It's Fire Prevention Week! This year's theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years," the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)'s third year in a row focusing on smoke alarms.
Last year was "Hear The Beep Where You Sleep. Every Bedroom Needs a Working Smoke Alarm!" and the year before that, "Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month."
Smoke Alarm Safety Tips
Here are some tips to help you properly install and maintain your smoke alarms:
- Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, including the basement.
- In addition to having a smoke detector inside every bedroom, make sure there is also one outside of every sleeping area.
- Place smoke detectors on the ceiling or high up on the wall.
- Consider having an interconnected smoke alarm system, especially important for larger homes. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Check the manufactured by date on the back of your smoke alarm and replace all smoke alarms within 10 years of the printed date.
- Test all smoke alarms (and CO detectors) every 30 days.
- If anyone in your household is hearing impaired, there are models available that include strobe lights and bed shakers.
- If a smoke alarm goes off, evacuate the premises and call the fire department.
- If the smoke alarm is making a chirping noise, replace the batteries and press the "test" button to make sure it works.
- More about installation and maintenance of home smoke alarms.
Heating (HVAC) System Safety
To help you avoid a home fire in the first place, it's important to consider that heating equipment is the leading cause of home fire death.
So while you snuggle up for the winter, keep in mind the following statistics from the NFPA report, "Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment":
- Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires, figuring in two of every five of these fires and accounting for 84% of associated civilian deaths, 75% of civilian injuries, and 52% of direct property damage.
- The leading factor contributing to ignition for home heating fire deaths (56%) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding.
- The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (30%) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
Source: NFPA's "Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment" report (PDF)
Heating (Furnace, Fireplace & Space Heater) Safety Tips
Around half of all heating-related fires occur during the months of December, January, and February. As the temperatures drop, the risk of a home fire increases.
Luckily, there are some simple safety tips to prevent a heating fire from happening in the first place:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Have your heating system inspected every year by a professional HVAC technician. Sign up for a home maintenance plan to save money and automate your yearly tune-up appointments.
Every year, around 50,000 home fires start because of malfunctioning electrical equipment. It's important to test GFCI and AFCI outlets and breakers every 30 days, schedule an annual electrical safety inspection, and other important prevention steps.
Use this Electrical Safety Checklist to make sure your electrical system is safe all year long.
For more electrical safety information, including information on surge protectors, tamper resistant receptacles, and smoke/CO detectors, read the safety guides on ESFI.org.
National Fire Prevention Week Resources:
- Teaching FPW: Introduce FPW to students, members of your community and high-risk populations.
- Promoting FPW: There are simple steps you can take to promote this year's campaign.
- Fast facts about fire: Quick facts about the dangers of home fires.
- About Fire Prevention Week: Commemorating the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
- Must-have FPW campaign products All the products you need for a successful 2016 FPW campaign.
- Fire Prevention Week quiz: Learn all about smoke alarm safety with this quiz.
- Fire Prevention Week photo contest: One U.S. fire department will be randomly selected to receive a professional photo shoot for the cover of NFPA’s 2017 FPW catalog.