by Brittany Shideler

Lighting a candle to release a pleasing scent into the house, starting a fire in the fireplace to cozy up the room and frying up some bacon in the kitchen are all enjoyable activities. However, these everyday activities can quickly get out of hand without proper safety precautions. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2020, there were 3,790 fire deaths in the United States alone. Fortunately, you can take several simple steps to reduce the risk of fire injuries or fatalities.

Smoke alarms

Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on every level of your home (including basements), outside sleeping areas and inside bedrooms. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries if needed. Replace the batteries at least once annually, and replace the entire smoke alarm at ten years (yes, smoke alarms expire.) Lithium-ion smoke alarms do not require battery replacements. However, they should still be tested monthly and replaced every ten years.

Fire extinguishers

When using a fire extinguisher, remember PASS:

  • Pull out the pin. Release the lock while aiming the nozzle away from yourself.
  • Aim for the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is small and not spreading. Call the fire department first, and do not use the fire extinguisher unless other people in the home have exited or are actively exiting the home. Fire extinguishers should be installed high enough to be out of a child’s reach but still easily accessible to adults. Keep fire extinguishers near where fires are most likely, but not near a major heat source. For example, keep an extinguisher near the kitchen but not close to the range. Fire extinguishers have different ratings based on the type of fires they extinguish. If you are unsure which to purchase or how to use a fire extinguisher, don’t hesitate to contact a local fire department for recommendations and training.

Fire escape plan

Develop an escape plan for your home in the event of a fire, and practice the escape plan with every member of the household. There should be two ways to exit any room of the house, and all of these exits should remain unblocked. Include a designated meeting place outside in the escape plan. For help developing an escape plan, visit the American Red Cross or U.S. Fire Administration websites.

Monitor fires

Do not leave a fire unattended, even briefly. This rule includes candles, campfires or fireplaces, lit cigarettes or anything cooking on the stove. Keep fire sources, such as lighters and matches, out of reach of children, and keep active fires away from other materials. For example, keep candles away from curtains or dish towels away from stove burners.

Cooking fires

In the United States, cooking is the main cause of fires, so as mentioned previously, do not leave a stove burner unattended or have something around the burners that could catch fire. A nearby food package, towel or oven mitt can ignite and quickly get out of control. Using a timer is also vital so an item cooking is not forgotten.

In the event of a kitchen fire, only do the following if it is safe; otherwise, evacuate the home and advise others to do so. Turn off the stove or oven. If the fire is coming from a pot or pan, smother it with the lid and don’t touch it again until completely cooled. If it is a small fire and appropriate to use a fire extinguisher, be sure to use the correctly rated extinguisher.

For other tips on preparing for fires or what to do in case of a fire, visit the American Red Cross website, the U.S. Fire Administration website or your local fire department for information and training.