Most fire-play fires (77%) started outside, but most associated deaths (97%) were in home structure fires.
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Arson & Juvenile Fire Setting
Children playing with fire, arson and intentional fires.
Fireworks, Christmas trees, Halloween, and more.
Candles, cooking, electrical, heating, smoking and more.
High-rises, hotels/motels, nightclubs, nursing homes, and more.
Emergency Preparedness
Disasters can occur suddenly and without warning.
Grilling, lightning and wildland fires.
Escape Planning
Learn the steps to create and practice a home fire escape plan.
Senior Fire Safety
Older adults, people with disabilities, urban and rural communities.
Fire & Safety Equipment
Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, home fire sprinklers and carbon monoxide detectors.
Unintentional Injuries
Unintentional injuries are more fatal to children than drugs and disease combined.
Gasoline & Propane
Always handle gasoline in the home or propane-powered equipment cautiously.
Vehicle fires, and safety at service stations.


Arson & Juvenile Fire Setting: Children Playing With Fire

Children playing with fire cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year. Preschoolers and kindergartners are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters, and are most likely to die in them.

Facts & figures:

  • In 2005-2009, children playing with fire started an estimated 56,300 fires that were reported to U.S. fire departments, causing an estimated 110 civilian deaths, 880 civilian injuries and $268 million in direct property damage.
  • Most fire-play fires (77%) started outside, but most associated deaths (97%) were in home structure fires.
  • Almost half (46%) of people who start reported home fires by playing were five years old or younger.
  • Two out of five (40%) child-playing home structure fires began in the bedroom.
  • Mattresses and bedding were the items first ignited in 24% of child-playing home structure fires and 29% of associated civilian fire deaths.

Safety tips:

  • Store matches and lighters out of children's reach and sight, up high, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may imitate you.
  • If your child expresses curiosity about fire or has been playing with fire, calmly but firmly explain that matches and lighters are tools for adults only.
  • Use only lighters designed with child-resistant features. Remember child-resistant does not mean child proof.
  • Teach young children and school-age children to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters.
  • Never leave matches or lighters in a bedroom or any place where children may go without supervision.
  • If you suspect your child is intentionally setting fires or unduly fascinated with fire, get help. Your local fire department, school, or community counseling agency can put you in touch with trained experts.

Arson & Intentional Fires

Fire departments responded to an estimated 53,600 intentional structure fire annually during 2003-2007.  These fires resulted in 387 civilian deaths, 1,141 civilian injuries and an estimated $922 million direct property damage.

Although 3 of every 4 intentional fires are started outside most of the intentional fire casualties and property loss resulted from structure fires.

Half of all intentional structure fires are started in the home. These fires resulted in 86% of the civilian deaths, 82% of the civilian injuries, and 62% of the direct property damage from intentional structure fires.

The bedroom is the leading area of origin for intentional home structure fires, while bathrooms are the leading areas in public properties such as stores, offices or schools.

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Dryers and Washing Machines

Dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 23 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2003-2006.

Facts and figures:

  • In 2006, an estimated 17,700 reported U.S. non-confined or confined home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 15 civilian deaths, 360 civilian injuries and $194 million in direct property damage.
  • Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires; washing machines 4%, and washer and dryer combinations accounted for 3%.
  • The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean (29%), followed by unclassified mechanical failure or malfunction (24%). Thirteen percent were caused by some type of electrical failure or short circuit.

Safety tips:

  • Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional.
  • Do not use the dryer without a lint filter.
  • Make sure you clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry. Remove lint that has collected around the drum.
  • Rigid or flexible metal venting material should be used to sustain proper air flow and drying time.
  • Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating. Once a year, or more often if you notice that it is taking longer than normal for your clothes to dry, clean lint out of the vent pipe or have a dryer lint removal service do it for you.
  • Keep dryers in good working order. Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to make sure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
  • Make sure the right plug and outlet are used and that the machine is connected properly.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions and don’t overload your dryer.
  • Turn the dryer off if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Portable Generators

Portable generators are useful during power outages. However, many homeowners are unaware that the improper use of portable generators can be risky. The most common dangers associated with portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire hazards.

Facts and figures:

  • CO deaths associated with generators have spiked in recent years as generator sales have risen.
  • In 1999, generators were associated with 6% of the total yearly estimated CO poisoning deaths associated with all consumer products compared to 24% in 2002.
  • There were at least 64 deaths in 2005 alone from CO poisoning associated with generators.

Safety tips:

  • Generators should be operated in well ventilated locations outdoors away from all doors, windows and vent openings.
  • Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building.
  • Make sure to install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
  • Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is running.
  • Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such. Store the containers outside of living areas.


During 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 12,860 home structure fires started by candles per year. These fires caused an annual average of 136 civilian deaths, 1,040 civilian fire injuries, and $471 million in direct property damage. Candles caused 3% of the reported home fires, 5% of home fire deaths, 8% of home fire injuries, and 7% of direct property damage during this period. Homes include dwellings, duplexes, manufactured housing and apartments.

Facts and figures:

During the five-year period of 2005-2009:

  • More than one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in bedrooms. These fires caused 43% of the associated deaths and 47% of the associated injuries.
  • On average, 35 home candle fires were reported per day. 
  • Falling asleep was a factor in 12% percent of the home candle fires and 42% of the associated deaths.
  • More than half (55%) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle.
  • December is the peak time of year for home candle fires. In December, 11% of home candle fires began with decorations compared to 4% the rest of the year.

Safety tips:

Candle with care

  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
  • Think about using flameless candles in your home. They look and smell like real candles.
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily.
  • Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface.
  • Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame.


