Fire Safety at Home
Most fatal home fires start when you are asleep and least prepared. Family members die when discovery of a fire is delayed and exits from the home become blocked by smoke and heat. If you plan ahead, you can save your family from disaster. By following these simple recommendations, you may give yourself or your family the chance to escape tragedy. Install smoke detectors in your home One or more smoke detectors should be installed in your home. Generally smoke detectors should be installed outside of sleeping areas and near areas which may be likely sources for fires (near kitchens, appliance rooms, garages). Smoke detector batteries should be changed every year.

Two Means of Escape:

  • Determine two routes for escape from each bedroom. One should be the normal exit from the house. The other should be a window that opens easily in case the normal exit is blocked by fire or smoke.
  • Draw Your Escape Routes
  • Draw a floor plan of your home with primary and secondary escape routes for each bedroom clearly marked. Keep these routes unobstructed.
  • Practice Escape Routes
  • Practice your escape routes both during the daylight hours and after dark. Sleep with your doors closed.
  • Feel the temperature of any door with the back of your hand prior to opening it. If it's hot, don't open it.
  • Use you secondary escape route.
  • Pre-determined Meeting Place
  • Agree on a meeting place outside of the house.
  • Once outside, do not re-enter the building to rescue pets or animals.
  • Use a neighbors phone to call 9-1-1.

Tips For a Friendly Fireplace

Your fireplace is a source of warmth and relaxation. Yet, like any home appliance, it should be safe, properly maintained, and good for the environment, inside and out.

THINK "CLEAN" Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually by a National Chimney Sweep Guild Certified chimney sweep. A dirty fireplace can cause chimney fires or contribute to air pollution. A certified chimney sweep will diagnose your fireplace and recommend what it needs in order to burn cleanly and safely. Choose the right fuel. In general, hardwood firewood ( oak, madrone, hickory, ash, etc.) burns cleaner than softwood firewood ( fir, pine, cedar, etc.) . Seasoned wood, wood with a moisture content of less than 20%, burns much cleaner than green ( high moisture content) wood. Check with your cord wood supplier to make sure that the wood you purchase is seasoned. Burn smartly. Good fireplace habits can decrease fuel consumption in the home while maintaining the same level of warmth. Make sure the fire gets enough air to burn properly. Close the damper when the fire is out to keep warm room air inside.

THINK "FIRE PREVENTION" Being good to the environment also means making sure your fireplace habits are safe and will not pose a danger to your home or your neighborhood.


  • Clear the area around the fireplace and chimney. Debris too close to the fireplace could cause a fire.
  • Check the flue for obstructions like birds nests, and trim any overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney. Always use a fireplace screen.
  • Never overload the fireplace with too many logs. Don't use the fireplace as an incinerator, and never burn garbage, Christmas trees, or piles of paper.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and place smoke detectors throughout the house. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to operate it.
  • When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace, preferably on a grate.
  • Never leave fire unattended. Be sure the fire is extinguished before you go to bed.
  • Keep wood stacked, covered, and out-of-doors, away from your house and off the ground.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Each year more than 15,000 people are seriously burned when their clothes catch on fire. In more than half of the incidents, flammable liquids or vapors were present on or around the person's clothing. But it can happen in many ways. A person's loose sleeve may catch fire on a hot stove. Someone may be working with gasoline or some other flammable liquid and then light a cigarette. They might spray lighter fluid on a smoldering barbecue fire and the resulting flames could catch their clothes on fire. When a person's clothing catches on fire, action must be instinctive and immediate. There is no time to think. The one thing you should never do is run.

To minimize a burn injury when your clothes catch fire, STOP, DROP and ROLL. Burns are among the most painful of injuries and the third leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. The hands, groin, face and lungs are at particular risk because they are delicate structures and easily injured. The healing process is slow and painful, resulting in enormous personal suffering.

Certain types of clothing are less flammable and resist flames more than other types of clothing. Heavier clothing and fabrics with a tight knit weave burn more slowly compared with loose knit clothing. Fabrics with a loose fit or a fluffy pile will ignite more readily than tight-fitting, dense fabric clothing. Synthetic fibers, such as nylon, once ignited, melt and burn causing severe burns. Natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, tend to burn more slowly than synthetic fibers. However, fibers that combine both synthetic and natural fibers may be of greater hazard than either fabric alone. Curtains and draperies can be sprayed with flame retardant to reduce their rate of burning. However, these chemicals should not be applied to clothing.

The principles of STOP, DROP and ROLL are simple:

  1. Stop, do not run, if your clothes catch on fire.
  2. Drop to the floor in a prone position.
  3. Cover your face with your hands to protect it from the flames.
  4. Roll over and over to smother the fire. Don't stop until the flames have been extinguished.

  • Once the fire is out, you must treat a burn injury.
  • Cool a burn with water.

Kitchen Safety

  • Keep children a safe distance from hot liquids.
  • Always use pot holders.
  • Turn pot handles in or use rear burners.
  • Hot grease causes severe burns - avoid using deep fat fryers around children.
  • Keep your fire extinguisher in a convenient location away from heat sources.
  • Follow instructions carefully when using microwave ovens.
  • Wear short sleeves or fleece clothing when cooking.
  • If your clothing should catch fire, immediately STOP, DROP and ROLL to smother flames.
  • Cool a burn with cold tap water. Do not apply butter. If severe, cover with a sterile pad or clean sheet and seek medical assistance immediately.
  • Scalds and burn injuries are on the increase. The highest risks are the very young and the elderly.

Home Cooking Safety

Cooking fires are the #1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Most cooking equipment fires start with the ignition of common household items (e.g., food or grease, cabinets, wall coverings, paper or plastic bags, curtains, etc.).

