The best way of surviving a fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips:
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- Keep your home free of oily rags and trash build-up. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in approved metal safety cans.
- Cleaning materials should be kept in a ventilated area, away from any heat source. Vapors given off by these substances can ignite when they come in contact with a heat source, such as a pilot light.
- Check lamps, appliance cords and light switches to make sure there is no faulty wiring. Never overload electrical circuits.
- Allow adequate ventilation space around televisions, stereos and other entertainment equipment.
- Teach your children not to play with matches. Keep matches in a closed metal container away from heat sources and out of the reach of children.
- Never smoke in bed. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
- Remove all weeds, tree branches and litter from your yard.
- If you have a fireplace, make sure it is properly screened and install a spark arrestor with at least a half-inch mesh on the chimney.
- Daily household trash should be kept in a covered can away from any heat source. Recycle newspapers frequently.
- Be a careful cook. Never wear long sleeves when you cook -- they can catch fire. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward, so the pots can't be knocked over. Never put foil or other metals in a microwave oven.
Fire safety tips
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- Make sure all family members know how to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
- Have at least two exits from every room in your home. Invest in fire escape ladders for upstairs bedrooms.
- Go through a practice drill every six months. With the whole family, practice what to do in a fire emergency.
- Assign a tree or other landmark where family members can meet after they escape the burning house.
- Teach children never to go back in the house. Train them not to hide from fire under beds, in closets or other places where rescuers cannot easily find them.
The importance of smoke detectors cannot be overestimated. Most fires occur at night, while people sleep. The toxic gases from a fire can numb your senses, disorient you and kill you while you sleep. For this reason, smoke detectors are a must.
Install a detector in every bedroom and keep one centrally located on each floor of your home. Hallways and kitchens are especially good locations for smoke detectors.
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- Because smoke rises, mount smoke detectors either on the ceiling or high on a wall (6-12 inches from the ceiling).
- Don't install smoke detectors by doors, windows or vents, where drafts could affect their performance.
- Test and clean your smoke detector batteries about once a month. You'll need to replace batteries about once a year.
- Never paint your smoke detector unit -- it might clog its smoke detecting sensors.
- Gently vacuum your smoke detector and keep it free of dust and other foreign particles that could hinder its function.
How to Survive a Fire
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- If a grease fire occurs while you are cooking, do not throw water on it. Water splatters the grease and the flames. Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher or cover the fire with the pan lid.
- Before opening a door, make sure there's not fire on the other side. Check the closed door for heat. If everything feels cool, brace your shoulder against the door and open it carefully. Slam it shut if heat or smoke rushes in.
- Close all doors behind you. This can slow the spread of fire and smoke.
- Crawl low under smoke. If you encounter smoke, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, the cleanest air will be several inches off the floor. Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest safe exit.
- Once you are outside, do not go back into the house. Go to your family's central meeting place, then have someone use a neighbor's phone to call the fire department.
- If you are trapped, close doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around doors and cover vents. Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a piece of light-colored cloth. If possible, call the fire department and tell them exactly where you are.
- Everyone in your family should know the "Stop, Drop and Roll" rule. If your clothes catch fire, don't run! Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands to protect your face and lungs, and roll over and over to smother the flames.
- If you see someone on fire, quickly cover them with a blanket to smother the flames.