Cooking fires are the #1 cause of home* fires and home fire injuries. Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fire started with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

Facts & figures:

  • Cooking equipment fires are the leading cause of home structure fires and associated civilian injuries. These fires accounted for 42% of all reported home structure fires and 37% of home civilian injuries.
  • Cooking equipment was involved in two of every five (42%) reported home fires.
  • Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in these fires. 
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but these incidents accounted 14% of the cooking fire deaths.
  • Ranges accounted for the largest share (58%) of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
  • Three of every five (58%) reported non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occurred when the victims tried to fight the fire themselves.
  • Frying poses the greatest risk of fire.
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.

Safety tips:

  • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire
  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.


U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 51,800 reported home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction in 2007. These fires resulted in 451 civilian deaths, 1,641 civilian injuries and $1.2 billion in direct property damage. 

  • Forty-one percent of home electrical failure fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment in 2003-2007. 
  • In 2003-2007, 53% of electrical failure home fires involved other known type of equipment. The leading other known type of equipment involved in home electrical failure fires are range, washer or dryer, and fans.
  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 25,200 reported U.S. non-confined home structure fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment in 2007. These fires resulted in 270 civilian fire deaths, 1,050 civilian fire injuries, and $663 million in direct property damage.
  • Some type of electrical failure or malfunction was cited as factor contributing to ignition for 72% of electrical distribution or lighting equipment home structure fires.

Safety tips:

  • Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
  • Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.
  • In homes with small children, make sure your home has tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles.
  • Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician so you do not have to use extension cords.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for plugging an appliance into a receptacle outlet.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.
  • If outlets or switches feel warm, frequent problems with blowing fuses or tripping circuits, or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.
  • Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn and use bulbs that match the lamp's recommended wattage.
  • Make sure your home has ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the kitchen bathroom(s), laundry, basement, and outdor areas.
  • Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) should be installed in youtr home to protect electrical outlets.


In 2009, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 18% of all reported home fires.

Facts & figures:

Based on 2005-2009 annual averages:

  • Heating equipment fires accounted for 18% of all reported home fires in 2009 (second behind cooking) and 22% of home fire deaths.
  • Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (32%) of home heating fires and four out of five (79%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (26%) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
  • Placing things that can burn too close to heating equipment or placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding, was the leading factor contributing to ignition in fatal home heating fires and accounted for more than half (53%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • Half (49%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.

Safety tips:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly


The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, coordinated by NFPA, was  a group of organizations who shared the goal of getting cigarette manufacturers to produce only cigarettes that adhere to an established safety performance standard. As of March 2010, all 50 US states passed such legislation and the coalition achieved its goal.

Facts & figures:

  • In 2008, there were an estimated 114,800 smoking-material fires in the United States.These fires caused 680 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries and $737 million in direct property damage.
  • One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.
  • Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms and dens or in bedrooms.
  • Two out of five (39%) fatal home smoking-material fire victims were age 65 or older.

Safety tips:

  • If you smoke, smoke outside.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
  • Before you throw out butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.
  • Check under furniture cushions and in other places people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is being used.
  • If you smoke, choose fire-safe cigarettes. They are less likely to cause fires. 
  • To prevent a deadly cigarette fire, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine or other drugs.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of children's sight and reach.

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Emergency Preparedness

In a disaster, local officials and relief workers cannot reach everyone immediately. Help may not arrive for hours or days. You and your family -- and don't forget to include the needs of those with disabilities -- need to be prepared ahead of time because you won't have time to shop or search for the supplies you will need when a disaster strikes.

Most disasters are natural disasters, the result of some force of nature, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Some natural disasters can be predicted, such as hurricanes and severe winter storms, while others, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, happen with little or no warning.

Some disasters are the cause of human actions, intentional or unintentional. A disaster plan will help with safety, security, and comfort.

Regardless of the type of disaster, there are things you can do to prepare. Contact your local Red Cross chapter, visit the FEMA Web site, or to make sure you are aware of the potential for natural disasters in your community. After you have identified the types of disasters that could strike where you live, create a family disaster plan that can apply to any type of disaster – natural, unintentional, or intentional.

Prepare an emergency supplies kit
Disaster can occur suddenly and without warning. They can be frightening for adults, but they are traumatic for children if they don't know what to do when these events occur. Children depend on daily routines. When an emergency disturbs their routine, children can become nervous. In an emergency, they'll look to parents or other adults to help.

How parents react to an emergency gives children an indication on how to act. They see their parents' fear as proof that the danger is real. A parent's response during this time may have a long-term impact. Including children in the family's recovery plans will help them feel that their life will return to normal.

Safety tips:

  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. When told by officials, go immediately to a shelter as instructed or to the home of a friend or relative who lives out of the area. Find out about your local shelters beforehand.
  • Know evacuation routes. Pre-establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.
  • Family members can become separated during an emergency. Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
  • Quiz children every six months so they remember what to do, where to go, and whom to call in an emergency.
  • Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served, so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have to go to a shelter.
  • Post emergency phone numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) by the phone.

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Escape Planning

In 2010, there were an estimated 369,500 reported home structure fires and 2,640 associated civilian deaths in the United States.

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms, and advance planning — a home fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with and has practiced.

Facts and figures:

  • Only one-fifth to one-fourth of households (23%) have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to ensure they could escape quickly and safely.
  • One-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life-threatening. The time available is often less. And only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

Safety tips:

Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.

  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
  • Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
  • Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.
  • Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the household can call from a neighbor's home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
  • If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency.
  • If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Emergency release devices won't compromise your security - but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
  • Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family's fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people's homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don't have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially important when children are permitted to attend "sleepovers" at friends' homes. See NFPA's "Sleepover fire safety for kids" fact sheet.
  • Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Residents of high-rise and apartment buildings may be safer "defending in place."
  • Once you're out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.

Putting your plan to the test:

  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
  • Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill.
  • It's important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation.
  • If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer's instructions carefully so you'll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don't want to have to search for it during a fire.
  • Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit.
  • Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
  • In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.

