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FIRE SAFETY AND PREVENTION PAGE
The information on this page is the most comprehensive fire safety and prevention tips available online. This information can potentially save your life and lives of family, friends and relatives and their pets from fire deaths and injuries. The video to the right shows how fast a small flame can turn into a smokey raging fire in less than 3 minutes and why early detection and an escape plan in case of fire is critical.
In Case of a Fire Emergency evacuate immediately and CALL 911
The type of smoke alarm in your home can make the difference between life and death. Ionization alarms that are in most homes due to lower cost and no warning label, do not detect smoldering smoke in time for safe evacuation. Be sure to replace ionization alarms that do not detect smoldering smoke with photoelectric alarms and or photoelectric / heat alarms that do. ( Preferably the Rate of Rise temperature heat sensors in case of fast flaming fires which can provide an extra 15 to 30 seconds extra escape time vs. photoelectric alone in some fast flaming fires. )
The majority of fires while people are asleep start with smoldering smoke and kill more people every year than from flames. Photoelectric and or photoelectric / heat alarms are far more reliable and safer than ionization alarms that are currently in most homes despite ion alarms being technologically incapable of detecting smoldering smoke. The toxic smoke and carbon monoxide in the smoldering smoke stage, which often lasts for 30 to 60 minutes or more can render occupants unconscious before material actually ignites and causes death from smoke inhalation. Most common source of a smoldering smoke condition is lit cigarettes falling onto couch, carpet or bedding or thrown in trash. Electrical shorts from overloaded power strips or a faulty appliance, baby monitor or any electric device can also cause this type of deadly smoldering smoke condition.
Ionization alarms detect particles of combustion requiring temperature to be high enough for combustion to occur which is why they often sound alarm while cooking which gives a false sense of security and or leads to people disconnecting the batteries. The toxic smoke and carbon monoxide in the smoldering smoke stage often render occupants unconscious before material / smoke reaches temperature where particles of combustion are released, at point or shortly before material actually ignites, often causing death from smoke inhalation or severe burns from occupants being trapped by smoke and flames. It is the opinion of many Fire Chiefs, Fire Protection Engineers and Fire Safety experts that ionization alarms should be banned for use in habitable structures. ( see Supporters of Effort page )
For best protection Install photoelectric / heat smoke alarms in all rooms of your home. Carbon monoxide ( CO) alarms should also be installed nearest to gas stoves, water heaters and furnaces as possible for non heat and non flame hazardous gas leaks which can cause death from carbon monoxide poisoning and also lead to major explosions if fumes reach an ignition source. Check batteries every month by pressing the test button on alarms and change the batteries before the expiration date or if battery warning beep occurs.
Never disconnect a battery in a smoke alarm due to false alarms . If nuisance alarms occur frequently, move the smoke alarm further away, approximately 10 ft. from the source causing the false alarm such as a toaster or stove or bathroom shower which are the most common causes of nuisance alarms. Many lives are lost each year from dead or disconnected batteries! Batteries in hotter climates can drain faster than the date indicated on battery so it is important to test the alarms more often and or check batteries with a volt meter and or replace them if alarm chirp feature alerts you to a low battery.
Preferably if you can afford them, use interconnected photoelectric / heat alarms so if one alarm is triggered all alarms will sound warning. These type of combo alarms can be found via alarm companies and on Amazon, Ebay and other internet retailers. Photoelectric / CO combo alarms are in most box store retailers but most retail stores in U.S. carry only photoelectric / ionization combo alarms which are not as reliable and slower to sound alarm due to manufacturing inefficiencies and ionization alarms having a high failure rate to begin with. Children are sound sleepers and hearing impaired occupants also may not hear an alarm. Special voice smoke alarms that shout FIRE and or record parents voice can be purchased and smoke alarms with flashing lights as well are available for children and hearing impaired.
Fire can grow rapidly so seconds and minutes matter for safe evacuation. If you have a monitored burglar alarm already, your provider can add photoelectric / heat alarms ( more expensive ranging from $64 to $99 depending on your provider, but worth the peace of mind ) so your home will be monitored for smoke and fire 24/7 whether or not burglar alarm is activated, alerting fire department and possibly saving any pets inside when no one is at home. If possible place a Fire Emergency placard in a window or somewhere near front door that can be filled out to tell fire fighters how many occupants and pets live in house in case of an emergency.
Ionization alarms that are in most homes usually have a radioactive label on back plate, some only are marked "ionization" or marked with an i within a circle. If your alarms have any of these indications replace with non radioactive photoelectric and or photoelectric / heat smoke alarms for best protection via Home Security companies or found on Amazon or Ebay using "photoelectric heat smoke alarm" keyword search.