  • In 1999, there were 96,200 home structure fires associated with cooking equipment, resulting in 331 deaths, 4,183 injuries and $511.3 million in direct property damage.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.
  • Three in every 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen - more than any other place in the home.

Safety Tips:

  • Always use cooking equipment tested and approved by a recognized testing facility.
  • Never leave cooking food on the stovetop unattended, and keep a close eye on food cooking inside the oven.
  • Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles (e.g. potholders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging).
  • Keep children and pets away from cooking areas by creating a three-foot (one-meter) "kid-free zone" around the stove.
  • Turn pot handles inward so they can't be bumped and children can't grab them.
  • Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.
  • Never use a wet oven mitt, as it presents a scald danger if the moisture in the mitt is heated.
  • Always keep a potholder, oven mitt and lid handy. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Don't remove the lid until it is completely cool. Never pour water on a grease fire and never discharge a fire extinguisher onto a pan fire, as it can spray or shoot burning grease around the kitchen, actually spreading the fire. If there is an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you and your clothing.
  • If there is a microwave fire, keep the door closed and unplug the microwave. Call the fire department and make sure to have the oven serviced before you use it again. Food cooked in a microwave can be dangerously hot.

Smoking Safety

Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths and the third leading cause of fire injuries in the United States. Roughly one of every four fire deaths in the 1999 was attributed to smoking materials. Facts & figures in 1999, there were 167,700 fires associated with smoking materials, resulting in 807 deaths, 2,193 injuries and $559.1 million in property damage. Of the fire deaths, 776 occurred in residential properties.

In Canada there were 3,800 fires in 1999 associated with smoking materials. These fires caused 119 civilian deaths, 258 civilian injuries and direct property damage of $58.3 million Canadian ($39.2 million U.S.).

The most common material first ignited in residential smoking material-related fires was mattresses and bedding, followed by trash and upholstered furniture.

*From NFPA's The Smoking-Material Fire Problem, May 2003, by John R. Hall, Jr.

Safety tips

  • Keep smoking materials away from anything that can burn (i.e., mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, draperies, etc.).
  • Never smoke in bed or when you are drowsy, intoxicated or medicated.
  • Use large, deep, non-tip ashtrays to prevent ashes from spilling onto furniture and check them frequently.
  • Do not rest ashtrays on sofas or chairs.
  • Completely douse butts and ashes with water before throwing them away as they can smolder in the trash and cause a fire.
  • Whenever someone has been smoking in the home, always check on, between and under upholstery and cushions and inside trashcans for butts that may be smoldering.
  • When smokers visit your home, ask them to keep smoking materials, lighters and matches with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of children's sight and reach (preferably in a locked cabinet).

Fire Safety in Apartments and Cottages

Apartment complexes are simply a series of small, connected homes. It's important to remember that what you do in your apartment can affect people living six-doors down, or even in the next building. Special hazards that affect people who live in apartments: ? Often, there is only one way in or out---no back door.

  • Stairways are often built entirely of wood. If the stairwell or walkway is on fire, you may not be able to exit through the front door.
  • Congested parking can mean blocked fire hydrants and/or blocked fire lanes. (A ladder truck can be 8 to 9-feet wide and 50-feet long. A blocked fire lane can slow down response time.)
  • An apartment building is, in effect, a very densely populated neighborhood. (If the downstairs or next- door apartment is on fire, it can spread quickly to adjoining apartments in a matter of minutes.)
  • Without properly working smoke alarms, it make take a long time before you find out that another part of the apartment building is on fire. Consequently, this could cut your chances of getting out of the building alive. Tips for Living Safely in Apartment Buildings
  • Make sure you have smoke alarms that work. The Fire Code requires working smoke alarm (s) in every apartment unit. Existing apartments require smoke alarms in the hallway outside sleeping areas. Newly constructed apartments now require them IN the sleep room, as well. Remember to check the batteries once a month, and replace the batteries once a year.
  • The apartment complex is required to have a fire extinguisher within 75-feet travel distance. If extinguishers are not provided outside the apartments, then each apartment is required to have one.
  • The Fire Code states that no person shall use fixed or portable barbecues in or under any attached covered patios, balconies, covered walkways or roof overhangs. When in use, barbecues should be located on ground level and be a minimum of 5-feet from buildings, structures, covered walkways or roof overhangs. Don't park in front of fire hydrants and don't park in fire lanes.
  • Respecting the fire restrictions may literally save your life. When friends visit, be sure to remind them to park only in appropriate parking areas.
  • Never leave smoking materials burning. Never smoke in bed. In 2001, the most common cause of apartment fires was careless disposal of smoking materials.
  • Have a fire escape plan. Practice it. Know at least two ways to get out of your apartment. Pick a family meeting place outside the apartment building. Don't use elevators (they may take you right into the fire.)
  • Make sure there's a number on your apartment door. If there isn't, contact management.
  • Keep a copy of your apartment number and apartment building number, inside your apartment, near the phone. The information will then be handy for babysitters, and it will be there if you panic.
  • Complex owners and managers need to be sure gated driveways are accessible to firefighters. 75-percent of multi-housing complexes are now gated. Work with the fire department to make sure access requirements are met.
  • Don't run extension cords under carpets or from unit-to-unit. They can easily overheat. Extension cords are for temporary use only. They are not to be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.
  • Get acquainted with the elderly folks in your building. If there's a fire, they may have extra difficulty getting out. You may be able to help them, or you can direct firefighters to the elderly person's apartment.

Community Education

Stinson Beach Volunteer Firefighters Association