The U.S. Fire Administration would like to
remind you of some important fire safety and prevention
- Plan and practice escape
plans several times a year.
- Make sure your whole family
knows when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.
- Obtain and learn how to use
a fire extinguisher.
- Install carbon monoxide
- Consider installing
residential fire sprinklers in your home.
Each year fires occurring during
the holiday season injure 2,600 individuals and cause over $930
million in damage. According to the United States Fire
Administration (USFA), there are simple life-saving steps you
can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some
of the outlined precautionary tips, individuals can greatly
reduce their chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.
Preventing Christmas Tree Fires
Christmas Tree Fire Hazards - Movie
segments demonstrating how fast a live Christmas tree can
become fully engulfed in flames. Special fire safety
precautions need to be taken when keeping a live tree in the
house. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and
- Selecting a Tree for
Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back
from the branches, and the needle should not break if the
tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the
touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree
trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has
been cut too long, has probably dried out, and is a fire
- Caring for Your Tree
Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a
fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree,
causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or
sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near
a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it
up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled
with water at all times.
- Disposing of Your
Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or
woodburning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it
promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking
it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a
community pick-up service.
- Maintain Your
Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare
spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets,
and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use
only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
- Do Not Overload
Do not link more than three light strands, unless the
directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to
an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
Make sure to periodically check the wires - they should not
be warm to the touch.
- Do Not Leave Holiday
Lights on Unattended
- Use Only
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant
and placed away from heat vents.
- Never Put Wrapping
Paper in a Fireplace
It can throw off dangerous sparks and produce a chemical
buildup in the home that could cause an explosion.
- Artificial Christmas
If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it
is flame retardant.
- Avoid Using Lit
If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and
place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never
leave the house with candles burning.
- Never Put Lit
Candles on a Tree
Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame -
candles, lighters or matches.
Finally, as in every season, have
working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home, test
them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh
batteries at all times. Know when and how to call for help. And
remember to practice your home escape plan.
Detectors, Protect Yourself and Your Family Today!
In the event of a fire, properly
installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early
warning alarm to your household. This alarm could save your own
life and those of your loved ones by providing the chance to
- Why Should My Home Have
- In the event of a fire, a
smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones.
They are a very important means of preventing house and
apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning
signal -- so you and your family can escape. Smoke alarms
are one of the best safety devices you can buy and install
to protect yourself, your family, and your home.
- What Types of Smoke
Alarms Are Available?
- There are many different
brands of smoke alarms available on the market but they fall
under two basic types: ionization and photoelectric.
- Ionization alarms
sound more quickly when a flaming, fast moving fire occurs.
Photoelectric alarms are quicker at sensing
smoldering, smoky fires. There are also combination smoke
alarms that combine ionization and photoelectric into one
unit, called dual sensor smoke alarms.
- Because both ionization and
photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting
distinctly different yet potentially fatal fires, and
because homeowners cannot predict what type of fire might
start in a home, the USFA recommends the installation of
both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor smoke
- In addition to the basic
types of alarms, there are alarms made to meet the needs of
people with hearing disabilities. These alarms may use
strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in
alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms
when they sound.
- Okay, Where Do I Put
- Install smoke alarms on
every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal
fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra
safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside
sleeping areas. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise,
installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will
provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always
follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
- Where Would I Get Smoke
- Many hardware, home supply,
or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. If you are
unsure where to buy one in your community, call your local
fire department (on a nonemergency telephone number) and
they will provide you with some suggestions. Some fire
departments offer smoke alarms for little or no cost.
- Are Smoke Alarms Hard to
- If your smoke alarms are
hard wired, that is wired into the electrical system, you
will need to have a qualified electrician do the initial
installation or install replacements. For battery powered
smoke alarms, all you will need for installation is a screw
driver. Some brands are self adhesive and will easily stick
to the wall or ceiling where they are placed. For all smoke
alarm installations, be sure you follow the manufacturer’s
instructions because there are differences between the
various brands. If you are uncomfortable standing on a
ladder, ask a relative or friend for help. Some fire
departments will install a smoke alarm in your home for you.
Call your local fire department (on a non-emergency
telephone number) if you have problems installing a smoke
Pick a holiday or your birthday and replace the
batteries each year on that day.
If your smoke alarm
starts making a "chirping" noise, replace the batteries
and reset it.
- How Do I Keep My Smoke
- If you have a smoke alarm
- Smoke Alarms powered by
long-lasting batteries are designed to replace the
entire unit according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- In standard type battery
powered smoke alarms, the batteries need to be replaced
at least once per year and the whole unit should be
replaced every 8-10 years.
- In hard-wired, battery
back up smoke alarms, the batteries need to be checked
monthly, and replaced at least once per year. The entire
unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
- What if the Alarm Goes
Off While I’m Cooking?
- Then it’s doing its job. Do
not disable your smoke alarm if it alarms due to cooking or
other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the
batteries back in the alarm after cooking. Instead clear
the air by waving a towel near the alarm, leaving the
batteries in place. The alarm may need to be moved to a new
location. Some of the newer models have a “hush” button that
silences nuisance alarms.
- How Long will my Smoke
- Most alarms installed today
have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the
entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write
the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your
alarm so you will know when to replace it. Some of the newer
alarms already have the purchase date written inside. In any
event, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for
- Anything Else I Should
- Some smoke alarms are
considered to be “hard-wired.” This means they are connected
to the household electrical system and may or may not have
battery backup. It’s important to test every smoke alarm
monthly and replace the batteries with new ones at least
once a year.
Contact your local fire
department on a non-emergency phone number if you need help or
have questions about fire safety in your home.
In the event of a fire, remember
- time is the biggest enemy and every second counts! Escape
plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30
seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn
into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill
with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.
- Practice Escaping From
Every Room In The Home
- Practice escape plans every
month. The best plans have two ways to get out of each room.
If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will
need a second way out. A secondary route might be a window
onto an adjacent roof or using an Underwriter's Laboratory
(UL) approved collapsible ladder for escape from upper story
windows. Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can
be taken out quickly and that security bars can be properly
opened. Also, practice feeling your way out of the house in
the dark or with your eyes closed.
Security Bars Require Special Precautions
- Security bars may help to
keep your family safe from intruders, but they can also trap
you in a deadly fire! Windows and doors with security bars
must have quick release devices to allow them to be opened
immediately in an emergency. Make sure everyone in the
family understands and practices how to properly operate and
open locked or barred doors and windows.
- Immediately Leave The
- When a fire occurs, do not
waste any time saving property. Take the safest exit route,
but if you must escape through smoke, remember to crawl low,
under the smoke and keep your mouth covered. The smoke
contains toxic gases which can disorient you or, at worst,
- Never Open Doors That Are
Hot To The Touch
- When you come to a closed
door, use the back of your hand to feel the top of the door,
the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame
to make sure that fire is not on the other side. If it feels
hot, use your secondary escape route. Even if the door feels
cool, open it carefully. Brace your shoulder against the
door and open it slowly. If heat and smoke come in, slam the
door and make sure it is securely closed, then use your
alternate escape route.
- Designate A Meeting Place
Outside and Take Attendance
- Designate a meeting location
away from the home, but not necessarily across the street.
For example, meet under a specific tree or at the end of the
driveway or front sidewalk to make sure everyone has gotten
out safely and no one will be hurt looking for someone who
is already safe. Designate one person to go to a neighbor's
home to phone the fire department.
- Once Out, Stay Out
- Remember to escape first,
then notify the fire department using the 911 system or
proper local emergency number in your area. Never go back
into a burning building for any reason. Teach children not
to hide from firefighters. If someone is missing, tell the
firefighters. They are equipped to perform rescues safely.
Finally, having working smoke
alarms installed on every level of your home dramatically
increases your chances of survival. Smoke alarm batteries need
to be tested every month and changed with new ones at least once
a year. Also, consider replacing the entire smoke alarm every
ten years, or as the manufacturer guidelines recommend.
Many families gather in the
kitchen to spend time together, but it can be one of the most
hazardous rooms in the house if you don't practice safe cooking
behaviors. Cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is
the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries
in the United States. Cooking equipment is also the leading
cause of unreported fires and associated injuries.
It's a recipe for serious injury
or even death to wear loose clothing (especially hanging
sleeves), walk away from a cooking pot on the stove, or leave
flammable materials, such as potholders or paper towels, around
the stove. Whether you are cooking the family holiday dinner or
a snack for the children, practicing safe cooking behaviors will
help keep you and your family safe.
