Test your smoke alarm to prevent fires

Home fires are a serious concern not just in Kentucky but throughout the country. Consider these facts provided by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • There were 365,500 home fires in 2015
  • 3 out of 5 deaths caused by home fires were in homes without working smoke alarms
  • 43 percent of home fires start in the kitchen

(Source: nfpa.org)

The US Fire Administration says home fire fatalities are currently down 7 percent compared to fatalities between January and October of last year.

October 9 to 15 is designated as Fire Prevention Week by the National Fire Protection Association. This is commemorated every October, the same month that the Great Chicago Fire burned. In 1871, the two-day fire killed over 250 people and destroyed 17,400 structures. Ultimately it burned over 2,000 acres.

As we head into winter, more people may be burning candles, using wood stoves and fireplaces, and perhaps utilizing their stoves and ovens more now that temperatures are better suited to indoor cooking. As you inform yourself of fire safety measures, consider these tips from the NFPA and other fire safety organizations:

1. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. The manufacturing date will be on the back of the alarm, and you should replace the alarm 10 years after that date.

2. Test smoke alarms once a month. Simply press the "test" button located somewhere on the face of the particular model. It should be placed in an easy to find location. Change the batteries if the test does not work.

3. Make sure you have a smoke alarm installed on every level of your home. Smoke alarms should be located inside bedrooms and outside of bedrooms.

4. According to the Red Cross, smoking is the leading cause of home fire fatalities in the US. If you smoke, take steps to prevent starting a fire: Don't smoke when you're drowsy or inebriated – you could fall asleep with a lit cigarette. Don't smoke in bed and don't light up if someone inside your house is using an oxygen tank.

5. Don't leave candles burning unattended. Get in the habit of making sure they are out when you leave your home or go to bed.

6. If a fire ignites in your home, get outside immediately. Call 911 once you're out. Don't go back inside for any reason. Wait for emergency responders to arrive.

7. Keep flammable things at least three feet away from fuel sources or anything that gets hot. Space heaters are of particular concern. Make sure curtains, bedding and other items are kept three feet away from space heaters.

There are many, many other tips for preventing fires. Good lists can be found at redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/home-fire-preparedness and at nfpa.org/public-education/resources/safety-tip-sheets.