Fire Safety in the Home

These ideas are from several pamphlets, available from the National Fire Safety Association and the American Insurance Association.  Contact the Fire Marshal for more details.

Preparing Yourself

  • First, Devise a Plan.Know exactly what steps to take in case fire breaks out.   Discover 2 ways out of every room, in case smoke or flames blocks one.  More on home escapes later on this page.
  • Establish a Meeting PlaceHave a place outside for everyone to meet.  Memorize the number of the fire department and have a neighbor’s house in mind where you make the call.  Tape the number by the phone.
  • Get Out, Stay OutOnce alerted to Danger, don’t waste a second.  Leave immediately and go to your meeting place.  Don’t even think about going back inside – not for anything!
  • Get Down, Crawl LowIf you smell smoke or see flames, drop to the floor and crawl to your nearest exit.  Smoke and heat rise up while cooler, easy to breathe air stays low near your knees.
  • Stop, Drop, and RollWhat you should do if your clothes catch fire.  Stop everything.  Drop to the floor or ground.  And roll over and over.  Don’t forget to cover your face with your hands.
  • Ashtrays EverywhereMake sure there are plenty of large, deep ashtrays in all the rooms used by people who smoke.
  • Search Out MatchesKeep matches and lighters away from young children.   Kids – let an adult know if anyone in your home is playing with fire.
  • The Smoke DetectorMake sure there’s one on every floor in your house.   Check batteries every week.
  • Give Space Heaters SpaceWatch closely that space heaters are placed well away from furniture and walls – at least three feet.
  • Check CushionsLook behind, under, and all around a sofa or chair where someone has been smoking. Coming across a smoldering match or cigarette butt could prevent a fire caused by carelessness.
  • Avoiding Kitchen DangersMake sure pots and pans on the stove are turned with their handles pointed inward so that children can’t pull them down.  Kids – if you see a pan on fire, tell an adult immediately!
  • Check Cords and WiresLoose cords or broken wires are evidence of a very real danger.  Electrical fires should be avoided at any expense – even if it means buying a new appliance.  Each outlet should only have one thing plugged in at a time.
  • Electrical Devices, Plugs, and Appliances
    • Teach your kids to use electricity responsibly.
    • Look for warning signs of fire danger (electrical burning odor, you get a “tingle”).
    • Try to have enough plugs so you don’t overload any.
    • If you can afford to install a 3-wire system in your home, they are safer than a two-wire system.
    • Use proper adapters, especially for a 3-prong plug into a 2-hole outlet.
    • Use correctly matched extension cords.
    • Check cords and outlets often for signs of wear.
    • Use outlet covers to keep children’s fingers out.
    • Don’t put cords under rugs, in doorways, or over nails.
    • Buy cords labeled by a safety testing laboratory.
    • Don’t try to fix a broken appliance yourself.
    • If an appliance gets damp or wet, have it serviced before you use it.
    • Don’t touch appliances if your shoes or hands are wet.
    • Turn off appliances before you go.
    • Allow for air circulation around televisions, stereo equipment, and computer equipment.

Parental Responsibility

   Here are a few hints for parents to use in instructing their children on fire safety:

Instruct the children…

  1. … to get out of the house at the first sign of smoke
  2. … to shout a warning to others, but not to panic
  3. … not to stop to save anything – not even the pet dog or doll
  4. … to know at least two separate ways out of every room
  5. … to know how to call the fire department and which neighbors to contact in an emergency
  6. … to avoid any “experiments” or unnecessary use of the stove or appliances when you are out
  7. … to realize the person left in charge must be obeyed


  1. … leaving matches or lighters around as a temptation
  2. … going out with something cooking on the stove or roasting in the oven, or the washing machine or drier running
  3. … putting off repairs to broken electrical fixtures, appliances, sockets, or frayed cords.
  4. … taking for granted that the oldest in charge or the babysitter knows what to do in a fire emergency
  5. … taking chances… learn and observe as many home fire prevention precautions as possible… take time to thoroughly instruct your children in the basic rules for survival

Exit Drills in the Home

Be sure to have an exit plan.  Draw it out – you can use graph paper.  Draw out your home design and draw at least 2 escape routes from every room.

Discuss and Plan Ahead

Be sure to plan ahead!  Follow all of the instructions on this page, and make sure everyone in your family understands what to do ahead of time.

Smoke Detectors

Have a smoke detector for every level of your home.  If sleeping areas are seperate, have a smoke detector outside of all sleeping areas as well.