The 3 countries that have banned ionization alarms due to the Radioactive Amercium 241 content in them, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland, now have the lowest fire death rates in the world.
Amercium 241 the radioactive element in ionization alarms is controversial as the amount used is very small, but if alarms melt or ion chamber damaged and radioactivity is released all at once and if inhaled it is believed to cause lung and other cancers. Children are more susceptible to radiation and sometimes may try to take an old discarded ionization alarm apart out of curiosity . (Dispose of the radioactive alarms at a hazmat facility or mail back to manufacture )
FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS offer very best protection with PHOTOELECTRIC ALARMS with HEAT SENSOR (preferably Rate of Rise type) in every room and CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS near gas appliances. Fire sprinklers, like fixed temp heat sensors, will not activate until temperature reaches 135 degrees so a smoldering smoke condition can still cause smoke inhalation deaths and injuries before sprinklers activate with out the photo / heat alarms to warn occupants.
Fire Sprinklers are the best means of preventing a fire from becoming a raging inferno but not many homes have them due to the Fire Insurance companies setting up the NFPA in 1896 and controlling fire codes that only mandated sprinklers in places of business and kept them out of homes for over 114 years. More recently since 2011 California became the 1st State to mandate fire sprinklers in new home construction and some States allow local & county jurisdictions to regulate sprinkler codes, yet other States have legislation that do not support it due to special interests group such as NHBA - National Home Builders Association lobbying against and blocking mandatory fire sprinkler legislation in all but 2 States and D.C. (see Fire Sprinkler Page ). Despite NFPA continued negligence on the ionization alarms, and past negligence concerning home sprinkler systems, the NFPA is now advocating Fire Sprinklers for new homes but have lost the fight for most part due to NHBA lobbying efforts. See www.firesprinklerinitiative.org
Regardless of the Sprinkler Codes in your State and the special interest groups that oppose home sprinklers and bureaucratic wrangling that has been going on for decades that has kept fire sprinklers out of most homes for so long, you can always add Fire Sprinklers to your new or older home. It is your families safety at risk and waiting for all States to mandate Fire Sprinklers could take decades and cost you and family your lives, so the decision is yours to make now. For a list of advantages of adding fire sprinklers to your home which averages $1.35 per sq ft., about 1% of cost for new home construction, additional cost to retrofit older homes. See www.firesprinkler.org
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Learn how to use your fire extinguisher for if and when a smoldering smoke or a small fire is present ( i.e. up to size of flames at 1:22 minute mark of video when smoke detectors activated ) but do not try and extinguish a larger fast growing fire on your own. A fire doubles in size every 30 seconds so it is critical all occupants evacuate immediately and let the fire department fight the fire. See 1st video
If cooking and a flash fire occurs in a frying pan DO NOT try to move the pan off the stove burner and DO NOT use water or flour to extinguish a grease fire. Flour is flammable and water will feed the flames. Carefully cover with a tight fitting lid and turn off burner or carefully empty a box of baking soda on the flames and once flames are out turn off burner. DO NOT remove lid till pan cools down. A dry chemical ABC fire extinguisher will work but care must be taken to keep a safe distance of at least 4 feet and aim at base of flames, taking care not to be to close and or aiming directly downward which can blast the flames out of the pan as fire extinguishers are filled with pressurized air. Should a fire occur while broiling with oven door open, close oven door to smother flames and turn off oven, Same applies if baking, should flames ignite when oven door is opened. NOTE: Use extreme caution! All the above self extinguishing methods should only be used when flames are small enough to be put out safely. There is a 30 to 60 second window on average from beginning of ignition in which flames can be contained safely. It only take 3 minutes for a kitchen to become fully engulfed in fire. In the event of flashing larger flames, evacuate immediately and call 911. Over 50% of cooking fires that homeowners try to put out themselves result in injury and or death due to improper extinguishing methods or fire being to large to be extinguished using methods above. See 2nd video
Be sure to clean lint out of dryer before every use and do not keep clothes on top of dryer while in use. See 3rd video.
Know the danger signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it. We recommend in addition to having photoelectric / heat alarms in every room that a carbon monoxide ( CO ) alarm be placed near all gas appliances such as furnaces, stoves, cloths dryers and water heaters. Gas leaks produce carbon monoxide and are a silent killer which do not produce smoke or any odor. Carbon monoxide leaks in cars also kill so it is a good idea to have a CO alarm in cars, especially older vehicles. Please read and sign this petition https://www.change.org/p/pass-savannah-s-law
See 4th video.
