A Guide To Fire Prevention

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), who sponsors Fire Prevention Week (the week of Oct. 9), reports that while 95 percent of U.S. homes have smoke alarms, 70 percent of home fire deaths occur where there is no working alarm. What's more, about half of the 2,670 people killed in home fires in 2002 died between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the prime sleep hours, even though only one-fourth of home fires occurred during those times. Those most affected by the lack of warning are young children and the elderly.

Indeed, these are frightening statistics. But there is something you can do to help prevent fires and detect them before they get out of control. After all, safety should never take a vacation, and planning for an emergency just makes good sense. Here are some tips to ensure that you and your family are safe and secure:

Smoke Alarms

Install them if you have none, and check the ones you do have. Press the test button once a month and change batteries every year. Also, smoke alarms older than 10 years are more likely to fail. Consider installing one of the newest alarm innovations that features both a voice and alarm warning.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms

Equally as important as smoke alarms is having a unit that will alert you of high levels of carbon monoxide in the home. Check the unit's packaging and also with your local fire department to learn more about what constitutes a hazardous CO reading. Some manufacturers now offer units that combine smoke and CO protection.

Heating Equipment

Heating equipment is a leading factor in home fires during winter months. Be sure to have furnaces serviced by a reputable inspector, cleaned and maintained each fall before cold weather sets in. When operating portable or fixed space heaters, be conscious to keep them away from items that could ignite, including drapes and articles of clothing.

Personal Habits

Be conscious of where you are when you do the things you do. Smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths, sending bedding, trash and furniture up in flames. More fires start in the kitchen than any other place in the home, so keep a watchful eye on what you're cooking. Candle fires have tripled over the last 10 years, with some 40 percent of those fires beginning in a bedroom.


Ensure that flammables, such as gasoline, kerosene and paints, are kept in proper containers, tightly sealed and stored away from heat and flame. Never store any of those items near a furnace or hot water heater, and be sure to follow manufacturer instructions on storing these types of products.


Many small home fires can be taken care of using a fire extinguisher before they get out of hand. The National Safety Council's Web site, www.nsc.org, suggests keeping an extinguisher rated for grease and electrical fires in the kitchen. Also place properly-rated units near the furnace and in the garage. One thing to remember, though, is that extinguishers do not last forever. Even if the needle is 'in the green,' plan on replacing the unit about every three years.

Escape Plan and Practice

Whether you already have a plan mapped out or you need to develop a new one, use Fire Safety Week as a good excuse to do something worthwhile. You can find detailed information on the NFPA Web site: www.firepreventionweek.org.

Credit: Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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