domestic circuits.
Have your wiring checked periodically by a qualified electrician.
Using smoke detectors
The majority of fire-related deaths occur from the smoke of a fire which contain gases, i.e. carbon monoxide, that can kill you. Consequently, it is essential to use smoke detectors in your home because you can be alerted to the danger in the early stages of a fire.
Smoke detectors obtain their power from batteries, the household electric current or both. Instead of sound, light signals are available for the hard of hearing. The smoke detector you buy should be listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
If you are using batteries for a smoke detector, make sure you replace them once a year. All certified battery-operated alarms are required to sound a trouble signal when the batteries need to be replaced. These signals last around seven days. So if you are away from home for a long period of time you should check the batteries on your return. Smoke detectors that operate from a household electrical current can be powered by being directly wired into the electric system or by an electrical cord to a plug. In the latter case, be sure there is no on/off switch for that plug because it could be accidentally turned off.
Location of detectors
A critical area that can be isolated from the rest of the house is the basement, especially with the entrance door firmly closed. Statistically, basements account for a significant number of fires. For this reason you should always place a smoke detector at the head of the stairs leading down to the basement.
A smoke detector is also recommended at the head of each stairway leading to an occupied area; this will be well located for bedroom areas, where you need to hear and be awakened in the event of a fire.
False alarms can be irritating and a nuisance. Do not disconnect or cover up the alarm; instead move it to a better location.
Maintenance of smoke detectors
Smoke alarms should be cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly and make a mental note or a note in your diary when to attend to the detector.
These are used primarily to prevent small fires from becoming large fires. Their presence in your home can be a vital factor in saving lives and minimizing damage. Place fire extinguishers in readily available places that everybody is aware of. Make sure that everybody knows how to use them.
Planning to evacuate your home
You may think it’s not important now, but if your house catches fire, you will be extremely glad you planned escape routes for all family members.
You should conduct a fire drill with all family members ensuring that everybody knows :
a) Two ways out of every bedroom.
b) Escape routes for each room in your home.
c) Make sure babysitters, visiting family members and your family know the drill.
d) Decide in advance who will help babies, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
e) Windows are usually an alternative exit. Be sure storm windows and screens can be removed easily from the inside and are big enough to crawl through.
f) If a window leads to a porch or garage roof, that’s helpful. If not, an escape ladder r knotted rope should be available.
g) Make sure everybody knows how to break a window effectively, using a heavy object but shielding the face from flying glass and removing jagged edges with a chair leg or shoe.
h) The phone number for the local fire hall — post it next to every telephone.
When fire strikes
When fire is detected, shout to warn the other occupants. Don’t wait to get dressed: grab your shoes and a blanket, if they’re available. Have a neighbour call the fire department if you don’t have time to do so.
Never open a door without checking it for heat and looking for smoke leaking around the edges of the door. If the door is warm, leave it closed and go out through an alternative exit like a window. Place bed linen or clothing around the edges of the door to prevent smoke entering the room.
Don’t risk serious injury by jumping from a high window. Open the window a little and sit on the floor to get fresh air or wait on a balcony for rescue. Hang out a sheet to show rescuers your location. Place bedding on the cracks to keep the smoke out.
Smoke, heat and deadly gases coming up from below to the upper levels can be lethal. It can almost act like a chimney in the middle of your home. If you cannot leave an upper room by a window, close the door and wait by an open window for rescue.
When trying to escape, even if the door feels cool, brace your body against it. Open it an inch, but be ready to shut it if you feel the pressure of a hot draft on your hand. If you do decide to leave the house, cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth. If there is heavy smoke between you and your exit, get down and crawl — there is usually better air near the ground.
When trying to escape it is best to keep calm and do not panic. You can practice your exit with your eyes closed as if there is thick smoke.
If heat and smoke have entered the room, remember that heat and deadly gases rise. Tie a heavy cloth around your nose and mouth. Roll out of bed and crawl to the window. Make sure the door is shut before you open the window. A draft could fan a fire, cutting off your escape.
Meet at a prearranged place to check who is present. Never go back into a burning building. Be especially watchful of children who may go back into burning buildings to rescue pets or personal possessions.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you live in a high rise apartment
If the fire is in your suite:
• Alert everybody who is the suite.
• Everybody should leave the suite, closing the door but making sure it is unlocked.
• Sound the fire alarm in the corridor.
• Call the fire department, giving your street address, floor and apartment number.
• Leave your floor by the nearest exit stairway, closing the door behind you to prevent the spread of smoke and heat.
• Never use the elevators. Heat can activate some elevator call buttons sending the elevator to the fire floor itself, where dense smoke may interfere with the elevator’s light sensitive eye, preventing the doors from closing. Another potential problem is the water from the fire fighting operations may short out the central switch, causing the elevator to stop and leaving you trapped within the elevator.
If the fire is within your building:
• Call the fire department immediately, giving all the necessary details. Never assume this has already been done.
• Unplug all appliances.
When you evacuate:
Be prepared for heavy smoke and heat. If time allows, put on shoes and a heavy coat for protection. Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
Test the surfaces of all the doors before opening. If the door or the knob feels hot, deadly heat and gases may have already filled the corridor. Even if the door is cool, brace yourself against the door and open it slightly. If you feel air pressure or a hot draft, close the door quickly. Remain in your suite.
If the corridor is clear, close the suite door behind you and leave the building via the nearest stairway, closing the door after you.
Do not use elevators.
If you encounter smoke or fire in your descent, use another exit. If an alternative exit cannot be reached safely, either return to your suite or seek refuge in a neighbor’s apartment.
If you remain in your apartment, use wet towels or sheets to seal cracks, mail slots, etc. If smoke begins to seep through the central air conditioning outlets, plug them as well.
Move to the balcony, or the most protected room and open a window.
If the smoke enters a room, crouch low. If the apartment fills with smoke, go to the balcony. Signal your position by waving a white sheet. Wait to be rescued.
Preventing a fire in an apartment
Keep to the same principles of prevention already mentioned covering homes where appropriate.
Do not put flammable liquids, aerosol cans or burning material down garbage chutes or force anything into chutes which may cause blockages.
It is wise not to use barbeques on balconies due to limited space and the hazards created by the use of starter fluids.
In storage and locker rooms, keep the area tidy, do not store flammable liquids and do not use matches or candles to look for objects in dark lockers.
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