Safe Cooking Behaviors
Choose the Right Equipment and
Use It Properly
- Always use cooking equipment
tested and approved by a recognized testing facility.
- Follow manufacturers'
instructions and code requirements when installing and
operating cooking equipment.
- Plug microwave ovens and
other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use
an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can
overload the circuit and cause a fire.
Use Barbecue Grills Safely
- Position the grill well away
from siding, deck railings, and out from under eaves and
- Place the grill a safe
distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
- Keep children and pets away
from the grill area by declaring a 3-foot "kid-free zone"
around the grill.
- Put out several long-handled
grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from
heat and flames when cooking food.
- Periodically remove grease
or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited
by a hot grill.
- Use only outdoors! If used
indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, barbecue
grills pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing
occupants to carbon monoxide.
- Purchase the proper starter
fluid and store out of reach of children and away from heat
- Never add charcoal starter
fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and
never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than
charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.
- Check the propane cylinder
hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will
reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.
- If you determined your grill
has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there
is no flame:
- Turn off the propane
tank and grill.
- If the leak stops, get
the grill serviced by a professional before using it
- If the leak does not
stop, call the fire department.
- If you smell gas while
cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the
fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
- All propane cylinders
manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection
devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before
capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of
propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily
identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
- Use only equipment bearing
the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the
manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and
- Never store propane
cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill
inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave
Watch What You Heat
- The leading cause of fires
in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
- Stay in the kitchen when you
are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the
kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering,
baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly,
remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to
remind you that you're cooking.
- Stay alert! To prevent
cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won't be if you are
sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine
that makes you drowsy.
Keep Things That Can Catch Fire
and Heat Sources Apart
- Keep anything that can catch
fire - potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or
plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains - away
from your stovetop.
- Keep the stovetop, burners,
and oven clean.
- Keep pets off cooking
surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from
knocking things onto the burner.
- Wear short, close-fitting or
tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can
dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into
contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
If Your Clothes Catch Fire
If your clothes catch fire,
stop, drop, and roll. Stop immediately, drop to the ground,
and cover face with hands. Roll over and over or back and
forth to put out the fire. Immediately cool the burn with
cool water for 3 to 5 minutes and then seek emergency
Use Equipment for Intended
Cook only with equipment designed
and intended for cooking, and heat your home only with equipment
designed and intended for heating. There is additional danger of
fire, injury, or death if equipment is used for a purpose for
which it was not intended.
Protect Children from Scalds and
- Young children are at high
risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children
away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3
feet (1 meter) around the stove.
- Keep young children at least
3 feet (1 meter) away from any place where hot food or drink
is being prepared or carried. Keep hot foods and liquids
away from table and counter edges.
- When young children are
present, use the stove's back burners whenever possible.
- Never hold a child while
cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
- Teach children that hot
- When children are old
enough, teach them to cook safely. Supervise them closely.
Prevent Scalds and Burns
- To prevent spills due to
overturn of appliances containing hot food or liquids, use
the back burner when possible and/or turn pot handles away
from the stove's edge. All appliance cords need to be kept
coiled and away from counter edges.
- Use oven mitts or potholders
when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or
stovetops. Never use wet oven mitts or potholders as they
can cause scald burns.
- Replace old or worn oven
- Treat a burn right away,
putting it in cool water. Cool the burn for 3 to 5 minutes.
If the burn is bigger than your fist or if you have any
questions about how to treat it, seek medical attention
Install and Use Microwave Ovens
- Place or install the
microwave oven at a safe height, within easy reach of all
users. The face of the person using the microwave oven
should always be higher than the front of the microwave oven
door. This is to prevent hot food or liquid from spilling
onto a user's face or body from above and to prevent the
microwave oven itself from falling onto a user.
- Never use aluminum foil or
metal objects in a microwave oven. They can cause a fire and
damage the oven.
- Heat food only in containers
or dishes that are safe for microwave use.
- Open heated food containers
slowly away from the face to avoid steam burns. Hot steam
escaping from the container or food can cause burns.
- Foods heat unevenly in
microwave ovens. Stir and test before eating.
How and When to Fight Cooking
- When in doubt, just get out.
