While deaths from fires have steadily decreased over the past several decades, thousands of Americans die by fire every year, and thousands more are injured. According to FEMA estimates,  the damage from fires cost over $25.6 billion in 2018 alone. Following a summer of record-breaking wildfires, comes the peak time for fire-related deaths: the winter months. Fire prevention week —last week, October 4 -10, 2020 — is the perfect time to review and practice fire safety.

For Homeowners

Cooking is the top cause of home fires and home fire injuries, with unattended cooking as the top culprit. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food. Be alert and avoid using the oven or stovetop when intoxicated or drowsy. Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.

Heating is the second leading cause of home fires. Keep all flammables away from space heaters, stoves, and fireplaces. If possible, place space heaters on level, non flammable surfaces, such as tile. Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended. Before exiting a room, turn off heaters and ensure fireplace embers are extinguished. Keep children and pets away from heaters.

In addition to cooking and heaters, smoking, electrical problems, and candles are other top causes of fire. If you or another member of your house smokes, avoid smoking in the home. Turn off candles before exiting a room or before bed. Check cords regularly and replace any that are frayed or damaged. Keep matches and lighters high and out of children’s reach.

Beyond minimizing specific risks, it is important that your home and your family are equipped with the tools and skills to be prepared in the event of a crisis. It is important that your home has new smoke alarms throughout, with batteries that are replaced annually. Just as children practice fire drills at school, it is crucial to make and practice an escape plan at home.

For Restaurants

Restaurants are a recipe for fire disaster— open flames, cooking oils, hot equipment, paper products, cleaning chemicals, etc. In addition to harming employees, a fire can be devastating to a business, leading to lost revenue and perhaps even permanent closure. Here are steps restaurants can take to prevent fires and minimize damage:

Fire Safety Restaurant Tips:

  • Install an automatic fire-suppression system in the kitchen, but keep portable fire extinguishers as a backup. 
  • Schedule regular maintenance on electrical equipment, and regularly inspect exhaust systems for grease buildup. 
  • Train staff to use a fire extinguisher properly.
  • Clean up grease on exhaust hoods, walls, work surfaces, vents, and filters. Be sure to also remove ashes from wood and charcoal-burning ovens 
  • Never throw water on a grease fire and make sure cigarettes are out before dumping into trash cans.
  • Keep the kitchen clean to avoid fire hazards, this includes storing flammable liquids properly and correctly using chemical solutions.
  • Have a clear evacuation that is communicated to employees.

For Community Associations

Community associations have similar risks to a regular home, but HOAs are associations of homes, and thus more rules, regulations, and inspections are likely to occur. Know how often buildings need to be inspected, and do not skip an inspection. Ideally, buildings should be inspected by the local fire department or fire marshal on an annual basis. Conduct fire drills regularly, ideally during fire prevention week as public service announcements and materials are made available by the National Fire Protection Association. Enact rules banning fire hazards. The NFPA offers a comprehensive list of banned items, but it essentially comes down to common sense. If something has a flame bigger than a candle and is moveable, it is likely unsafe and should be banned.