Fires are among the leading causes of accidental death in the United States today. According to the National Safety Council, 3,300 people died in fires in 1990. During that year, 513,000 residential fires resulted in $3.9 billion property damage. The toll continues to grow every year, even with increased use of 911 emergency response systems.
More than three out of four reported fires occur in the home. Fires are likely to be more severe in rural areas because of the response time and limited equipment available to outlying fire departments.
PEOPLE CAUSE FIRES
People's actions -- and how they fail to consider fire safety -- are common to all major causes of household fires. Major causes include improper use and maintenance of heating appliances; improper use and care of electrical appliances; lack of functioning smoke detectors; and careless use of smoking materials. This publication covers electrical safety, smoke detectors and use of a family exit plan.
CHECK ELECTRICAL CORDS
Electrical plugs and cords usually deteriorate gradually, making damage difficult to detect. Inspect all appliance cords and plugs for wear at least once a year. If you discover a frayed cord or loose prongs on a plug, discontinue use until repairs can be made.
CHECK ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
All wiring systems have circuit breakers or fuses that disconnect power when circuits become overloaded. However, an improperly sized fuse or breaker can cancel this built-in safety feature.
To prevent overloading, never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at once or "piggyback" extra appliances on extension cords or wall outlets. Use only outlets designed to handle multiple plugs.
Give special consideration to appliances that use 1,000 or more watts, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, hot plates, irons, microwave ovens, dishwashers, heaters, and deep fryers. Avoid plugging them into the same outlet or circuit. To use these appliances safely, know which outlets are connected to the same electrical circuit in your home. Do not exceed 1,500 watts for each outlet or circuit. Wattage requirements are listed in appliance manufacturer's instructions.
Begin a habit of regularly checking electrical cords and outlets. Fires that begin in these areas are difficult to detect, yet easy to prevent.
CHECK SMOKE ALARMS
However, it is more dangerous to rely on a smoke alarm that does not work properly than it is to have no smoke alarm in your home. Check the operation of the smoke alarm every month, and replace batteries once a year.
If smoke from cooking sets off your alarm, never remove the battery to disable the alarm. You may forget to replace and reconnect the battery when cooking smoke is no longer a problem, and the disabled alarm offers a false sense of security. Consult a professional if the alarm continuously sounds from cooking smoke. The alarm may be located too close to the kitchen, or an exhaust fan may be needed in the cooking area.
Consider manufacturer's suggestions on where to locate the smoke alarm. All smoke alarms should be placed on the ceiling or a wall near the ceiling in central locations. Most manufacturers suggest at least one smoke alarm for each floor. Some floor plans may require additional locations. Always select an alarm that has been tested and displays the seal of a testing organization.
It's a good idea to develop your own Operation EDITH, Exit Drills in The Home. A good plan is known by all members of a household and includes an outside meeting location away from danger of the fire. It also will include more than one way to get out of each area of the home. Stage Operation EDITH practice drills periodically, then discuss the plan with family members.
Safe use of electrical appliances and outlets, a working smoke alarm, and a good family emergency exit plan may be all that's needed to protect you and your family from the dangers of fire.
HOME FIRE SAFETY
See answers at the end of "What Can You Do?".
What Can You Do? Fire safety is important. A few simple actions can reduce the chance of fire in your home.
Answers to quiz:
1-c; 2-c; 3-False; 4-d.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Publication #: Pm-1265a
This document is Fact Sheet is apart of a series from the Safe Farm Program, Iowa State University Extension, Ames Iowa. Safe Farm promotes health and safety in agriculture. It is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Iowa State University, and a network of groups that serve Iowa farm workers and their families. Publication Date: January 1992.
Prepared by Charles V. Schwab, Extension safety specialist; James F. Westphal, Extension fire service education specialist; and Laura Miller, Extension communications, Iowa State University Extension, Ames, Iowa.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More