Fire Safety for Citizens

The very first step to fire safety is to know how to prevent fires from occurring. The next step should be to be properly informed of fire safety techniques to improve your chances of being able to survive them if they occur. The best defense is a working smoke detector because it provides the early warning necessary for quick escape.

Fire Prevention Week

Held every October, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 250 people, left 250,000 homeless, and destroyed more than 17,400 buildings. Each year, KDEM joins our state's fire service community during Fire Prevention Week as part of its continuing mission to reduce life and economic losses due to fire and related emergencies.

Be Prepared

  • Learn about what causes fire;
  • Buy and carefully maintain a quality smoke detector on all levels of your home;
  • Test the batteries in each detector every month, and replace them at least once a year;
  • Create and practice several escape routes from every room in your house and your neighborhood;
  • Inspect your home to eliminate or control fire hazards, including having the wiring inspected to make sure it meets current building codes;
  • Install at least five pound A-B-C type fire extinguishers throughout your home (especially in the kitchen), and teach all family members how to use them;
  • If you have a chimney, have it inspected yearly for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks or mortar, and any obstructions;
  • Keep storage areas clean and neat;
  • Keep curtains, towels, and potholders away from hot surfaces;
  • Store solvents and flammable liquids away from heat sources - never keep gasoline in the house!
  • Inspect extension cords for frayed or exposed wires, or loose plugs, replacing them if you find any.

Tips to Prevent & Survive Fires

  • If it is a grease or oil fire, smother it by putting a lid over the flames, turn off the heat, and leave the pan where it is until it cools off;
  • Extinguish other food fires with baking soda; never use water or flour on cooking fires;
  • For an oven or broiler fire, keep the oven door shut and turn off the heat to smother the flames;
  • Use safety plugs in electrical outlets, especially if you have small children;
  • Keep all portable heaters at least three feet away from flammable items;
  • Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep;
  • Use only manufacturer recommended fuel in portable kerosene heaters - shut down and let them cool off before refueling;
  • Do not overload electrical circuits, such as wall outlets and extension cords - use a power strip instead;
  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs, carpet, or furniture;
  • If you have a fireplace, keep a tight-fitting screen on it and have it inspected by a professional every year before using it for the first time;
  • Heave your chimney cleaned on a regular basis;
  • Never smoke in bed;
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children;
  • If you celebrate the holidays with a live tree, find a fresh one and water it regularly;
  • Keep the tree away from heat sources;
  • If you use an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled as being flame retardant;
  • If you decorate with lights, purchase only UL approved lights. Never use frayed or damaged strings or mix indoor only and outdoor only lights. Also, unplug lights before going to sleep or leaving your house;
  • Never burn gift wrap, a holiday tree, or the branches in your fireplace - dry trees burn very hot and extremely quick. Also, the tree contains lots of oil and could damage your fireplace.

Make an Escape Plan

  • Teach children not to hide from firefighters;
  • Never open doors that are hot to the touch;
  • Practice feeling your way out of the house with your eyes closed;
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows and practices escape routes from every room;
  • Use a chain ladder to escape from upper levels and practice using it;
  • Have a flashlight to help you see and a whistle to alert your family of your location;
  • Remember to escape first, know how to contact the fire department, and when to call for help;
  • Teach your family to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if their clothes catch fire;
  • Crawl low, under the smoke, and keep your mouth covered (use an article of clothing, if possible);
  • Designate a meeting place outside. Try to make it a location away from your home, but not necessarily across the street.

What to Do After a Fire

  • Do not enter a fire-damaged building, unless authorities say it is safe to do so;
  • If you are allowed to enter, look for signs of fire re-ignition or smoke;
  • Beware of structural damage - roofs and floors may be weakened and need repairs;
  • If you are a tenant, contact your landlord;
  • Call your insurance agent. Keep records of all cleanup and repair costs;
  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, if you need temporary housing, food, or personal items to replace those damaged or destroyed in the fire;
  • Have an electrician check the household wiring before the current is turned back on. Do not attempt to reconnect utilities yourself - leave that to the experts;
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken.