Residential fire and tips to prevent home fires

Fire prevention tips

A small fire can grow into a deadly one within one or two minutes. To help prevent a tragedy, closely inspect your home to eliminate potential hazards. Prepare your home for an emergency, and teach your family about the dangers of fire and how to escape.

Place smoke alarms in your home

  • Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent.  They are a critical first step to staying safe, but in order to be effective they have to be working properly. 
  • Put smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom.
  • Smoke alarms can be battery-operated or electrically hardwired in your home and are available at a variety of price points.
  • Use Daylight Saving Time as a reminder to check your smoke alarms.  Replace conventional batteries at least once a year, even if alarms are wired directly into your home’s electrical system.  
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings since smoke rises. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall. Wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Consider installing both ionization alarms, which are better at sensing flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms, which are better at sensing slow, smoky fires, or dual sensor alarms. Some smoke alarms also have a 10-year battery. 

Plan and practice escape routes

  • Plan and practice several escape routes and a safe place to meet outside.
  • Have a designated person to help young children and others who might have difficulty escaping. Have a back-up plan for young children in case the primary person is overcome by smoke.
  • Practice fire drills at least twice a year. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape.
  • Choose a place to meet outside that is a safe distance away from your home. 
  • Smoke is toxic. Teach children to "get low and go" if there is smoke when they are leaving the home. 
  • Home fires and home fire-related deaths are more likely to occur during cold-weather months, December through February.
  • Teach safety. A child who is coached properly ahead of time may have a better chance of surviving.
  • Children should know the following: the sound of the smoke alarm; to touch doors with the back of your hands before opening; never to go back in a burning building; how to dial 911; to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch on fire; not to play with matches, candles gasoline or lighters.
  • If there is a fire emergency at home, grab your family and leave your home immediately.  Once you are out of the house, stay out of the house.  Wait to call 911 until after you are out of the home. 
  • If you live in an apartment, pull the alarm at the nearest "pull station" while leaving the floor.  Know all your building’s fire escape exits and use the stairs to get out.  Do not use elevator.  

Your kitchen could be a hazard

  • Check the kitchen for preventable hazards and supervise children at all times in the kitchen.
  • Limit distractions and don’t leave a hot over or stove top unattended.
  • Keep children away from cooking and heating appliances. Never leave the kitchen while cooking and never leave a child alone.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, such as dishtowels or wooden spoons, away from your stovetop.
  • Cook with pots and pans on back burners. Turn handles away from the front.
  • Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency, and make sure you know how it works.  

Eliminate other potential hazards

  • Keep matches, lighters, and gasoline locked away and out of children’s reach. Keep flammable items such as clothing, furniture, newspapers or magazines at least three feet away from the fireplace, heater or radiator.
  • Store all flammable liquids such as gasoline outside of the home.
  • Place space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can catch fire such as curtains or papers. Closely supervise children and pets when the space heater is on.
  • Always turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • if using gasoline-powered devices, store gasoline in a locked location where children cannot access it.  Keep only small quantities in an approved container that has child safety features. 
  • Plug an electric space heater into an outlet with enough capacity. Never plug it into an extension cord.
  • Place covers over unused electrical outlets and avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.
  • Replace old or frayed electrical wires and appliance cords, and keep them on top of, not beneath rugs.
  • Establish a “Kid-Free Zone” around fireplaces, including gas fireplaces, and wood burning stoves. Glass fire screens can get very hot. Consider using a safety gate. 
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.  Always blow them out when you leave the room and before you go to sleep.  
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Place candles in a safe location away from combustible materials and where children or pets cannot tip them over.
  • If you are using a fireplace or wood stove, burn only seasoned hardwood such as oak, ash or maple. 
  • Have chimneys cleaned and inspected once a year.
  • Teach kids to never play with matches, lighters or fireworks.  Avoid novelty lighters or lighters that look like toys. 

Fire safety for kids resources

U.S. Fire Administration for Kids
Smokey Bear

Sparky the Fire Dog
National Fire Protection Association