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Fire and Safety Equipment

Carbon Monoxide

Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Facts & figures:

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 61,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of seven such calls per hour.  The number of incidents increased 18 percent from 51,700 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.

Safety tips:

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Call your local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO — only use outside.

Fire Extinguisher

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.

Safety tips:

  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
      - Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle
        pointing away from you, and release the locking
      - Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
      - Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
      - Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher trainings.
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

Home Fire Sprinklers

Properly installed and maintained automatic fire sprinkler systems help save lives. Because fire sprinkler systems react so quickly, they can dramatically reduce the heat, flames, and smoke produced in a fire. Fire sprinklers have been around for more than a century, protecting commercial and industrial properties and public buildings. What most people don't realize is that the same life-saving technology is also available for homes, where roughly 85% of all civilian fire deaths occur. 

Facts & figures:     

  • If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when wet pipesprinklers are present.
  • People in homes with sprinklers are protected against significant property loss—wet pipe sprinklers reduce the average property loss by 71% per fire.
  • In home fires deemed large enough to activate an operational sprinkler, wet pipe sprinklers operated and were effective 92% of the time.

Safety tips:

Over 80% of fire deaths occur in the home. Home fire sprinklers can save lives and property from fire. They respond quickly and effectively to fire, often extinguishing the fire before the fire department arrives. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water on the fire.

  • Home fire sprinklers save lives and property. In many situations, a family who has survived a fire will also have their “home” to live in and enough of the items and space in their home to continue living their lives as they did before.
  • The cost of a home fire sprinkler system in a new home averages $1.61 per sprinklered square foot totaling an amount similar to what is spent for carpet upgrades, paving stone driveway or a whirlpool bath.
    Source: Fire Protection Research Foundation Study 2008.
  • A home fire sprinkler system can reduce the homeowner’s insurance premium.
  • Fire departments typically use roughly 10 times as much water as a fire sprinkler would useto contain a fire.
    Source: Fire Protection Research Foundation Study 2010.
  • Fire sprinklers are environmentally friendly. They can reduce the amount of water run-off and pollution, fire damage by up to 71%, and water usage to fight a home fire by as much as 91%.
    Source: FM Global and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Study 2010.
  • Cigar smoke or burnt toast will not activate a fire sprinkler. Only the high temperature of a fire will activate the sprinkler.
  • A home fire sprinkler system is easy to maintain. Just inspect your home to make sure the sprinklers are not blocked by something that would prevent the water from coming out such as paint and be sure the main control valve is never turned off.
  • Home fire sprinklers are effective in cold and warm climates. Guidelines have been created for the proper installation of systems to avoid pipes freezing. A home fire sprinkler system should be winterized the same as you winterize a domestic water supply.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half.

Facts & figures:

  • Ninety-six percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm, according to a 2010 telephone survey. Overall, three-quarters of all U.S. homes have at least one working smoke alarm.
  • Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths in 2005-2009 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected or dead.  Almost one-quarter of the smoke alarm failures was due to dead batteries.

Safety tips:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization) should be installed in homes.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Smoke rises; install smoke alarms following manufacturer's instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer's instructions for testing and maintenance.
  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 year old or sooner if they do not respond properly.
  • Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If cooking fumes or steam sets off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a "hush" button. A "hush" button will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
  • An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
  • Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in waking children through the use of a familiar voice.
  • Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices use strobe lights. Vibration devices can be added to these alarms
  • Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan.

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Gasoline & Propane

Gasoline at Home

There has been a steady decline in the average number of gasoline fires in homes each year since 1980 when there were 15,000 fires.

Facts & figures:

  • In 2003-2006, municipal fire departments responded to an estimated 2,400 gasoline structure fires in U.S. homes, annually.  These fire resulted in 110 civilian deaths, 313 civilian injuries and $105.9 million in direct property damage.
  • 49% of home gasoline structure fires each year between 2003 and 2006 were categorized as intentional. Almost three-quarters of civilian injuries resulted from unintentional causes.  Fuel spills or releases; using gasoline to kindle fire, and gasoline too close to a heat source; were the leading factors contributing to ignition in home gasoline structure fires.
  • Spark ember or flame from operating equipment was the most common ignition source in home gasoline structure fires, followed by matches and lighters.

Source: NFPA's Fire Analysis & Research Division

Safety tips:

  • Keep gasoline out of children's sight and reach. Children should never handle gasoline.
  • If fire does start while handling gasoline, do not attempt to extinguish the fire or stop the flow of gasoline. Leave the area immediately, and call for help.
  • Do not use or store gasoline near possible ignition sources (i.e., electrical devices, oil- or gas-fired appliances, or any other device that contains a pilot flame or a spark).
  • Store gasoline outside the home (i.e., in a garage or lawn shed) in a tightly closed metal or plastic container approved by an independent testing laboratory or the local or state fire authorities. Never store gasoline in glass containers or non-reusable plastic containers (i.e., milk jugs).
  • Store only enough gasoline necessary to power equipment and let machinery cool before refueling it.
  • Never use gasoline inside the home or as a cleaning agent.
  • Clean up spills promptly and discard clean-up materials properly.
  • Do not smoke when handling gasoline.
  • Never use gasoline in place of kerosene.
  • Use caution when fueling automobiles. Do not get in and out of the automobile when fueling. Although rare, an electrical charge on your body could spark a fire, especially during the dry winter months.
  • Only fill portable gasoline containers outdoors. Place the container on the ground before filling and never fill containers inside a vehicle or in the bed of a pick-up truck. 
  • Follow all manufacturers instructions when using electronic devices (those with batteries or connected to an electrical outlet) near gasoline.

Propane Safety

The leading equipment involving in LP-gas home structure fires was a grill, hibachi, or barbecue.

