Fire Department - Safety Tips
According to the United States Fire Administration, candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries, and $539 million in estimated direct property damage each year.
- Over half (55%) of home candle fires start because the candle is too close to some combustible material.
- More candle fires (38%) begin in the bedroom than in any other room.
- Falling asleep is a factor in 12% of home candle fires and 26% of the associated deaths.
- Half of all civilian candle fire deaths occur between midnight and 6 a.m.
- December is the peak month for candle fires; Christmas is the peak day.
- Young children and older adults have the highest death risk from candle fires.
- The risk of a fatal candle fire appears to be higher when candles are used for light.
Candle Fire Safety Tips
- Ensure candles are in sturdy metal, glass, or ceramic holders and placed where they cannot be easily knocked down.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children and pets.
- Set a good example by using matches, lighters, and fire carefully.
- Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Never put candles on a Christmas tree.
- Never leave the house with candles burning.
- Extinguish candles after use and never go to sleep while candles are still burning.
- NEVER leave burning candles unattended!
Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - Candle Fires, September 2007.
- Check all smoke detectors and repair/replace any that don't work.
- Never leave cooking unattended.
- Know how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
- Prepare an exit plan with a meeting spot outside and practice the plan with your family.
- Keep fresh Christmas trees sufficiently watered so the needles don't dry out and shed.
- Keep Christmas trees away from all heat sources and exits.
- Make sure artificial trees are flame-retardant.
- Never decorate metal trees with electric lights.
- Only purchase UL listed lights and decorations.
- Unplug lights before going to bed or leaving your home.
- Never run electrical cords through doorways or under rugs.
- Inspect and replace lights and extension cords with exposed wires or damaged cords.
- Don't overload electrical outlets. Use power strips instead.
- Never leave burning candles unattended or place them near combustibles.
- Only burn well-seasoned, dry wood in your fireplace. Never burn paper in a fireplace.
The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Here are a few tips to keep your home safe while cooking:
- Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or stovetops. Never use wet oven mitts or potholders as they can cause scald burns. Remember to keep combustibles like potholders and paper towels away from the stove.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle and catch fire if it comes into contact with a stove burner.
- Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet and never use an extension cord since it will overload the circuit and cause a fire.
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food and if you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
- Never use an oven to heat your home or for any other purpose besides cooking.
- Turn pot handles away from the stove's edge to prevent the pan from being knocked or pulled off the stove.
- Treat a burn right away by putting it in cool water for 3 to 5 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately if you have any questions about how to treat the burn.
- If your smoke detectors sound during normal cooking, after quickly making sure there is no fire, fan the area around the detector with a towel to clear smoke away from the detector. Don’t ever disable the detector when receiving nuisance alarms. Consider moving the detector further away from the stove if possible, but always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Electrical fires in homes claim 485 American lives each year and cost almost $900 million in property loss. While some electrical fires are caused by system failures and appliance defects, most are caused by the misuse of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. December is the most dangerous month for electrical fires.
- Routinely check electrical appliances and tools for worn or frayed wiring. If you notice smoke, sparks or overheating, discontinue their use and replace them immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords only for temporary purposes and never overload them.
- Never set or use electrical appliances on wet surfaces.
- Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters and never allow children to play close-by.
- Never run electrical cords under rugs or in high traffic areas and never allow doors or windows to be closed on or bend electrical cords.
- Never force an appliance with a three-prong plug into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
- Use outlet plug covers on electrical outlets to protect children from electrical shock.
Time is of the essence when escaping a fire, so every second counts. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames, so proper escape planning will help your family get out quickly.
- Escape plans should be conducted at least twice per year.
- Make sure you have at least two ways out of every room, like the primary door and a window.
- Escape ladders can be used for high windows, but make sure they carry an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing.
- Each family member should practice feeling their way out of the house in the dark or with their eyes closed to simulate the dark, smoky conditions that exist in a fire.
- When a fire occurs, time should never be wasted trying to save valuables and keepsakes.
- Crawl low under the smoke and keep your mouth covered. The smoke contains toxic gases which can disorient and overcome you.
- Use the back of your hand to feel the door to see if it’s hot, which indicates fire is on the other side, so you should use your second escape route. If the door is cool, open it slowly. Quickly shut the door if smoke or heat comes in.
- Designate a meeting location away from the building that all family members are aware of. Then one person should call 911 from a neighbor’s house.
- Never go back into a burning building for any reason!
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports that in cases where fire fatalities occurred on college campuses, alcohol was a factor. In more than 50% of adult fire fatalities, victims were under the influence at the time of the fire. Alcohol abuse often impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts. Cooking is the leading cause of fire injuries on college campuses, closely followed by careless smoking and arson.
- Students should be made aware of the general rules of fire safety. Proper evacuation procedures should be discussed, along with how to properly use the fire alarm system and notify emergency dispatchers.
- Students should take each alarm seriously and never ignore them.
