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Protecting Your Home From Smoke, Gas, And Fire

Fire Safety Rules

  • More than 15,000 fires are started by candles each year, and more start in the bedroom than any other room of the house. The primary cause of candle fires is putting the candle too close to combustible material. Candles should always be extinguished after use and burning candles should never be left untended. Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters, or candles. Candles should never be put on a Christmas tree. Using a candle holder with a glass bulb around the candle can keep the flame from spreading.
  • Misuse and poor maintenance are responsible for more electrical fires than are appliance defects. It's important to routinely inspect electrical appliances and power tools and to replace old, worn, or damaged cords immediately. Use only appliances and tools that have been approved by a national laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories. Keep electric appliances off of wet surfaces, and avoid overloading extension cords.
  • Gas appliances require careful maintenance. Have your furnace serviced once a year by a qualified professional to keep it working properly. The door that covers the pilot light and burners should be securely fastened. Never store combustible material such as paints, solvents or gasoline in the same room with your furnace or your water heater, and don’t stack mops, brooms, or rags next to the furnace or water heater. Have the chimney and furnace pipes inspected once a year and cleaned when needed. If you smell gas in or around your furnace, do not attempt to light it. Turn off all controls and open doors and windows and call the gas company. Have gas shut-off valves installed at each gas appliance so you can turn off the gas only to that appliance if there is a leak or the appliance needs to be repaired or moved.
  • If you smoke, it’s best to smoke outside. Fires caused by smoking kill more than 1,000 people -- smokers and nonsmokers -- every year. Wherever you smoke, use deep sturdy ashtrays. Never smoke in bed, and never smoke in a home where oxygen is being used.
  • If you use a wood stove, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance. Inspect and clean pipes and chimneys annually. Check for cracks and proper seals, and keep all combustible material at least three feet away from the stove. If you use an electric or kerosene heater, be sure it's been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as UL. Never dry clothes or put things on top of a heater, and always unplug an electric heater that's not in use. If you use a fireplace be sure there's a strong screen in front of it to prevent sparks and coals from coming out. Burn only well-seasoned wood in it to avoid creosote buildup, which can catch fire, and have the chimney inspected and cleaned every year.

You can find more tips for fire safety at the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) web site. USFA is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on October 29, 2012
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