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Two Ways Out: Smart Advice for Indoor Fire Safety

This year's National Fire Prevention theme was "Two Ways Out". This means making sure everyone knows two ways to get out of every room in your home, especially bedrooms. If a door or hallway is blocked by flames, your family members need to have a second way to escape from the house. And, they need to do it quickly.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show how dangerous a fire can be. In 2010, one home fire was reported every 85 seconds. Fires and burns are the third leading cause of deadly home injuries behind falls and poisoning.  

While the number of deaths from fires has slowly dropped over the years, many fire-related deaths are preventable. Following are some tips to help keep you and your family safe.

Family Fire Safety 

Experts will tell you the number one element of fire safety is to have a family action plan and to practice it. Without practice, the sound of the fire alarm may trigger panic in young children or older adults living in your home. Rehearsing what to do in the event of a fire can help ensure that everyone gets out of the home safely.  It's also a good idea to:

  • Decide on a meeting place well outside of your home, so you know all family members/caregivers made it out of the house safely.
  • Teach young children to move quickly when they hear a fire alarm.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A very old saying, but when it comes to fire safety, it could not be more true. You may think you have removed flammable materials and devices from your home, but studies show that some common household items are often the source of a fire. 

Space Heaters

As the weather turns cooler, many families rely on space heaters to provide extra warmth. However, space heaters were involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths according to the US Fire Administration.

  • Don't use older space heaters. When purchasing a new space heater, look for safety features such as an auto shut-off when a space heater is moved or knocked over.
  • Don't place a space heater near furniture, curtains, bed coverings or other objects that could catch fire.
  • Make sure to turn space heaters off or, better yet, unplug them when you leave the room or go to bed.

Fireplace Safety

Chimneys are another common source of fires. It's one reason the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends you have your chimney inspected annually by a certified professional. In addition:

  • Hot coals can be buried in ashes and stay live for many hours. Wet the ashes and use care when removing them. Place them in a metal container and store the container far from your home, not on your deck or in a garage.
  • Flying embers or sparks can be hazardous, so be sure to use a fire screen to control them. 
  • Do not burn wrapping paper, trash or trees in fireplaces, as these materials can spark fires.

Clothes Dryers

Clothes dryers are one of the surprising causes of home fires as lint can quickly accumulate and lead to a fire.

  • Show family members where the lint trap is located and be sure they clean it out before adding a new load.
  • Check under and behind your dryer, as lint may collect in these areas.
  • It's a good idea to clean your dryer vent several times per year to prevent lint buildup.
  • Turn off your clothes dryer when you are not at home or when you are asleep.

Holiday Decorations

Decorating homes is a long-standing holiday tradition and proper upkeep will help keep your family protected.

  • Before putting up the lights, inspect them for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear.
  • While vintage holiday lights may have been in the family for years, they typically do not meet today's safety standards. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not leave holiday lights on when you leave your home or when you are sleeping.


You've heard this message many times: every home should have working smoke alarms on every floor.  Most experts recommend checking the batteries every six months, when you change your clocks in the spring and fall.  

You should also replace smoke detectors every 10 years. While it may appear the smoke alarm just sits on the wall, it is working every second of every day and can become worn out. Replacing an old smoke alarm also allows you to take advantage of the latest technology to keep your family safe.

We covered many items in this article, but it comes down to four key points:

  1. Create and practice a family safety plan.
  2. "Two Ways Out" of every room in your home.
  3. Evaluate common household items for potential fire hazards.
  4. Make sure your smoke detectors work and replace them every 10 years. 

By following these simple guidelines, you may extinguish fire concerns in your home.