- Vandalized smoke detectors and fire alarm systems can prevent early detection of fires.
- Misuse of cooking appliances, overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords increase the risk of fires.
- Students should keep exit doors and windows clear and unobstructed.
- All students should be required to participate in fire drills.
The Bowling Green Fire Department hosts a Firehouse Festival in the Home Depot parking lot every October to commemorate National Fire Prevention Week. There are plenty of equipment demonstrations and fire safety education materials. You’ll meet Sparky the Fire Dog and Howard the Hydrant, plus you’ll see performances by the firefighter clowns, get an up close look at all the firetrucks and much more.
- Fireplaces must be inspected and cleaned regularly because they build up creosote in their chimneys that can quickly start a fire.
- Check for cracks or any obstructions.
- Make sure the damper is open before starting a fire.
- Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup.
- Use a heavy screen to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.
- Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.
The fire department recommends that you enjoy professional fireworks shows. They are the safest way for your family to see fireworks.
- If you feel you must buy fireworks, buy only from a reputable local retailer.
- Remember to wear eye protection around lit fireworks.
- Remember that no firework is safe and all can cause serious injury.
- Young people suffer the majority of fireworks injuries, so they should never be allowed to light or hold the fireworks.
- Most people feel that sparklers are safe for children to hold, but sparklers burn at several hundred degrees and cause major burns if touched.
- Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
- Keep a water hose and bucket of water close by.
- If your clothes happen to catch on fire, remember to stop, drop & roll to extinguish the flames.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that Halloween is the fifth highest day of the year for candle fires, trailing only Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Fires caused by ignited decorations resulted in an average of 1,610 house fires a year in the United States in 2000-2004. Here are a few tips:
- Make homemade costumes or purchase only flame-resistant or flame-retardant costumes.
- Use flashlights when illuminating jack o’ lanterns.
- If you choose candles, keep the pumpkin away from anything that can burn. This is especially critical if your area is experiencing drought conditions. Lawns and shrubbery can be extremely dry and a fire can start in an instant. Keep decorations such as dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper away from heat sources.
- Illuminate walkways with flashlights instead of candles or torch lights.
- Provide your child with a lightweight flashlight for trick or treating.
Smoke detectors, if properly installed and maintained, will give an early warning to your family in the event there is a fire, which could save the lives of your family members by quickly providing a chance to escape. There are many different brands of smoke detectors, but they come in two basic types: ionization and photoelectric.
Ionization detectors sound more quickly when a flaming, fast moving fire occurs. Photoelectric detectors are quicker at sensing smoldering, smoky fires. There are also dual sensor smoke detectors that combine ionization and photoelectric into one unit.
Because both types do a better job of detecting distinctly different fires, we recommend the installation of both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor smoke detectors.
In addition to the basic types of detectors, there are detectors made to meet the needs of people with hearing disabilities. These detectors may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke detectors when they sound.
Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including the basement. Since many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning, we also recommend installing smoke detectors inside and outside of every sleeping area in your home. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions so that your family receives the warning at the earliest possible time to aid in escaping quickly from the fire.
Remember not to disable your smoke detector if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in the detector after cooking. Instead clear the air by waving a towel near the detector, leaving the batteries in place. The smoke detector also may need to be moved to a new location to avoid false alarms.
Most smoke detectors have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your detector so you will know when to replace it. In any event, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.
Some smoke detectors are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery backup. It’s important to test every smoke detector monthly and replace the batteries with new ones at least once a year.
- When making your reservations, ask if the building has smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.
- Upon arriving, become familiar with your surroundings. Locate 2 exits from your room. Count all doors between your room and each exit in case of an emergency evacuation in smoky conditions. Locate the fire alarm pull stations and detectors in your room and on your floor.
- Always take a flashlight with you on trips.
- Take note of the fire evacuation plan posted in your room and request one from the management if there isn’t one.
- Never smoke in bed.
If a Fire Occurs:
- If the fire is in your room, get out quickly, closing the door behind you. Sound the alarm and notify the front desk.
- If the fire is not in your room, leave only if it is safe to do so. Be sure to take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.
- To check the hallway for fire, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door is cool, get low to the floor, brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Crawl low in the smoke to the nearest exit. Always use a stairwell, never an elevator. The elevator could stop at the floor of the fire.
- If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Call the fire department to give your location. Turn off the fans and air conditioners. Signal from your window with a flashlight or light-colored sheet, towel or article of clothing.
- If you are in doubt, leave the building immediately. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 after you leave.
- If you do try to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
- Always keep a metal lid and an oven mitt nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, put the oven mitt on and very carefully slide the lid over the pan in order to smother the flames. Turn off the burner, and by all means, DON’T move the pan or remove the lid until it is completely cool in order to keep the fire from restarting.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance only if you can safely reach the outlet.
- After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.
