Would you know what to do if a fire started in your home? Would your kids? Take the time now to review fire safety facts and tips so your family will be 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 doesn’t break out in the first place. That means you should always be aware of potential hazards in your home. Start by keeping these tips in mind:
Electrical Appliances, Cords, and Outlets
- Are your electrical appliances in good condition, without loose or frayed cords or plugs?
- Are your outlets overloaded with plugs from the TV, computer, printer, video game system and stereo?
- Are you overusing an extension cord?
- Do the light fixtures in your home use bulbs that are the correct wattage?
- Does your home contain GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) and/or AFCIs (arc fault circuit interrupters), which prevent electrical shock and fire by shutting off faulty circuits?
Look around your house for potential problems. And unless you’re a trained electrician, be careful about do-it-yourself electrical projects. Studies have shown that many home fires are caused by improper installation of electrical devices.
- Replace or professionally repair any appliances that spark, smell unusual, or overheat.
- Don’t run electrical wires under rugs.
- Make sure lamps and night-lights are not touching bedspreads, drapes, or other fabrics.
- Use caution when using electric blankets.
- Don’t let kids use kitchen appliances by themselves and supervise any art or science projects that involve electrical devices.
- Cover any outlets that are not in use with plastic safety covers if you have toddlers or young children in your home.
From overly hot faucets to tipped-over coffee cups, burns are a potential hazard. Burns (especially scalds from hot water and liquids) are some of the most common childhood accidents. Babies and young children are especially susceptible — they’re curious, small and have sensitive skin that needs extra protection.
Here are some important ways to protect kids from burns — as well as electrical shocks and household fires — in your home.
- Make a fire escape plan with two ways out of the house, plus a designated meeting place once out of the house. Practice the fire escape plan regularly.
- Keep an emergency ladder on upper floors of your home in the event of a fire. Keep the ladder in or near the room of an adult or older child capable of using it.
- Make sure you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and remember to change the batteries twice a year.
- Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years or older.
- Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it.
- Put child-safety covers on all electrical outlets.
- Get rid of equipment and appliances with old or frayed cords and extension cords that look damaged.
- Bind excess cord from lamps or other electrical equipment with a twist-tie to prevent injury from chewing on cords. You also can purchase a holder or spool specially designed to hide extra cord.
- Position television and stereo equipment against walls so small hands don’t have access to the back surfaces or cords.
- Make sure all wires to seasonal lighting, such as holiday tree lights, are properly insulated (for example, make sure they don’t have exposed or broken wiring). Bind any excess cord and unplug lights when they’re not in use.
- Check electronic toys frequently for signs of wear and tear; any object that sparks, feels hot or smells unusual must be repaired or discarded immediately.
- Choose sleepwear that is labeled flame-retardant (either polyester or treated cotton). Cotton sweatshirts or pants that aren’t labeled as sleepwear generally are not flame-retardant.
- Keep electric space heaters at least 3 feet (91 centimeters) from beds, curtains or anything flammable.
- Screen fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Radiators and electric baseboard heaters may need to be screened as well.
- Teach kids never to put anything into the fireplace when it is lit. Also make sure they know the glass doors to the fireplace can be very hot and cause a burn.
- Make sure to have all chimneys cleaned regularly.
- Clean the clothes dryer vent of lint after each use.
- Keep matches, lighters, chemicals and lit candles out of kids’ reach.
- Don’t run electrical wires under rugs or carpet.
- Don’t overload electrical sockets.
- Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120°F (49°C), or use the “low-medium setting” — a child can be scalded in 5 seconds in water at 140°F (60°C). If you’re unable to control the water temperature (if you live in an apartment, for example), install an anti-scald device, which is relatively inexpensive and easily installed by you or a plumber.
- Always test bath water with your elbow before putting your child in it.
- Always turn the cold water on first and turn it off last when running water in the bathtub or sink.
- In the tub, turn kids away from the faucet or fixtures so they’re less likely to play with them or accidentally turn on the hot water.
- Unplug all bathroom appliances (hair dryers, curling irons, electric razors) when not in use. Make sure older kids are especially careful when using irons or curling irons. Teach children that curling irons or irons can be hot after use, even if unplugged.
- Have a 3-foot “no play” zone around the stove where children are instructed they are not allowed to be.
- Don’t let a child use a walker in the kitchen (the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the use of walkers overall).
- Don’t drink hot beverages or soup with a child sitting on your lap, or carry hot liquids or dishes around kids. If you have to walk with hot liquid in the kitchen (like a pot of soup or cup of coffee), make sure you know where kids, pets and toys are so you don’t trip over them.
- Don’t hold a baby or small child while cooking.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove every time you cook.
- Block access to the stove as much as possible. It’s a good idea to install a stove lock and stove knob locks.
- Don’t warm baby bottles in a microwave. The liquid may heat unevenly, resulting in pockets of hot milk or formula that can scald a baby’s mouth. Keep hot drinks and foods out of reach of children.
- Avoid using tablecloths or large placemats. A small child can pull on them and overturn a hot drink or plate of food.
- Unplug all kitchen appliances when not in use and keep cords far from reach.
- Make sure to use cabinet locks on cabinets containing cleaning products. Many can cause burns. Always store cleaning products in their original containers, never in milk or plastic jugs.
Outside/In the Car
- Use playground equipment with caution. If it’s very hot outside, use the equipment only in the morning, after it’s had a chance to cool down during the night.
- Remove your child’s safety seat or stroller from the hot sun when not in use because kids can get burns from hot vinyl and metal. If you must leave your car seat or stroller in the sun, cover it with a blanket or towel.
- Before leaving your parked car on a hot day, hide the seatbelts’ metal latch plates in the seats to prevent the sun from hitting them directly.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen when going outside. Use a product with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out and reapply every 2 hours or more often if in water. Do not use sunscreen on infants under 6 months — kids this age should be kept out of the sun.
Stay alert and stay safe!