Stop, drop, and roll: Learn the many ways to prevent home fires
With hurricane season on the horizon, many don’t think about other things like fire safety. However, fire safety is still important regardless of what time of year it is. There are many different ways to prevent home fires and one of the most important ways is to become more informed.
Elyse Brown from the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue says that they’ve seen an increase in home fires since the pandemic.
“Nationwide, that is the number one cause of home fires are cooking fires and typically those cooking fires are attributed to being unattended fires. So with covid and more people being home doing more activities will create that increase,” says Brown.
Brown states that some ways to prevent fires in the kitchen are avoiding distractions, staying in the kitchen and physically being in the kitchen when teaching older children to cook. Other ways to prevent cooking fires are to not cook under the influence of alcohol, medicine, and not cooking while tired or multitasking. But sometimes, putting out a cooking fire correctly isn’t as easy as one may think.
“Oftentimes people think that a fire extinguisher would be the quickest way to extinguish a cooking fire and that actually is if it’s used improperly can push and spread the fire and make it worse, whereas simply using a lid to suffocate the fire and turning the heat off is a quick and safe way to put the fire out,” says Brown.
Making sure to correctly read the labels of electronics can also help someone prevent a fire. Brown states that using open flames like candles also contributes to home fires. Leaving a room when a candle is lit is a danger that can lead to a fire.
“This is why we always discourage the use of candles or anything with an open flame to use as lighting after a storm outage because after the storm people have their windows open and the wind and curtain can brush up against the candle,” says Brown.
Brown recommends LED lighting or a battery-powered candle for those who still want some light. Solar-powered light sources are also recommended as is being familiar with the products you’re using. It may not prevent an electrical fire, but using appliances correctly and how they are intended is a great start.
Cooking and electrical fires shouldn’t be our only concern either. According to Brown, cooking fires are not the highest cause of fatalities.
“The number one cause of home-related fatalities nationwide are fires that are attributed to smoking materials,” says Brown. “So when somebody is smoking cigarettes or a cigar, oftentimes they like to sit down and relax and if they are too relaxed they fall asleep and the cigarette catches fire to the furniture that may be there.”
Being attentive to what you’re doing and your surroundings is key, but there are more ways to prevent fires. Making sure that your household has an escape plan, working smoke alarms and even sleeping with the door closed are ways to lessen the risk. They are tools that can be used if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
Sleeping with the bedroom door closed puts a barrier between the person and a fire. Brown emphasizes that more people should sleep with their bedroom doors closed. She also highly recommends checking the smoke alarms. Smoke alarms provide a warning to the members of the house and allow them to leave the house if there’s a fire risk.
According to Brown, it is essential to take these precautions because the chances of escaping unharmed have gotten shorter. “Between the materials in these items, fires burn much hotter and much faster nowadays. Years ago when you had five, six, or seven minutes to get out you would have about as much as two minutes now. You could have as little as two minutes to get you and your entire family out to safety.”
It may sound overwhelming, but the first step is always to be informed. Knowing how to prevent home fires or how to leave a burning house is an important life skill to learn. It may not happen in the future, but it’s good to be prepared and it’s empowering.
“We want to help people, save lives and empower them to believe that they can prevent themselves from getting hurt,” says Brown.
The fire department wants everyone in their community to know what to do if they’re in danger. And that’s not the only thing they do.
“Although close to 90% of our 911 call volume is medical related, we are the service industry that can teach fire safety with the most training and the most background to be able to get the message across to people. We like to think of ourselves as the go-to agency for fire-related information.”
The fire department wants to be a source of help and security to its community. By teaching people and constantly posting tips on social media, they can form a relationship with the neighborhood. Following the social media accounts of the fire department is the fastest and best way to become more informed. Engage with your local fire department and don’t forget to stay informed and connected.