Facts & figures:

  • departments responded to an estimated annual average of 1,170 home structure fires involving LP-gas in 2003-2007. These fires resulted in 34 civilian deaths, 135 civilian injuries and $48 million in direct property damage.
  • Spark, ember or flame from operating equipment was the leading heat source for LP-gas home structure fires.

Source: NFPA's "Natural Gas and LP-Gas Home Structure Fires"  report by Jennifer Flynn, January 2010.

Safety tips:

  • Handle any propane-powered equipment cautiously and always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Cylinder tanks for equipment such as stoves and ovens must be located outside of the home.
  • Never store or use propane gas cylinders larger than one pound inside the home.
  • Never operate a propane-powered gas grill inside the home.

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Winter/Holiday Safety

The winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire due to heating equipment.

Facts & figures:

  • During 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home structure fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage annually.
  • During 2005-2009, an estimated 12,860 home structure fires started by candles were reported to local fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated 136 civilian deaths, 1,041 civilian injuries and an estimated direct property loss of $471 million.
  • Two of every five reported home fires start in the kitchen -- more than any other place in the home.
  • Half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February in 2005-2009.

Safety tips:

Holiday decorating

  • Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
  • Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
Holiday entertaining
  • Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
  • Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
  • Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind smokers to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.

Winter Fires

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable sapce heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly. 

Christmas Tree Fires

Carefully decorating Christmas trees can help make your holidays safer.

Facts & figures:

  • Between 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 240 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 13 deaths, 27 injuries, and $16.7 million in direct property damage annually.
  • Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, one of every 18 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death.
  • A heat source too close to the Christmas tree started one of every five (20%) of these fires.
  • Eighteen percent of home Christmas tree structure fires were intentionally set. Half of the intentional Christmas tree fires occurred in January and may have been related to disposal.

Safety tips:

Picking the tree

  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.
  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.

Placing the tree

  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1–2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.

Lighting the tree

  • Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Connect no more than three strands of mini string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of LED strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

After Christmas

  • Get rid of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home. Check with your local community to find a recycling program. Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer.

Halloween Safety

Planning ahead can help make this Halloween a fire-safe one. Taking simple fire safety precautions, like making sure fabrics for costumes and decorative materials are flame-resistant, can prevent fires.

During the four-year-period of 2003-2007, NFPA estimates that decorations were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 1,240 reported home structure fires per year. These fires caused an estimated average of seven civilian deaths, 53 civilian injuries and $20 million in direct property damage per year.

Safety tips:

  • When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or long trailing fabric. If you are making your own costume, choose material that won't easily ignite if it comes into contact with heat or flame. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so they can see out.
  • Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costume.
  • Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
  • It is safest to use a flashlight or battery-operated candles in a jack-o-lantern. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.
  • Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes.
  • Tell children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire. (Have them practice stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.)
  • Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating walkways and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters, whose costumes may brush against the lighting.
  • If your children are going to Halloween parties at others’ homes, have them look for ways out of the home and plan how they would get out in an emergency.

Fireworks Safety

Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by NFPA, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

Facts & figures:

  • In 2009, fireworks caused an estimated 18,000 reported fires, including 1,300 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in no reported civilian deaths, 30 civilian injuries and $38 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2009, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,800 people for fireworks related injuries; 53% of 2009 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 42% were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children agres 10-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for more than half of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

Source: NFPA’s Fireworks report, by John R. Hall, Jr., June 2011

Safety tips:

The tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns.

  • Leave fireworks to the professionals. Do not use consumer fireworks.
  • The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals.
  • After the firework display, children should never pick up fireworks that may be left over, they may still be active.

Thanksgiving Safety

The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially at Thanksgiving. Kids love to be involved in holiday preparations. Safety in the kitchen is important, especially on Thanksgiving Day when there is a lot of activity and people at home.

Safety tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit a candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

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Board and Care Facilities

NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, defines a residential board and care facility as "a building or portion thereof that is used for lodging and boarding four or more residents not related by blood or marriage to the owners or operators for the purpose of providing personal care services." NFPA 101 classifies residential board and care facilities as either small (not more than 16 residents) or large (more than 16 residents). Protection requirements vary based on the classification.

Facts & figures:

  • NFPA estimates that an average of 2,070 structure fires in residential board and care facilities per year were reported to U.S. fire departments during 2003-2007. These fires caused an estimated average of 10 civilian deaths, 70 civilian injuries and $10.9 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Cooking caused three-quarters of these incidents, but 63% of the deaths resulted from fires caused by smoking materials.
  • Fires that started with mattress and bedding caused 44% of the civilian deaths in board and care properties. Mattress and bedding was the item first ignited in only 2% of the fires in these facilities. 
  • Structure fires in these prpoerties peaked between 4 pm and 7 pm.

Source: Structure Fires in Residential Board and Care Facilities, Jennifer D. Flynn, December 2009.

Hotels and Motels

U. S.  fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,970 structure fires in hotels and motels in 2003-2007. These fires caused an annual average of 11 civilian deaths, 151 civilian fire injuries, and $63.3 million in direct property damage.

Facts & figures:

  • In an average year, one of every 12 hotels or motels reported a structure fire.  
  • Smoking materials started 6% of the fires in hotels and motels; these fires caused 72% of the deaths. 
  • Only 5% of hotel and motel fires were intentionally set, but these accounted for 17% of the associated property damage.
  • Eleven percent of reported hotel and motel fires began in bedrooms;  these fires caused 70% of the associated civilian deaths and 35% of the civilian injuries.  
  • When sprinklers were present and operated, 91% of sprinklers in hotel or motel fires operated effectively when present.  

Source: NFPA's "U.S. Hotel and Motel Structure Fires" report by Jennifer Flynn, March 2010.

