Keep your family safe from fire
11/12/2020 by Jon Ebbert, M.D.
Keeping your family safe is important to all of us, and there are a few things that you can do to protect those you love from the harms of fire.
Make sure you have working smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home by half. Smoke alarms should be installed in sleeping rooms, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home. Smoke alarms should be tested at least monthly. Batteries should be replaced at least yearly. And the smoke alarm should be replaced every 10 years. As we age, our hearing declines, so it is important to ensure that the alarm can be heard by everybody in the home who has reduced hearing.
Make sure everyone understands the fire escape plan.
Smoke alarms only work as well as the plan that allows people to escape when there is a fire. Every family should have a home escape plan, and this plan should be practiced. Teach children how to escape on their own if you cannot help. Specifically, make sure that they can open windows, remove screens and unlock doors.
Safe fire practices should travel with you.
When checking in to a hotel, ask what the fire alarm sounds like. Also, ask if the room is equipped with a smoke alarm and accessories that will wake people who are hard of hearing, if needed. Count the number of doors between your room and the nearest fire exits.
Prepare those who are planning to live in college or university housing.
Choose a dorm or off-campus housing with fire sprinklers, as they provide the best level of protection. Do not burn candles in your room.
Practice fire safety in the kitchen.
The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Do not cook if you have consumed alcohol or if you are taking a medication that makes you drowsy. Always turn off burners if you leave the kitchen for any reason. Keep a pot lid nearby when cooking so it can be used to extinguish any fire. A turkey fryer that uses cooking oil is not suitable for safe use in the home – they should only be used outside by a well-informed and careful consumer.
Don't smoke or allow smoking in your home.
If you smoke cigarettes, smoke outside ― and require all guests to do the same
Limit the use of extension cords.
Major appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and microwave ovens, should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord with a major appliance, as it can overheat and start a fire.
Candles are beautiful, but they require special considerations.
Never leave a burning candle unattended. Never burn a candle on or near anything that might catch fire. Keep all candles out of the reach of children and pets. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles for greater safety.
Home oxygen therapy saves lives, but it is also dangerous.
Where medical oxygen is in use, never use a sparking toy; an open flame, such as a match or lighter, a fireplace or stove; or any other device fueled by gas, kerosene, wood or coal. Always be sure to post appropriate signage to alert others that oxygen is in use on the premises.
For additional safety tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association's website.
Dr. John Ebbert is a physician in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Internal Medicine (CIM). He is chair of Community Internal Medicine's Telehealth Division and offers virtual visit care across Southeast Minnesota.