Before using a fire extinguisher, there are many things you should know first. Fire extinguishers are designed for small fires, not larger ones. You should have some knowledge of how to properly use it, on what type of fire to use each type of fire extinguisher and whether you should actually fight the fire or flee from it. Learning what to do before the fire occurs is essential. If you have a doubt as to whether or not you can fight the fire, don’t take a chance. Get out of the building, alerting people as you go, and call the fire department.
If you choose to fight the fire, make sure of the following:
Be sure your back is to an unobstructed exit so that you can get out quickly if necessary.
Be sure that you are using the right extinguisher for the type of fire you have and that it is large enough to handle the fire.
Be sure the fire is not spreading beyond the immediate spot where it started.
In Order To Fight The Fire, Remember The Word PASS
P is for PULL - Pull the pin. Some extinguishers require releasing a lock latch, pressing a puncture lever, or taking another first step.
A is for AIM - Aim the extinguisher nozzle or its horn or hose at the base of the fire.
S is for SQUEEZE - Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
S is for SWEEP - Sweep from side to side, keeping the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire until the fire appears to be out. Watch the fire area and, if fire breaks out again, repeat the process.
Fit the Extinguisher to the Fire
Be sure to match the proper extinguisher to the type of fire you are fighting. Know what type of extinguishers you have available and which type of fires they can be used on. For example, it is dangerous to use a Type A extinguisher or water on a grease or electrical fire. Knowing your extinguisher can make the difference in putting the fire out or possibly making it bigger. Some extinguishers can be recharged after they are used and some must be discarded and replaced. Check your extinguisher to determine which kind it is.
Class A - Ordinary combustibles, such as paper, cloth, wood, rubber and plastic.
Class B - Flammable liquids, such as oil, grease, gasoline, oil-based paint, lacquer and flammable gases.
Class C - Energized electrical equipment, including fuse boxes, wiring, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances.
If your clothes catch fire - stop, drop, and roll by stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, and covering your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth to put out the fire. If someone is unable to get on the ground, use a blanket or rug to tightly wrap around the victim to smother the flames. Immediately cool the burn with cool water for 3 to 5 minutes and seek emergency medical care.
- Microwave ovens should be at a safe height and within easy reach of all users to prevent hot foods and liquids from spilling onto the user.
- Plug microwave ovens directly into an outlet and never use an extension cord since it will overload the circuit and cause a fire.
- Never put any type of metal or unapproved container in a microwave oven. Food should only be cooked in microwave safe dishes. If you aren’t sure, don’t take a chance.
- Remember to slowly open heated food containers away from your skin to avoid steam burns.
- Since foods often heat unevenly in microwave ovens, make sure you stir and test the food before serving.
The Bowling Green Fire Department suggests the following tips to keep your family and home safe when grilling outdoors:
- Grills should be placed well away from houses, bushes, and other objects.
- Grills should never be used indoors or inside an unventilated area, as doing so would be both a carbon monoxide poisoning risk and a fire hazard.
- When grilling over charcoal, only use starter fluid developed specifically for barbecue grills.
- Before starting a gas grill, confirm that the link between the propane tank and the fuel line is operating correctly and not leaking. If a leak is suspected, turn off the gas immediately. Do not use the grill until the leak is fixed. Never use a match to hunt for leaks.
- Long-handled tools and barbeque mitts are good protection against contact burns.
- Children and pets should be kept away from the grill until the equipment has fully cooled.
- Teach children that hot things burn.
- Never hold a child while cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
- Establish and enforce a 3 foot child-free zone around the stove to keep children from being burned by hot foods and liquids. Also keep children 3 feet away from any place where hot foods and drinks are being carried or prepared.
- Remember to keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges.
- When children are old enough, teach them to cook safely but always supervise them closely.
- Make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and repair/replace them as needed.
- Plan and practice exit drills in your home with all household members.
- Place portable heaters, space heaters and wood or coal burning stoves at least three feet away from furniture, walls, curtains or anything else that can burn.
- Turn off space heaters when you leave home or go to bed.
- Let liquid fueled heaters cool down before refueling them. Refuel the heater outdoors, away from structures where spills won't present a fire hazard. Use only the fuel recommended.
- Never install unvented gas heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms where carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels.
- Use fireplace screens to protect your home from sparks.
- Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood in your fireplace or wood stove.
- Never leave cooking unattended.
- Purchase a fire extinguisher and learn how to properly use it.
The misuse of wood stoves, portable space heaters and kerosene heaters are common risks in rural areas, where individuals are twice as likely to die in a fire as individuals living in cities and suburban areas.
When shopping for a wood stove, look for solid construction, like plate steel or cast iron. Then remember to closely follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions. Check for cracks in the body of the stove and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only well-seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, paper or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.
Electric Space Heaters
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Buy only those heaters that have a thermostat control mechanism that will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Don’t dry clothes on top of heaters or lay objects on top of them. Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Only use them for their intended use and fuel them only with the manufacturer’s recommended fuel. Don’t overfill the heater and only use it in a well ventilated room.