Safety tips:

Be safe when traveling

  • Choose a hotel/motel that is protected by both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system.
  • When you check in, ask the front desk what the fire alarm sounds like.
  • When you enter your room, review the escape plan posted in your room.
  • Take the time to find the exits and count the number of doors between your room and the exit. Make sure the exits are unlocked. If they are locked, report it to management right away.
  • Keep your room key by your bed and take it with you if there is a fire.
  • If the alarm sounds, leave right away, closing all doors behind you. Use the stairs — never use elevators during a fire.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit.

If you can't escape ...

  • Shut off fans and air conditioners.
  • Stuff wet towels in the crack around the doors.
  • Call the fire department and let them know your location.
  • Wait at the window and signal with a flashlight or light colored cloth.

Fires in Vacant Buildings

In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 31,000 structure fires in vacant buildings. These fires resulted in an average of 50 civilian deaths, 141 civilian injuries, and $642 million in direct property damage per year.

Facts & figures:

  • Sixty-three percent of vacant building fires in 2003-2006 occurred in homes, with 58% in one-or two-family dwellings and 5% in apartments. 
  • Forty-three percent of vacant building fires were intentionally set. Vacant buildings accounted for 25% of all intentionally set structure fires. 
  • Only 6% of all reported structure fires were at vacant buildings, but they accounted for 13% of the firefighter injuries incurred at structure fires. 
  • From 1998 to 2007, 15 firefighters were fatally injured at vacant building fires.

Source: NFPA’s "Vacant Building Fires" by Marty Ahrens, April 2009.

School Fires

In 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 6,260 structure fires in educational properties, annually. These fires caused an annual average of 85 civilian fire injuries and $112 million in direct property damage.

Facts & figures:

  • About three-quarters (72%) of the structure fires occurring in educational properties involve schools providing pre-school through high-school education.
  • An estimated 4,510 structure fires involving pre-school through grade 12 buildings were reported per year in 2005-2009.
  • Half of the fires in buildings that house preschool through grade 12 are intentionally set. 
  • Almost one-quarter (25%) of the structure fires in buildings that house pre-school through grade 12 were contained trash or rubbish fires.

Source: NFPA's "Educational Properties" report by Ben Evarts, June 2011.

In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 6,650 structure fires in educational properties, annually. These fires caused an annual average of 88 civilian fire injuries and $90 million in direct property damage.

Safety tips:

  • Fire drills must be held at least once a month while school is in session. (Schools located in climates where weather is severe have the option of deferring monthly drills).
  • Principals, teachers or other school staff must inspect all exits daily to ensure that stairways, doors and other exits are working properly and are unblocked.
  • On the day of the drill, the emergency drill alarm should be sounded on the school fire alarm system. Make sure that everyone can recognize the sound of the alarm and knows what to do when it sounds.
  • Teachers, officials and staff should be familiar with the school's fire protection system, including the location of fire alarm pull stations and sprinklers.
  • Every room in the school should have a map posted identifying two ways out. In schools with open floor plans, exit paths should be obvious and kept free of obstruction.
  • On the day of the fire drill, everyone in the school should participate.
  • Students with specific needs should be assigned an adult or a student buddy to assist them. Fire drills are a good opportunity to identify who among the student population requires extra assistance.
  • While it's important to make sure that students leave the building as quickly as possible, order is more important than speed when it comes to conducting a safe fire drill.
  • Once everyone has safely exited the building, they should remain outside at a predetermined location until the 'all clear' has been given to reenter the school.
  • Use rosters to ensure that every student is accounted for.
  • Fire drills should be held both at expected and at unexpected times, and under varying conditions in order to simulate the conditions that can occur in an actual emergency.
  • School fire drills are a model for students to use in their homes. Encourage students to practice their escape plans at home—just as they do at school.

Religious and Funeral Properties

  • During the four-year period of 2004-2008, an estimated average of 1,890 religious and funeral property structures fires were reported to U.S. fire departments per year. The fires caused an annual average of one civilian death, 12 civilian injuries and $102 million in direct property damage.
  • The vast majority of the religious and funeral property fires occur in religious properties. Only 4% were in funeral parlors.
  • The peak time for structure fires in religious and funeral properties were 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to noon.
  • The 15% of fires that were intentionally set caused 26% of the direct property damage.

Source: NFPA's One-Stop Data Shop

Campus and Dorm Fires

The number of reported fires in the dormitory occupancy group increased 17% from 3,200 in 1980 to 3,740 in 2009. Fires fell in the range of 2,300 to 2,700 from 1982 through 1995, and then declined further in 1996 to 1998. Estimates rapidly increased after 1998, until becoming somewhat more stable in recent years.

Facts & figures:

  • In 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks. These fires caused an annual average of 3 civilian deaths, 38 civilian fire injuries, and $20.9 million in direct property damage. Note: Dormitories include school, college and university dormitories; fraternity and sorority houses; monasteries; bunk houses; barracks; and nurses’ quarters.
  • Between 2005-2009, cooking equipment was involved in 81% of the reported dormitory fires; this includes confined or contained fires.
  • Structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks are more common during the evening hours between 5-11 p.m., as well as on weekends.
  • Only 9% of fires in these properties began in the bedroom, but these fires accounted for almost one-quarter (26%) of the civilian injuries.

College students living away from home should take a few minutes to make sure they are living in a fire-safe environment. Educating students on what they can do to stay safe during the school year is important and often overlooked.

Safety tips:

  • Look for fully sprinklered housing when choosing a dorm or off-campus housing.
  • Make sure your dormitory or apartment has smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level. For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least monthly.
  • Never remove batteries or disable the alarm.
  • Learn your building’s evacuation plan and practice all drills as if they were the real thing.
  • If you live off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.
  • When the smoke alarm or fire alarm sounds, get out of the building quickly and stay out.
  • During a power outage, use a flashlight.
  • Cook only where it is permitted.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
  • Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.
  • Check with your local fire department for any restrictions before using a barbeque grill, fire pit, or chimenea.
  • Check your school’s rules before using electrical appliances in your room.
  • Use a surge protector for your computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.

