For this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America (BRCA) spoke with Crisp County Firefighter Bruce Lesieur about home fire safety and prevention to help keep families and EMS out of dangerous situations.
“There is no such thing as a routine fire,” Lesieur warns.
Though firefighters across the world put their lives on the line every day for the sake of others, there are things we can do at home to help keep them and others safe. Simple things like learning to identify fire hazards, creating a fire escape plan and teaching fire safety to kids can help you avoid unnecessary risks to emergency services and those living or visiting your home. Some of the most common causes of household fires can be prevented with a bit of situational awareness and education.
“Most of the home fires I’ve responded to have been because of things like the stove being left on, plugging too many appliances into a single outlet, careless discard of smoking material, arson, lightning strikes, which are a natural form of a house fire, and other kinds of incendiary fires,” Lesieur said.
When any fire occurs, it’s crucial to know how to respond. Being proactive in fire safety and response means planning for the fire you hope never happens. Planning for a fire includes educating kids of all ages on what to do in an emergency (where to go, who to call, how to call 911, etc.), creating a fire escape plan to help reduce panic and simple response actions such as “Stop, drop and roll” and “get low and go.”
“‘Get low and go’ is one of the things we always teach,” Lesieur said, “Know your exits. Know your other points of egress, whether that’s windows or doors, anything you could possibly get out of. Have a meeting place—a tree, a neighbor’s house, anywhere as long as everyone is on the same page.”
Proactive education and planning work to keep everyone safe by helping to prevent dangerous and impulsive behavior that can get people hurt. Examples of harmful impulsive behaviors in response to fire include hiding, opening doors and windows, grabbing belongings or pets, attempting to get others out of the house, walking upright through a smoky house and more. Here are some other harmful behaviors to avoid during a fire:
- Kids should never hide in a fire because you want responders to be able to find them. Hiding can prolong this and lead to severe or life-threatening injuries.
- Opening doors and windows allows the fire to spread quicker than when closed. And no one should spend more time in a burning house than it takes to get out, especially when there is smoke. Get low, cover your mouth and nose and get out of the house.
- Please leave it to the first responders to get pets and family members in unreachable areas of the house to safety.
Through community demonstrations and education on proactive fire prevention and response, it is possible to prevent more fires and fire-related injuries. That is why firefighters, like Lesieur and Crisp County EMS, take community education and outreach seriously, especially in schools.
“In the county I work in, we are very big into fire prevention. We always go around to the schools. We have a puppet show. We have a fire safety trailer we always pull around. It’s important to us to help keep the community safe and ourselves in the process.”
Fire and burn safety tips
- Know which burners are hot and keep flammable objects away from the stove, including clothing.
- Keep all flammable objects away from the stove. Doing this will help prevent stove fires immediately when the stove is in use and later if you forget to turn off the burner.
- For those with electric or gas ranges where food or grease can slip under the burners, the stovetop and burners should be cleaned often.
- Similar to ovens, the burners will begin to smoke if food debris or grease is on or under the burners. If this happens, turn off the burners, wait for the burners to cool down and then clean the burners and drip pan/bowl.
- If you have a gas range, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in your kitchen.
- Never smoke while on oxygen; this includes pipes, cigars, cigarettes, hookahs and vapes. All of these can spark and ignite a fire in the oxygen line, causing an explosion, inhalation injuries, facial burns, fire and more.
- Never smoke inside or within 10 feet of your home.
- Never smoke in places you are likely to fall asleep, such as a recliner, couch or bed.
- Never discard a smoldering cigarette on the ground. Smoldering cigarettes can reignite, especially when paired with dry brush such as pine straw or leaves.
- Only discard cigarettes in designated containers such as ashtrays and cigarette disposal towers.
- Never use cords that are frayed or show signs of wear.
- Ensure that all outlets have faceplates.
- Never piggyback plugs. There should be no more than one plug in each receptacle and no more than two plugs per outlet.
- When using heating appliances like coffeemakers, toasters and space heaters, plug them directly into a wall outlet. They should be the only thing plugged into the outlet during use.
- Large appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, microwave ovens and air conditioners should be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
- All light fixtures and lamps should have shades or globes to prevent contact burns and fires.
- Ensure all lightbulbs are tightly screwed in and the proper wattage for the light fixture.
Call an electrician if any of the following occur:
- Your wall outlets look discolored or feel warm to the touch.
- Your outlets spark when you plug in or unplug cords.
- You smell a burning or rubbery smell around your appliances.
- You experience a tingling feeling when you touch light switches.
- Your lights frequently flicker or dim for no known reason.
- You frequently have blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
- Remember: Space heaters need space. Keep them at least 36 inches away from items that can catch fire.
- Have your home heating unit serviced by a professional before its first use to reduce the fire risk.
- A simple fireplace screen can protect your home and family from a fire.
- Make sure ashes and other debris from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are safely disposed of in metal containers far from buildings.
- Never use an oven as a heat source.
- Never light a fire, grill or start a car indoors or in a confined space. This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you are close enough to the storm to hear thunder, you are close enough to get struck by lightning.
- Safe shelters include homes, large buildings or hard-topped vehicles. Never use tall trees as a shelter or stay in open water if you hear thunder.
- If you are indoors, avoid using water, electronic equipment and corded telephones. Stay away from windows and doors.
- If no shelter is available, do not lie on the ground. Instead, crouch as low and tight as you can.
What if someone is struck by lightning?
- Call 911.
- Check their vital signs, if it is safe to do so.
- Start CPR, if needed.
For more information about fire safety or thermal burns, please visit our website at www.burncenters.com. If you are suffering from a thermal injury, please don’t wait to seek help. Call our experts 24/7 at (855) 863-9595 for your non-emergent needs. For emergencies, please call 911.
For more information on thermal burns, please click here.
For information on how to create a home fire escape plan, click here.
For information on fire safety tips for kids, please click here.
For more information on kitchen safety, please click here.
To watch a home fire survival and recovery story, please click here.