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  Home Fire SafetyMonday, March 4th, 2024  

The United States has one of the highest fire death and injury rates in the world. Fire is the second leading cause of accidental death in the home. The following checklists and recommendations will help you make sure your home is safe from fire. Also see our article, Supplemental Heating Home Fire Safety, for more information.

Cooking Equipment
Cooking equipment is estimated to be associated with more than 100,000 fires annually, and almost 400 deaths, and 5,000 injuries. Gas cooking equipment accounts for about 30,000 fires, and electric cooking equipment for about 55,000 fires.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. The storage area above the stove is free of flammable and combustible items.

  2. Short or tight fitting sleeves, and tight fitting shirts, robes, gowns, etc., are worn while cooking.

  3. Items that could attract children (e.g. cookies and candy) are not kept above the range and are kept out of the immediate area.

  4. The stove is not left unattended when cooking especially when the burner is turned to a high setting.
Cooking Equipment Safety Recommendations:
  • Never place or store pot holders, plastic utensils, towels and other non-cooking equipment on or near the range because these items can be ignited.

  • Roll up or fasten long loose sleeves with pins or elastic bands while cooking. Do not reach across a range while cooking. Long loose sleeves are more likely to catch on fire than are short sleeves. Long loose sleeves are also more apt to catch on pot handles, overturning pots and pans and cause scalds.

  • Keep constant vigilance on any cooking that is required above the "keep warm" setting.

  • Do not place candy or cookies over top of ranges. This will reduce the attraction kids may have for climbing on cooking equipment, thus reducing the possibility of their clothing catching fire.
Cigarette Lighters and Matches
Each year more than 200 deaths are associated with fires started by cigarette lighters. About two thirds of these result from children playing with lighters. Most of the victims are under five years old.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. Cigarette lighters and matches are kept out of the reach of children.

  2. Cigarette lighters are never used to entertain a child.
Cigarette Lighters and Matches Safety Recommendations:
  • Keep lighters and matches out of sight and out of the reach of children. Children as young as two years old are capable of lighting cigarette lighters and matches.

  • Never encourage or allow a child to play with a lighter or to think of it as a toy. Do not use it as a source of amusement for a child. Once their curiosity is aroused, children may seek out a lighter and try to light it.

  • Always check to see that cigarettes are extinguished before emptying ashtrays. Stubs that are still burning can ignite trash.
Upholstered Furniture
Another leading cause of fire in homes is the ignition of upholstered furniture. Many of these fires are caused by careless use of cigarettes.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. Upholstered furniture fabrics made from vinyl, wool or thermoplastic fibers are generally selected for safety reasons.

  2. I check thoroughly after parties for ashes or unextinguished cigarettes that may have fallen behind and between cushions and under furniture.
Upholstered Furniture Safety Recommendations:
  • Look for furniture designed to reduce the likelihood of furniture fire from cigarettes. Much of the furniture manufactured today has significantly greater resistance to ignition by cigarettes than upholstered furniture manufactured 10 to 15 years ago. This is particularly true of furniture manufactured to comply with the requirements of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council's (UFAC) Voluntary Action Program. Such upholstered furniture may be identified by the gold colored tag on the furniture item. The legend on the front of the tag in red letters states--"Important Consumer Safety Information from UFAC."

  • Always check the furniture where smokers have been sitting for improperly discarded smoking materials. Ashes and lighted cigarettes can fall unnoticed behind or between cushions or under furniture.

  • Look for fabrics made predominantly from thermoplastic fibers (nylon, polyester, acrylic, olefin) because they resist ignition by burning cigarettes better than cellulosic fabrics (rayon or cotton). In general, the higher the thermoplastic content, the greater the resistance to cigarette ignition.

  • Do not place or leave ashtrays on the arms of chairs where they can be knocked off.
Mattresses and Bedding
Smoldering fires in mattresses and bedding materials caused by cigarettes are a major cause of deaths in residential fires.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. "No smoking in bed" is a rule that is practiced in my home.

  2. Heaters, ash trays, smoking materials and other fire sources are located away from bedding.
Mattresses and Bedding Safety Recommendations:
  • DO NOT smoke in bed. Smoking in bed is a major cause of accidental fire deaths in homes.

  • Locate heaters or other fire sources three feet from the bed to prevent the bed catching on fire.

  • Consider replacing your old mattress with a new one if you are a smoker. Mattresses manufactured since 1973 are required to resist cigarette ignition.

Wearing Apparel
Most fibers used in clothing can burn, some more quickly than others. A significant number of clothing fires occur in the over 65 age group principally from nightwear (robes, pajamas, nightgowns). The severity of apparel burns is high. Hospital stays average over one month.

Small open flames, including matches, cigarette lighters, and candles are the major sources of clothing ignition. These are followed by ranges, open fires and space heaters. The most commonly worn garments that are associated with clothing ignition injuries are pajamas, nightgowns, robes, shirts/blouses, pants/slacks and dresses.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. When purchasing wearing apparel I consider fiber content and fabric construction for safety purposes.

  2. I purchase garments for my children that are intended for sleepwear since they are made to be flame resistant.
Wearing Apparel Safety Recommendations:
  • Consider purchasing fabrics such as 100% polyester, nylon, wool and silk that are difficult to ignite and tend to self extinguish.

  • Consider the flammability of certain fabrics containing cotton, cotton/polyester blends, rayon, and acrylic. These are relatively easy to ignite and burn rapidly.

  • Look at fabric construction. It also affect ignitability. Tight weaves or knits and fabrics without a fuzzy or napped surface are less likely to ignite and burn rapidly than open knits or weaves, or fabrics with brushed or piled surfaces.

  • Consider purchasing garments that can be removed without having to pull them over the head. Clothes that are easily removed can help prevent serious burns. If a garment can be quickly stripped off when it catches fire, injury will be far less severe or avoided altogether.

  • Follow manufacturer's care and cleaning instructions on products labeled "flame resistant" to ensure that their flame resistant properties are maintained.
Flammable Liquids
One of the major causes of household fires is the improper use and storage of flammable liquids. These include gasoline, acetone, benzene, lacquer thinner, alcohol, turpentine, contact cements, paint thinner, kerosene, and charcoal lighter fluid. The most dangerous of all is gasoline.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety statements.
  1. Flammable liquids are stored in properly labeled, tightly closed non-glass containers.

  2. Flammable liquids are stored out of reach of children.

  3. These products are stored away from heaters, furnaces, water heaters, ranges, and other gas appliances.
Flammable Liquids Safety Recommendations:
  • Take extra precautions in storing and using flammable liquids, such as gasoline, paint thinners, etc. They produce invisible explosive vapors that can ignite by a small spark at considerable distances from the flammable substance. Store outside the house.

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