High Rise Buildings

The multiple floors of a high-rise building create the cumulative effect of requiring great numbers of persons to travel great vertical distances on stairs in order to evacuate the building. In the evacuation of the World Trade Center high-rise office towers following the terrorist bombing in 1993, the tens of thousands of building occupants successfully and safely traversed some five million person-flights of stairs.

Nightclubs/Assembly Occupancies

Fires in assembly occupancies have shown to be some of the most deadly when the proper features, systems and construction materials were not present. NFPA code provisions mandate that a considerable number of safety systems and features be present in order to keep everyone safe should an unwanted fire occur.

The Station nightclub fire

A fire at The Station nightclub in W. Warwick, RI, on February 20, 2003, claimed 100 lives and is the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Since that fire, NFPA has enacted tough new code provisions for fire sprinklers and crowd management in nightclub-type venues. Those provisions mark sweeping changes to the codes and standards governing safety in assembly occupancies.

Safety tips:

Before you enter

  • Take a good look. Does the building appear to be in a condition that makes you feel comfortable? Is the main entrance wide and does it open outward to allow easy exit? Is the outside area clear of materials stored against the building or blocking exits?
  • Have a communication plan
    Identify a relative or friend to contact in case of emergency and you are separated from family or friends.
  • Plan a meeting place
    Pick a meeting place outside to meet family or friends with whom you are attending the function. If there is an emergency, be sure to meet them there.

When you enter

  • Locate exits immediately
    When you enter a building you should look for all available exits. Some exits may be in front and some in back of you. Be prepared to use your closest exit. You may not be able to use the main exit.
  • Check for clear exit paths
    Make sure aisles are wide enough and not obstructed by chairs or furniture. Check to make sure your exit door is not blocked or chained. If there are not at least two exits or exit paths are blocked, report the violation to management and leave the building if it is not immediately addressed. Call the local fire marshal to register a complaint.
  • Do you feel safe?
    Does the building appear to be overcrowded? Are there fire sources such as candles burning, cigarettes or cigars burning, pyrotechnics, or other heat sources that may make you feel unsafe? Are there safety systems in place such as alternative exits, sprinklers, and smoke alarms? Ask the management for clarification on your concerns. If you do not feel safe in the building, leave immediately.

During an emergency

  • React immediately
    If an alarm sounds, you see smoke or fire, or other unusual disturbance immediately exit the building in an orderly fashion.
  • Get out, stay out!
    Once you have escaped, stay out. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Let trained firefighters conduct rescue operations.

Source: NFPA Public Education Division

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Outdoors Fire Safety


Be sure to use safe grilling practices as the peak months for grilling fires approach – June and July. Gas grills constitute a higher risk, having been involved in an annual average of 6,900 home fires in 2005-2009, while charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in an annual average of 1,100 home fires.

Safety tips

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

Charcoal grills

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Propane grills

Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.


Fires started by lightning peak in the summer months and in the late afternoon and early evening.

  • During 2004-2008, departments responded to an estimated annual average of 24,600 fires started by lightning. These fires caused annual averages of 12 civilian deaths, 47 civilian injuries, and $407 million in direct property damage.
  • Outside and other fires accounted for 78% of the lightning fires reported to local fire departments.
  • In 2004-2008, only 18% of reported lightning fires occurred in homes, but these accounted for 88% of the civilian deaths, 77% of the associated injuries and 70% of the property damage.

Source: NFPA's "Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes" report by Ben Evarts, December 2010

Safety tips:

Outdoor safety    

  • If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Look for shelter inside a home, large building, or a hard-topped vehicle right away. Do not go under tall tress for shelter. There is no place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder before leaving your shelter.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • If you are in or on open water, go to land and seek shelter immediately.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, that means lightning is about to strike, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground. This is a last resort when a building or
    hard-topped vehicle is not available.
  • If a person is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and get medical care immediately. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge; attend to them immediately. Check their breathing, heartbeat, and pulse. CPR may be needed.

Indoor safety

  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items, like computers, and turn off air conditioners. If you are unable to unplug them, turn them off. Stay off corded phones, computers, and other electronic equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing. Avoid washing your hands, bathing, doing laundry, or washing dishes.

Wildland Fires

Firewise Communities

The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire. The program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

Fire Adapted Communities

NFPA has reached an agreement with The US Forest Service to promote Fire Adapted Communities, a concept designed to provide citizens with information and resources to enable them to collaboratively reduce their wildfire risk. NFPA will be coordinating and delivering key messages about Fire Adapted Communities, developing a logo and relevant branding, and creating a new web site to serve as a public portal for all related resources and programs. 

Safety tips:

Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. By taking the time to create an emergency supplies kit, your family will be prepared in the event of a disaster.

  • If you're moving to a new home in a rural area or buying land to build a new home, do a thorough outdoor fire safety check before you proceed. Locate the home on the lot with adequate setback from downhill slopes. Wildland fire travels uphill rapidly – make sure that your home won't be in its path.
  • Make sure that the area has adequate public fire protection available. Will emergency vehicles have easy access to the house? Is your address clearly visible from the road? Will firefighters have access to a water supply to put out a fire?
  • Make your roof fire safe. Untreated wood shake roofs are the leading cause of wildland fire losses. A roof made of fire-resistant or non-combustible materials can make your home safer. Also, use non-combustible (metal) screening in eave vents and for windows.
  • Sweep gutters, roofs, and eaves regularly and remove dead branches from around or near chimneys. Burning firebrands or embers can collect in the same space that leaves and pine needles do. Remove leaves and needles from cellar window walls and from corners and crevices around the outside of your home.
  • Create a survivable space, safety zone or "fire break" around your home. Flammable (highly resinous) plants, woodpiles, and debris should be kept as far away from the exterior walls of the home as possible. Fences, decks, or outbuildings connected to the house must be considered part of the house; construct them out of non-combustible materials and keep them clear of pine needles, dead leaves, etc.

