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12 Fire Safety Tips You Need to Know

Fire departments in the United States respond to more than 350,000 home structure fires each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, seven people died in home fires every day between 2011 and 2015. Here are 12 fire safety tips you need to know.

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Have an Escape PlanVadim Ratnikov/Shutterstock

Have an Escape Plan

Home fires spread quickly and can engulf a small home in just minutes. The National Safety Council recommends families have a home escape plan in case of a fire. Make sure escape routes from each room are mapped and every family member knows where the fire safety meeting spot is outside the home. And practice your escape plan once a month.
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Check Smoke AlarmsPhovoir/Shutterstock

Check Smoke Alarms

Install smoke alarms in every room of the home, including hallways. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it's best to use interconnected smoke alarms because if one sounds, they all sound. And this means if a fire starts in the basement, the alarms will alert you if you're sleeping on the second floor. For fire safety test all alarms once a month.
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Know How to Use Fire ExtinguishersAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Know How to Use Fire Extinguishers

There are several types of fire extinguishers. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a multi-purpose extinguisher that is large enough to put out a small fire, yet it's light enough to handle with ease. Use a fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a garbage can and it isn't growing. To use, remember the word "PASS." Pull the pin, aim low, squeeze the lever slowly and sweep the nozzle from side to side. And you should have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, along with one on each floor including in the basement and in the garage and/or workshop.
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Put Out a Grease Fire CorrectlyKzenon/Shutterstock

Put Out a Grease Fire Correctly

Cooking equipment is a leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries. If a grease fire starts in your kitchen, never douse it with water or any other kind of liquid. This will create steam explosions which could cause the fire to spread. And do not swat the flames with a towel or rag. If the fire is contained to a pan, throw baking soda or salt on it from above, not the side. You can also cover the pan with a metal lid or a baking sheet. And if neither work, practice fire safety and get out of the home and call 9-1-1.
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Use Caution with CandlesAnjelikaGr/Shutterstock

Use Caution with Candles

Never leave burning candles unattended. The National Fire Safety Association recommends extinguishing all candles when you leave a room or go to bed. Keep candles at least 12 in. away from anything that could catch on fire, such as curtains, blankets or furniture. And use candles and candle holders that are sturdy and won't tip over easily and never leave a child in a room alone with a burning candle.
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Practice Electrical SafetyAtsushi Hirao/Shutterstock

Practice Electrical Safety

Always have extensive electrical work done by a licensed electrician and have remodeled areas of the home inspected for fire safety. And major appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers should be plugged directly into a wall outlet—never into an extension cord. Do not use electrical cords under doorways or carpets.
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Take Fire Safety Precautions in the Garage/Utility RoomGabor Tinz/Shutterstock

Take Fire Safety Precautions in the Garage/Utility Room

Any area where electricity could come in contact with water, such as in the laundry room and garage, should have fire safety GFCI outlets. And store all flammable materials in approved containers and away from direct sunlight and any possible heat sources. Also, never use a generator inside a garage or an enclosed space as high levels of carbon monoxide can accumulate.
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Fireplace SafetyPan_Da/Shutterstock

Fireplace Safety

Your home's chimney should be swept at least once a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This fire safety measure will help remove soot and debris which could become a fire hazard. And when using the fireplace, keep any flammable materials, such as blankets, curtains and rugs away from the fireplace and never leave children unattended near a working fireplace.
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Use Space Heaters SafelyDmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Use Space Heaters Safely

When using a space heater, check the cord for cracks and make sure the heater is away from anything that can burn, such as clothing and curtains. And plug the space heater directly into the outlet and for fire safety turn the heater off whenever you leave the room. Want more? Check out these space heater safety tips.
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Stop, Drop and Roll_EG_/Shutterstock

Stop, Drop and Roll

If your clothing catches fire, remember Stop-Drop-Roll. Stop what you're doing then drop to the ground and cover your face if possible. Then roll over and over or back and forth until the flames are extinguished, according to the Red Cross. Cool burned skin with water for three to five minutes then call for fire safety medical attention.
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Close Your DoorParaksa/Shutterstock

Close Your Door

A closed door—such as a bedroom door when you're sleeping—can slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association. However, while a closed door can give you some extra time to respond and escape from a fire, it's still best to have a home fire safety alarm system. This system is interconnected so you are alerted to a fire anywhere in your home.
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What to Do if There's a Fire in Your Home...sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

What to Do if There's a Fire in Your Home...

If a fire does occur in your home, leave your things and get out of the house. The Red Cross recommends yelling "Fire" several times and getting outside as soon as possible, then call 9-1-1. And if door handles are warm or if smoke has filled the area, find an alternate way out, if possible. If you need to escape through smoke, get low. If you can't get out because of flames, stay in the room. Close the door and put a wet towel under the door. Call 9-1-1 and open a window or wave a colored cloth to signal for fire safety help.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.