Fire Safety

More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 20,000 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It's not a question of luck. It's a matter of planning ahead. (USFA, Web)

In a Fire

  • Always crawl close to the floor in smoke.
  • Feel doors with the back of your hand for heat before opening.
  • If your clothing catches on fire, stop, drop, and roll on the floor until the flames are out.
  • Call the fire department from a neighbor's house.
  • Contact the American Red Cross to help you meet emergency needs.

Check Your Home For

  • Properly operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
  • Check your smoke detectors every six months. Change batteries twice a year.
  • Plan, with the whole family, two escape routes from your home.
  • Practice fire drills, regularly, using a smoke detector as a signal to start the drill. Follow your escape plan. Children tend to hide when frightened. Fire drills are most important for children between the ages of two and twelve.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from small children. Children are curious about fire.
  • Be sure your heating and electrical systems are properly maintained and in good working order.
  • Carefully follow instructions on all appliances and heating units, taking special care not to overload your electrical system.
  • Be careful that holiday decorations are safely displayed.
  • Store important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and insurance papers in a fireproof box, refrigerator, or rent a safety deposit box at your local bank.
  • Make an itemized list of your personal property, including furniture, clothing, appliances, and other valuables. Keep this list up-to-date and store it along with other important documents.
  • Have your chimney inspected for buildup.

Smoke Detectors

How Prepared Are You? (U.S. CPSC / FEMA)

You should be able to respond "yes" to:

  • At least one smoke detector is located on every floor of my home? 
  • Smoke detectors are placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling on the wall? 
  • Smoke detectors are tested according to the manufacturer's instructions. On a regular basis (at least once a month) and are kept in working condition at all times? 
  • Batteries are replaced according to the manufacturer's instructions, at least twice a year? (Day-Light Savings Time)
  • Batteries are never disconnected? 
  • The detector has a distinct warning signal that can be heard whether asleep or awake? 
Test Your Detector
Place Detector on Every Floor
Single Level Detector Placement

Make sure detectors are placed either on the ceiling or 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke detectors away from air vents or registers; high airflow or "dead" spots are to be avoided. It is recommended that smoke detectors be installed inside and outside sleeping areas.


  • Purchase a smoke detector if you do not have one. Smoke detectors are inexpensive and are required by law in many localities. Check local codes and regulations before you buy your smoke detector because some codes require specific types of detectors. They provide an early warning which is critical because the longer the delay, the deadlier the consequences.
  • Read the instructions that come with the detector for advice on the best place to install it. Smoke detectors should be located inside and outside bedrooms and one on every floor of the main space.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance. Smoke detectors can save lives, but only if properly installed and maintained.
  • Never disconnect a detector. Consider relocating the detector rather than disconnecting it if it is subject to nuisance alarms, e.g. from cooking.
  • Replace the battery annually, or when a "chirping" sound is heard.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions about cleaning your detector. Excessive dust, grease, or other material in the detector may cause it to operate abnormally. Vacuum the grillwork of your detector.

Escape Plan

Planning ahead, rehearsing, thinking, and acting clearly are keys to surviving a fire.

How Prepared Are You? (U.S. CPSC)

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following:

  • Does the family have an escape plan and an alternate escape plan?
  • Escape routes and plans are rehearsed periodically?
  • Does the escape plan include choosing a place safely outside the house where the family can meet to be sure everyone got out safely?
  • At least two exits from each part of the house are established?
  • The fire department and/or "911" number is posted on every telephone?

Example of a Family Escape Plan


  • Establish advanced family planning for escape. It is an important partner with smoke detectors and it will prepare you for a fire emergency.
  • Include small children as a part of the discussion and rehearsal. It is especially important to make sure they understand that they must escape; they can't hide from the fire under a bed or in a closet.
  • Your life and that of your family can be saved by foresight, planning, discussing, and rehearsal.

For more information check out resources from the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.