When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain
the fire. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you
- If you do try to fight the
fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a
clear path to the exit.
- Always keep an oven mitt and
a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire
starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the
lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt).
Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire
from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is
- In case of an oven fire,
turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames
from burning you or your clothing.
- If you have a fire in your
microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door
closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely
out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the
- After a fire, both ovens and
microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being
Nuisance Smoke Alarms
- Move smoke alarms farther
away from kitchens according to manufacturers' instructions
and/or install a smoke alarm with a pause button.
- If a smoke alarm sounds
during normal cooking, press the pause button if the smoke
alarm has one. Open the door or window or fan the area with
a towel to get the air moving. Do not disable the smoke
alarm or take out the batteries.
- Treat every smoke alarm
activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to
A longtime food favorite in the
southern United States, the delicious deep-fried turkey has
quickly grown in popularity thanks to celebrity chefs such as
Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. While some people rave about
this tasty creation, Underwriters Laboratories Inc.'s (UL)
safety experts are concerned that backyard chefs may be
sacrificing safety for good taste.
"We're worried by the increasing
reports of fires related with turkey fryer use," says John
Drengenberg, UL consumer affairs manager. "Based on our test
findings, the fryers used to produce those great-tasting birds
are not worth the risks. And, as a result of these tests, UL has
decided not to certify any turkey fryers with our trusted UL
Here's why using a deep-fryer
can be dangerous:
- Many units easily tip over,
spilling the hot oil within the cooking pot.
- If the cooking pot is
overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when
the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the
burner/flames causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
- Partially frozen turkeys
placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This
too, may result in an extensive fire.
- With no thermostat controls,
the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the
point of combustion.
- The sides of the cooking
pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe
If you absolutely must use a
turkey fryer, here are some tips for safer use:
- Turkey fryers should always
be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any
other material that can burn.
- Never use turkey fryers on
wooden decks or in garages.
- Make sure the fryers are
used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
- Never leave the fryer
unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If
you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue
to heat until it catches fire.
- Never let children or pets
near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow
children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the
cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
- To avoid oil spillover, do
not overfill the fryer.
- Use well-insulated
potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles.
If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from
- Make sure the turkey is
completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and
water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing
a fire or even an explosion hazard.
- The National Turkey
Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow
approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed
in the refrigerator.
- Keep an all-purpose fire
extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease
fire. Remember to use your best judgement when attempting to
fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose
fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call
9-1-1 for help.
- Even after use, never allow
children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the
cooking pots remains dangerously hot, hours after use.
UL is providing video
footage/still images of turkey fryers under test. The following
file is in MPEG format, and is approxomately 13Mb in size.
In addition to working
smoke detectors, every household should have UL Listed
fire extinguishers strategically placed in rooms such as
the kitchen, garage or workshop.
Don't just hang your
extinguisher on the wall or in the cupboard! Plan ahead,
read the instruction manual and know your extinguisher's
capabilities before trying to fight a fire. Portable
fire extinguishers are useful for putting out small
fires, but recognize your limits and the limits of the
Using the wrong type of
extinguisher on a fire can actually make it spread so
it's important to plan ahead when purchasing and placing
There are four types of
The manufacturer's use
and care booklet provides guidance on the type and size
of fire with which your extinguisher may be used. The
booklet also provides tips on how to properly use and
maintain your extinguisher.
For use on fires
involving combustible materials such as wood,
cloth and paper.
use on flammable liquid fires, including kitchen
grease. Never use water on this type of fire!
use in fires involving energized electrical
Works on all three types of fires listed above.
Here's some basic rules
to keep in mind when dealing with household fire
- If a fire breaks
out, your first step is to call the fire department
and get everyone out of the house. If the fire is
not spreading and is confined to a small area, use
the appropriate type extinguisher for the fire. Know
both your limits and the fire extinguisher's limits.
- Periodically inspect
your extinguishers to determine if they need to be
recharged or replaced. Extinguishers need to be
recharged or replaced after each use -- even if you
haven't used all the extinguishing agent.
- When using a
portable extinguisher, keep your back to an
unobstructed exit that is free from fire.
Check the manufacturer's
instructions for operating guidelines, including proper
distance between the extinguisher and fire. Always aim
at the base of the fire.