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National Fire Prevention Week: Fire Prevention and Detection Tips

In case you didn’t know, this week (October 9–15) is Fire Prevention Week, which was created to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. A lot of mythology surrounds this disastrous event that “killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres” ( Local legend blames a cow who kicked over a lamp and set a barn on fire.

Learn more about the Chicago Fire of 1871 with this history lesson:

President Calvin Coolidge, concerned with the high number of fire-related casualties in the country, proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4–10, 1925.

This year, however, and for the third year in a row, the Fire Prevention Week theme is smoke alarms, specifically “Don’t Wait, Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”

Think you already know everything there is to know about Smoke Alarm Safety? Take the NFPA quiz and test your knowledge:

Fire Prevention Week 2016 – Prevention & Detection

The main message this year is to check the date of your smoke alarms and replace any that are 10 years old or older.

Watch Sparky the Fire Dog® show you how to check the date on your smoke alarms:

Obviously this isn’t the only thing you can do to reduce the risk of home fires and casualties. Old smoke alarms are definitely part of the problem, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Home Fire Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

  • On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day.
  • Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.
  • One-quarter of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom. Another quarter resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den.
  • Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.

Fire Prevention & Detection Tips

Extension Cords:

Many home fires are the result of improper extension cord use. Remember that extension cords are temporary solutions and should always be used according to their manufacturer instructions.

Space Heaters:

Space heaters are the number one cause of heating-related fires at home. Keep a 3-foot radius around the space heater, make sure cords aren’t frayed or burned, and always plug them into an AFCI-protected outlet (not an extension cord). Read more about heating your home safely with space heaters here.

Electrical System:

Never ignore electrical problems or warning signs, such as frequently tripping breakers, cracking and sizzling sounds, damaged components, or strange smells. In the United State, around 50,000 home fires are caused by electrical problems every year. Don’t be one of them!

  • Test AFCI and GFCI breakers and outlets every month (30 days).
  • Install tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs) in homes with children. Most toddlers can remove a little plastic outlet cap easily.
  • Samsung and other companies have recalled cell phones and other electronic devices due to burn and fire hazards. Don’t use any recalled items and always purchase electronics from an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL).

Smoke Alarms:

  • Place a smoke detector outside of each sleeping area, on every floor, and in every bedroom.
  • Test all smoke alarms every month by pushing the “test” button.
  • Replace smoke alarms after 10 years.
  • There are two main types of smoke alarms: ionization (better for flames) and photoelectric (better for smoke). It’s recommended that you have both types of smoke alarms in the home.
  • There are also smoke alarms for the hearing disabled, which include strobe lights and bed shakers.


Heating Equipment:

Around half of all home heating fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. This goes along with the fact that heating equipment is the leading cause of fire in U.S. homes (NFPA).

  • Have your heating system inspected and cleaned every year, preferably in the fall before you first need it. Heating equipment needs to be professionally maintained every year for safety, efficiency, and financial reasons. Most manufacturer warranties even require annual tune-ups in order to remain valid.
  • Sign up for a home maintenance plan to save money and automate your tune-ups so you never have to worry.
  • Keep a minimum 3-foot clearance around all heating equipment and teach children that these areas are no-play zones.
  • Never use cooking equipment to heat your home.
  • Always hire a qualified professional to install HVAC equipment, hot water heaters, and any other type of stationary heating equipment. Make sure they are following ACCA’s installation guidelines.
  • Always have your chimneys inspected every year by a qualified professional
  • Turn off space heaters before turning in for the night.
  • Always follow manufacturer guidelines when operating heating equipment.
  • Make sure your fireplace has a working flue and there is a functional screen to prevent sparks from starting a fire. Always make sure the fire is extinguished before going to bed. Transfer hot coals and ashes to a sturdy metal container a safe distance away from the home.
  • Install smoke and CO detectors on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area. Test them every month and replace them according to the manufacturer instructions.
  • If you ever smell gas in the home, evacuate immediately and then call the fire department. Teach everyone in your household how to detect a gas leak.

Reproduced from NFPA’s website. ©2016 NFPA.

More Home Safety Advice:

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