  • Start sleeping with the doors closed, unless you have a good system of smoke detectors.  The doors hold back smoke and fire while you escape.
  • Practice testing the door for fire.  Since heat rises, feel the door as high as you can reach.  If the door is warm, use your alternate escape route from that room.  If not, brace your shoulder against the door and open it cautiously.  Be ready to slam it if smoke and heat rush in.
  • Make sure children can operate the windows, descend a ladder, or lower themselves to the ground.  Lower children to the ground first, since they may panic and no follow you out if you go first.
  • Practice what to do if you become trapped.   Since doors hold back smoke, and fire fighters are adept as rescue, your chances of survival are excellent if you do the right thing.  Put closed doors between you and smoke.  Stuff the cracks and cover vents to keep smoke out.  If there’s a phone, call in your exact location to the fire department, even if they are on the scene.   Tell children not to hide.  Wait at the window and signal with a sheet or flashlight.
  • Imagine the presence of smoke.
  • Have children practice saying the fire department number, the family name, street address, and town into the phone.

E.D.I.T.H. can save your life!  Learn the drill:

  1. Everyone in Bedrooms, doors closed.
  2. Someone sounds the whistle or alarm.
  3. Each person tests his door.
  4. Pretend it’s hot – use the alternate escape.
  5. Everyone meet outdoors for roll call.  One person goes to the prearranged phone.
  • Sound the alarm and contact the fire department, no matter how small the fire appears to be.

  • Leave the area quickly, following primary or secondary escape routes previously established.
  • If you encounter smoke or flame during you exit, use an alternative exit.  Heat and smoke rise, leaving cleaner air near the flor.   If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head in the “safety zone” 12 to 24 inches above the floor.
  • Test doors before you open them.  Kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and the space between the door and its frame with the back of your hand.  If the door is warm, use another escape route.  If the door is cool, open it slowly, being prepared to close it quickly if you encounter smoke or flames.
  • Follow directions for evacuation from fire and security personnel.  Once outside, move away from the building, out of the way of fire fighters.  Remain outside until the fire department says you may go back in.
    In some high rise buildings, the fire emergency plan requires workers in areas not directly involved in the fire to remain in the building until instructed otherwise by fire fighters.

A Fire-Safe Workplace

This section is based off the pamphlet “Fire Safety on the Job” �1996 by the National Fire Protection Association. Contact the Fire Marshal for more information.



Arson is the largest single cause of fires in general office buildings.

  • Follow your building’s security measures and keep unauthorized people out of the building.  Keep doors locked after business hours.  Alleys and other areas around your building should be well lit.   Keep clutter out of halls, lobbies, alleys, and other public areas.


  • Keep waste paper, empty boxes, dirty rags, cleaning supplies, and other combustible out of exits, storage areas, and stairways.


  • Replace any cracked, frayed, or damaged electrical cords.
  • Never run extension cords across doorways or where they can be stepped on or pinched or run over by chairs or other furniture.  Do not plug extension cords into each other and avoid plugging more than one extension cord into an outlet.

Equipment and Appliances

  • Leave space for air to circulate around heaters and other heat-producing equipment, such as copy machine, coffeemakers, and computers.  Keep appliances away from anything that might catch fire.  Do not stack books or papers on top of computer monitors.

  • Designate an employee to turn off or unplug all appliances – including coffeemakers and hot plates – at the end of each workday.


Cigarettes, matches, and lighters are a major cause of all fires.  Many companies have banned smoking on the job as a health concern and to decrease the possibility of fires.

  • If your company allows smoking in the workplace, smoke only where permitted.  Do not flick ashes onto floors or into wastebaskets.  Use large, non-tip ashtrays, and make sure everything in them is cold before you empty them.

  • Apply the same cautions to visitors and be alert to smoldering cigarette butts on furniture or in wastebaskets.

Plan Ahead

In the event of a fire, a safe and speedy response depends on how well employees and employers are prepared for emergencies.

Employees should…

  • Count the doors or desks between their work areas and the nearest exit.  During a fire, employees may have to find their way out in the dark.

  • Learn the location of alternative exits from all work areas.

  • Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and learn how to use it.

  • Post the fire department’s emergency phone number on or near all telephones.

  • Be sure that someone in authority knows about any disability that could delay an escape, and makes plans for a safe evacuation.

Employers should…

  • Post building evacuation plans and discuss them during new-employee orientations.

  • Conduct regular fire drills.

  • Include disabled employees in the fire emergency planning process.