6 Things Firefighters Wish Everyone Did at Home

smoke alarmLike it is for most parents, preventing fires in your home is probably a top priority for you; and also like for most parents, you probably think your home is fairly safe. But is it? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which establishes the guidelines followed by fire departments across the country, home fires cause an annual average of 2,470 civilian deaths in the US (that's seven people per day!). So it's definitely worth taking a closer look at possible hazards lurking in your home -- some might surprise you.


Of course, one stand-out fact about fire safety might not surprise you very much at all:

"The majority of fires happen in homes with no smoke alarms," Lorraine Carli, VP of outreach and advocacy for the NFPA, told The Stir

So it goes without saying that the very first thing you should check in your home is that there are working fire alarms -- and enough of them. The NFPA recommends one alarm in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home; alarms should also be tested every month and replaced every 10 years.

Smoke alarms are a start, but there are some less-obvious tips to follow and dangers to avoid if you want to keep your family truly safe, too:

1. Keep track of your electrical cords (and charge devices properly).

"People think less about electrical hazards like running cords under carpets," says Carli, but they clearly should be thinking about those potential fire-starters: US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 22,410 reported home structure fires involving "electrical distribution or lighting equipment" between 2007 and 2011. Always replace or repair loose or damaged electrical cords and never run them under carpets or across doorways. Also be sure to use the proper chargers for corresponding devices, as using the wrong kinds can lead them to short out and catch fire. This is particularly true, says Carli, when it comes to hoverboards, which have made headlines for their highly flammable nature in recent months.

2. Give your space heaters space.

Between the years of 2007 and 2011, space heaters (portable or stationary) accounted for one-third of home heating fires and four out of five home heating fire deaths. Always keep space heaters about three feet away from anything that can burn (furniture, clothing, bedding, papers) and shut them off before going to bed.

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3. Clean clothes dryer vents regularly.

Don't let lint traps turn your home into a death trap: In 2010, an estimated 16,800 US home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines caused 51 deaths. Clean your lint trap before and after every load of laundry!

4. Keep clutter to a minimum.

One more reason to toss unwanted junk: "Clutter blocking exits can be very dangerous," says Carli, "and you generally have two minutes to get out of a home fire, so every second counts. And if your home is filled with smoke it's very easy to get disoriented." Make an escape plan for your family and practice it so everyone knows exactly how to get out fast in case of a fire, and keep paths to the exits clear of clutter (for both your escaping family's sake and for the professionals trying to get in to help!). 

More from The Stir: Sisters Jump from Window Seconds Before Their House Goes Up in Flames (VIDEO)

5. Always put cigarettes out thoroughly -- and smoke outside.

Smoking materials (cigarettes, pipes, and the like) are the leading cause of fire-related deaths in America. So if you smoke, smoke outside, using "deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table," and make sure butts are completely and totally extinguished (preferably by putting them out in water or sand). Be sure that no cigarettes fall into places like the cracks between furniture cushions, and avoid smoking when you're sleepy or under the influence of alcohol or medication. Finally, always keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children: An average of 49,300 fires started by "playing with fire" are reported to US fire departments every year.

6. Don't get distracted in the kitchen.

Nearly every multitasking parent desperate to get dinner on the table has done it at some point, but stepping away from the stove -- even for a second -- can have deadly consequences: Unattended cooking was the leading cause of home cooking fires based on averages for 2009 to 2013. "Even if you leave the kitchen for a short period of time, shut the burners off," says Carli.


Image via Katy Warner/Flickr

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