Christmas Trees are very flammable and cause many home fires every year. Christmas trees can catch fire and take less than 1 minute to totally engulf a living room then double in size every 30 seconds spreading into rest of home. To avoid a christmas tree fires turn out the lights on your tree before going to bed or if leaving your home and do not use the older type lights with bulbs that get hot and check the cords for frayed and exposed wiring. Watering your tree to keep it from drying out can also help reduce the risk of a fire. See how quickly a tree in a living room can turn into a raging inferno in less then 1 minute. See 5th video
Use voice warning smoke alarms if you have young children and always plan and practice an escape route. Place a placard in a front window to let fire dept know how many people and pets live in your home. Know the access to two ways out of every room. Second and 3rd story bedrooms may require a fire safety extendable drop down ladder in sleeping rooms in case access thru doorways become blocked by flames and thick smoke making evacuation to dangerous. Safety ladders can be purchased online. Agree on a meeting place outside of your home and prepare to assist young children and family members with special needs and pets that may hide under beds for safe evacuation in case of a fire. ( See 6th video )
Dogs can be good smoke detectors and there are many stories on the internet about dogs alerting families of smoke and fire which saved their lives. That said if a fire occurs while no one is home and your dog or other pets are left locked inside then a fire can be very dangerous to your pets. Leaving pets in back yard while away if possible can save your pets lives in the event of a smoldering smoke / fire situation. Dog doors and monitored smoke alarms are next best protection if leaving pets outside is not possible. ( See 7th video )
If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll and use a blanket or jacket if possible to smother the fire. When evacuating, if door handles are hot, pick an alternate route if possible but if no safer escape route is possible use a towel or rag etc to grasp door knob and stand to the side and stay as low as possible when opening the door in case of flash over. Do not crawl out if possible but try to stay crouched and under the smoke if possible and cover your head and upper body with wet towels or blankets if possible and cover mouth and nose to prevent breathing the toxic smoke. Crawling will slow you down and in some fires the temperature at ground level can be scorching hot and floor can burn your hands and knees.
What You Can Do to Keep Children Safe from fire and burns
Keep children 3 feet away from anything hot, space heaters and stovetops can cause serious burns.
Keep smoking materials locked up in a high place. Never leave cigarette lighters or matches where children can reach them. Never play with lighters or matches when you are with your children and teach them that playing with matches or lighters can cause serious injury and even death.
Turn off power or unplug power strips when not in use in all homes but especially in older homes which may have electrical outlets and breaker boxes more vulnerable to electrical overload due to old age. Check insulation on wiring in attics once a year, as rats sometimes eat away wire insulation over the years and a spark from exposed wiring can cause a fire. A smoke alarm can be placed in attic but in hot climates during summer months, temperatures in attics can trigger a photoelectric with fixed heat sensor ( 135 degrees ) so use only a photoelectric or a stand alone heat detector that has temperature adjustment over 170 + degrees.
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Install Photoelectric Alarm w / Heat Sensor in Every Room for Best Protection and Fire Sprinklers if Possible for Very Best Protection
Dogs are often good smoke detectors and there are many stories and videos like this one, of families being saved because their dog alerted them in time to safely evacuate when smoke or fire broke out while they were asleep.
Just another reason why dogs have been called man's best friend for centuries.
That said smoke alarms still need to be in every room of your home and if you leave your dogs or cats inside while you are away from home and do not have a doggie door for them to go in and out, be sure to keep them in the back yard so if a fire breaks out they will not be trapped inside. Monitored photoelectric / heat smoke alarms that are offered by Home Security Companies would be another alternative to keep your pets safe when away from home even if you have a doggie door. Keep a placard card in window easily visible by fire fighters letting them know how many occupants and pets are in your house in case of fire.
Although the number of pets that die in fires is not an official statistic kept by the U.S. Fire Administration and industry web sites, other sources have cited that an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires – most succumbing to smoke inhalation. According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, approximately half a million pets are affected each year by fires in the home.
In most states, emergency responders are not equipped to deal with the crisis because they lack specially designed pet oxygen masks.
To fill this need, Invisible Fence® Brand started the Project Breathe Pet Oxygen Mask Donation Program to provide oxygen mask kits to first responders. Each kit includes a small, medium, and large mask; fire departments are eligible to receive one kit per station. Their goal is to ensure that every fire department and rescue unit is equipped with these life-saving pet oxygen masks. To date, they have donated more than 10,000 masks to fire stations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Click here to apply for a pet oxygen mask kit for your department. Find out more about the program at