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Senior Fire Safety

Knowing what to do in the event of a fire is particularly important for older adults. At age 65, people are twice as likely to be killed or injured by fires compared to the population at large. And with our numbers growing every year - in the United States and Canada, adults age 65 and older make up about 12 percent of the population - it's essential to take the necessary steps to stay safe.

Safety tips:

To increase fire safety for older adults, NFPA offers the following guidelines:

  • Keep it low
    If you don't live in an apartment building, consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier. Make sure that smoke alarms are installed in every sleeping room and outside any sleeping areas. Have a telephone installed where you sleep in case of emergency. When looking for an apartment or high-rise home, look for one with an automatic sprinkler system. Sprinklers can extinguish a home fire in less time that it takes for the fire department to arrive.
  • Sound the alarm
    The majority of fatal fires occur when people are sleeping, and because smoke can put you into a deeper sleep rather than waking you, it´s important to have a mechanical early warning of a fire to ensure that you wake up. If anyone in your household is deaf or if your own hearing is diminished, consider installing a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a fire emergency. Contact NFPA´s Center for High-Risk Outreach for a list of product manufacturers.
  • Do the drill
    Conduct your own, or participate in, regular fire drills to make sure you know what to do in the event of a home fire. If you or someone you live with cannot escape alone, designate a member of the household to assist, and decide on backups in case the designee isn't home. Fire drills are also a good opportunity to make sure that everyone is able to hear and respond to smoke alarms.
  • Open up
    Make sure that you are able to open all doors and windows in your home. Locks and pins should open easily from inside. (Some apartment and high-rise buildings have windows designed not to open.) If you have security bars on doors or windows, they should have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened easily. These devices won't compromise your safety, but they will enable you to open the window from inside in the event of a fire. Check to be sure that windows haven't been sealed shut with paint or nailed shut; if they have, arrange for someone to break the seals all around your home or remove the nails.
  • Stay connected
    Keep a telephone nearby, along with emergency phone numbers so that you can communicate with emergency personnel if you're trapped in your room by fire or smoke.

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Unintentional Injuries

Bike & Pedestrian Safety

In 2005, 18 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related incidents, and more than 236,000 were injured in 2007. Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes. A collision with a motor vehicle causes nearly 90 percent of bicycle-related deaths. One hundred seventy-nine children ages 14 and under died in 2005 from pedestrian injuries. Nearly 27,500 children received emergency room treatment for pedestrian injuries in 2007.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) (12/17/08). 

Safety basics

Many head injuries can be prevented with safe play rules. Here are some basic safety tips to keep children safe:

  • Children under 10 should ride on sidewalks or safe areas only like a bike path. Teens may ride in the street, riding with traffic, after they learn the rules of the road.
  • Require children (and adults) to wear a helmet should be worn every time you ride a bike, scooter, skateboard, in-line skate, ice skate, snow board or ski.
  • Make sure children ride bikes in safe areas and never at night.
  • Teach children to always come to a complete stop before entering a driveway, path or sidewalk. Look left, right, and left again for other bikes, cars, or pedestrians.
  • Encourage children to use the proper hand signals when turning to let drivers know your intent.
  • Children should walk, not ride a bike across the street, and cross only with a grown-up.
  • Children under 10 should never cross a street alone. Grown-ups and older children should be role models and set a positive example by practicing safe street-crossing rules.
  • Teach children how to cross the street. Stop at the curb or edge of the road and look left then right, then left again for moving cars. Wait until the street is clear; keep looking left and right until you have safely crossed the street.
  • Never allow children to play in a driveway or parking lot.

Falls Prevention

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries among children. More than 2.1 million children 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fall-related injuries in 2007. Eighty-two children ages 14 and under died from falls in 2005. Lack of supervision is associated with 40% of playground injuries.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) (12/17/08). 

Safety basics

Many fall injuries can be prevented with safe play rules. Here are some basic safety tips to keep children safe:

At play

  • Inspect playground equipment to make sure it is age appropriate and in good condition.
  • Play areas should be covered with at least 12 inches of shredded mulch, wood chips, pea gravel, and fine sand or covered with rubber or rubber-like material designed for use under playground materials. Dirt, grass and sand do not provide proper fall protection.
  • Encourage children to take turns on playground equipment.
  • Encourage children to play gently –pushing and roughhousing can lead to falls.
  • Never allow children to wear jackets with drawstrings, jewelry, or scarves around the neck. They can get caught on playground equipment.

In the home

  • Keep stairs clear of toys and other items that could cause someone to trip. Teach children to hold the handrail when on stairs or escalators and always tie their shoelaces to avoid tripping over them
  • Windows opened as little as five inches pose a danger to children under 10. Install window guards with quick release mechanisms that can be opened easily from the inside in case there is a fire.
  • Make sure tall furniture, clocks, televisions, etc. are secured to the wall to prevent falling on children.

Motor Vehicle Safety

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for children 14 and under with almost 2,000 death in 2005. Inappropriately restrained children are nearly three and a half times more likely to be seriously injured in motor vehicle-related crashes. In 2007, more than 178,000 children ages 14 and under were injured occupants in a motor vehicle crash.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) (12/17/08). 

