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Home fire safety tips

An out of control roaring house fire

The most important home fire safety tip is prevention. More than 500,000 house fires occur each year, in all types of homes – site-built and manufactured, making it the second leading cause of accidental death in the home.

Here are some home fire safety tips to protect your home and family now:

  • Always have a fire emergency plan for your family and practice your family fire drill at least twice a year. Also have an emergency kit prepared.
  • Don't plug multiple items in the same electrical outlet or circuit. If an electrical appliance smokes or smells unusual, unplug it immediately and have it serviced before using again.
  • Keep baking soda near your stove to extinguish grease fires. If you don't have baking soda, use salt, but don't use water which will spread the flame. Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Store flammable liquids like gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, etc., in approved containers outside your home, but not under your home. They produce invisible vapors that can ignite even from a small spark.
  • Fires started by cigarettes cause more deaths than any other kind of fire. Don't smoke in bed or when you're drowsy. Run butts and ashes under water before disposing.
  • Never use extension cords on a permanent basis and avoid running them under rugs.
  • Don't place hay, straw or other combustible materials beneath your home. They can dry out and easily ignite.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach. Teach them these are for adult use only.
  • Clean dryer vents frequently and empty lint screens after each load.
  • Never install a double cylinder deadbolt lock on your exit doors. They require a key to unlock from the inside. When you need to exit in a hurry, this type of lock can be deadly.

Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors save lives!

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and near your furnace. Make sure they're multi-purpose, dry-chemical extinguishers, suitable for class A, B and C fires. Teach all family members how to operate them. And keep them recharged so they're ready when you need them.

More than half of all fatal home fires occur while people are asleep. That's why smoke detectors are so essential. They can warn you before you see or smell smoke and give you time to get out.

If your home doesn't already have at least two smoke detectors, install one by your bedrooms and one at the opposite end of your home. Position them on the ceiling at least four inches from any wall. Or put them on a wall, six to 12 inches below the ceiling.

The two main types of smoke detectors are photoelectric and ionization, which detect smoke in different ways. It's safest to use a combination of both types of detectors.

If your smoke detectors are powered by electricity, add at least one that's battery powered, or has a battery back-up in case of power outages.

  • Choose a smoke detector that was tested and approved by an independent laboratory.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly. Never disconnect or remove the batteries.
  • Sometimes the sound of a smoke alarm doesn't wake small children. Test your alarms while your children sleep to ensure they are close enough to their bedrooms to wake them.
  • Listen for the detector's beep or signal that indicates a weak battery and change it immediately. Always change batteries at least once a year.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions to clean your smoke detectors. Excessive dust or other materials may cause it to operate abnormally. Vacuum the detector's grillwork. Never paint your detectors because you could damage their smoke-detecting sensors.
  • Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector or propane detector that will add extra safeguards against hazardous situations.

Heat your home safely

Faulty heating equipment plays a part in over 40 percent of winter home fires. You can help prevent fires by safely maintaining and operating your furnace, space heater or wood stove. Have a qualified technician inspect your furnace, water heater, fuel lines and gas pressure regulator every year.

Have a technician check the entire flue area each fall. Clean or change furnace filters and clear obstructions from the exhaust vent. Never store items or let debris build up near the furnace or hot water heater.

Supplemental heating units like electrical space heaters, fireplaces, kerosene heaters and wood stoves can be dangerous. Be sure each device is approved for use in a manufactured home and have permanent devices professionally installed.

Keep space heaters away from hallways and doorways where they can be knocked over. Also keep them away from bedding, clothing, draperies, towels, upholstered furniture and other flammable items. Unplug them before you leave or go to sleep.

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