Is Your Home Safe From the Threat of Fire? Fire Officials Have Tips for Staying Safe
On Oct. 8, 1871, a huge fire in Chicago became on of the biggest disasters in American history. A small fire that started in a barn (allegedly after a cow tipped over a lantern) combined with a drought and a southwest wind carried the fire through dozens and dozens of city blocks, eventually destroying 3.3 square miles of the city’s downtown.
The Great Chicago fire killed hundreds of people, and eventually led to the introduction of building codes and fire safety measures. Still today, 141 years later, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that from 2005 to 2009, fire companies in the U.S. responded to an average of 373,900 home fires each year. These fires cause 2,650 civilian deaths, 12,890 injuries and $7.1 billion in property damage.
In October, fire departments across the country use the occasion of the Great Chicago Fire anniversary to talk to residents and homeowners about taking fire-safety precautions. This time is known as the Public Awareness and Safety Commemoration. It is proclaimed by the President and observed by Fire Departments in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S., smoking remains the leading cause of home fire deaths, while cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and injuries. The Anne Arundel County Fire Department has sent the following fire problems and precautions that citizens should review. Please take a moment to see if there are things you can do in your home to prevent or warn of the danger of fire:
- Many bedroom fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, careless use of candles, smoking in bed, and children playing with matches and lighters.
- Be sure to keep flammable items like bedding, clothes and curtains at least three feet away from portable heaters or lit candles, and never smoke in bed.
- Appliances or electric blankets should not be operated if they have frayed power cords, and electrical outlets should never be overloaded.
- Install and maintain a working smoke alarm outside of every sleep area and remember to change the battery at least once a year.
- Designate two escape routes (a door or a window) from each bedroom and practice them regularly.
- Teach kids that matches, lighters and candles are tools, not toys. If you suspect that a child is playing with fire, check under beds and in closets for telltale signs like burned matches.
- Matches and lighters should be stored in a secure drawer or cabinet.
- Develop and practice home escape plans.
- Have a central meeting place for all family members outside the home.
- In the event of a Fire in your home: “Get out and stay out.” Never go back into a burning home for any reason.
- Remember to stop, drop and roll if your clothing catches fire.
- Never store flammable or combustible liquids in your home.