Safety basics

Riding in a motor vehicle

  • Children under age 13 should ride buckled up in a back seat in an infant or convertible car safety seat, booster seat or safety belt.
  • Infants and children should ride in a rear-facing infant or child car safety seat for as long as possible. It’s the safest way for them to travel. They should ride in the rear facing infant or child safety seat until age 2 or until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
  • Children who have outgrown the rear-facing child car safety seat should ride in a forward-facing child car seat with a harness until the child reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer. Many harnesses today serve children to 60, 70 or even 85 pounds. 
  • All children who have outgrown child car safety seats should be properly restrained in booster seats until they are 4-feet 9-inches tall or are between 8-12 years of age. Adult safety belts alone do not sufficiently protect children less than 4-feet 9 -inches from injury in a crash. Children can’t ride comfortably and remain properly restrained until they are tall enough for their knees to bend over the edge of the seat when their backs are resting firmly against the back seat. If the shoulder portion of the lap-shoulder belt comes across the neck, rather than the chest, they should remain  in a booster seat.

Bus safety for children

  • While waiting for the bus, take five giant steps form the curb until the bus has stopped completely.
  • Stay seated at all times.
  • Keep head, arms and hands inside the bus. Never throw anything out of the bus window.
  • Always hold on to the bus handrails to prevent falling.
  • Be careful that clothing, book bags, and key rings don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
  • When getting off the bus, take five giant steps away from the bus, and stay on the sidewalk.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus drive. Otherwise, the bus driver may not be able to see you.

Poisoning Prevention

In 2005, approximately 92 children ages 14 and under died from poisoning. More than 2.4 million unintentional poisonings were report to the U.S. Poison Control Centers in 2006 representing all ages less than one to over 90 years old.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) (12/17/08). 

American Association of Poison Control Centers, 2006 Annual Report of the NPDS (12/17/08).

Safety basics

  • Post the nationwide Poison Control Center phone number, +1 800 222-1222, near all phones. The Poison control Center is a service for all ages. Children should know who to call if they think someone has eaten poison, and there is not adult available.
  • Children should be taught never to accept medicine form anyone except a trusted adult and to tell a grown-up if they find medicine or any poisonous substance.
  • Keep household cleaning products and medicines (including vitamins) in their original container locked up and out of children’s sight and reach.
  • Purchase child-resistant packaging.
  • Properly dispose unused and old medications.
  • Install laboratory-listed carbon monoxide (CO) alarms inside your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO. Alarms should be installed outside the sleeping area and on every level of the home. Test alarms at least monthly.
  • Have furnaces, water heaters and other fuel-burning appliances inspected and cleaned, yearly by a professional.
  • Have your home tested for lead paint. Children can be poisoned by ingesting dust form lead paint.

Water Safety

Childhood drowning and near-drowning can happen in a matter of seconds. They typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse of supervision. Severe and permanent brain damage affects as many as 20 percent of near-drowning victims. Make sure your family is safe around water.

 Safety basics
  • Make sure pools and spas are enclosed on four sides with a fence at least 5 feet high with a self-closing and latching gates.
  • Drains in pools and spas should have anti-entrapment drain covers.
  • Learn infant and child CPR and always have a phone near the pool for emergency use.
  • Children should always swim under the supervision of a grown-up. Every child over the age of three should have swimming lessons.
  • Children using air-filled swimming aids should always be supervised by an adult within arm’s reach.
  • A U.S. Coast guard approved lifejacket should be worn for water sports such as tubing, skiing or jet skiing. Air-filled aids such as inner tubes, water wings and inflatable rafts are not substitutes for approved lifejackets

It is important for children to learn and practice water safety rules. Here are some helpful water safety rules for children:

  • Children should swim only if a lifeguard or a grown-up gives you permission.
  • Teach children to obey the posted rules.

Encourage children to:

  • Check with the lifeguard to find out how deep the water is.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Never jump or dive unless the lifeguard or a grown-up says it is okay to do so.
  • Don’t eat candy or chew gum when swimming.
  • Never swim at night.
  • Get out of the water right away if you hear thunder or see lightning.
  • When on a boat, everyone needs a seat and his or her own U.S. Coastguard approved lifejacket.

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In 2003-2007,  U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an estimated 480 civilian deaths, 1,525 civilian injuries and $1.3 billion in direct property damage annually.

Facts and Figures:
  • In 2003-2007, highway-type vehicle fires accounted for 17% of reported fires and 12% of U.S. civilian deaths.
  • Older teens and young adults are age groups at highest risk of highway vehicle fire death.
  • On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day.
  • Ninety-three percent of reported fires and 92% of vehicle fire deaths involved highway-type vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles.
  • Three-quarters of highway vehicle fires resulted from mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions. Collisions or overturns caused only 3% of these fires but 58% of the associated deaths.
  • One-third of non-fatal highway vehicle fire injuries occurred when civilians attempted to fight the fire themelves.

Source: NFPA's "U.S. Vehicle Fire Trends and Patterns" report by Marty Ahrens, June 2010.

Safety Tips from AAA:

Vehicle maintenance is crucial to preventing vehicle fires. The American Automobile Association offers the following tips. Visit the AAA Website or call +1-800-AAA-HELP for more information .

  • Have your vehicles inspected at least annually by a trained, professional technician.
  • Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
  • Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.
  • Avoid smoking. If you must smoke, use your vehicle ashtray.
  • Drive according to posted speed limits and other traffic rules. Remain alert to changing road conditions at all times.
If a fire occurs:
  • Stop – If possible, pull to the side of the road and turn off the ignition. Pulling to the side makes it possible for everyone to get out of the vehicle safely. Turn off the ignition to shut off the electric current and stop the flow of gasoline. Put the vehicle in park or set the emergency brake; you don’t want the vehicle to move after you leave it. Keep the hood closed because more oxygen can make the fire larger.
  • Get Out – Make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle. Then move at least 100 feet away. Keep traffic in mind and keep everyone together. There is not only danger from the fire, but also from other vehicles moving in the area.
  • Call for Help Call 9-1-1 or the emergency number for your local fire department. Firefighters are specially trained to combat vehicle fires. Never return to the vehicle to attempt to fight the fire yourself. Vehicle fires can be tricky, even for firefighters.

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