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Fire safety guide

April 7, 2015

In 2013, 369,000 home fires led to 2,755 deaths, 12,200 injuries and $6.8 billion in damages, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The threat is certainly real, and it's usually preventable. While fire damages are typically covered by home insurance, the financial burdens might be the least of your worries. In order to keep your family safe, learn more about preventing and handling fires:

Prevent and manage house fires to protect your home and family.

Know the fire facts

The more knowledgeable you are about house fires, the more likely you'll be able to safely escape. Fire spreads extremely fast. In fact, a small flame can turn into a raging fire in under 30 seconds. It can fill the house with pitch-black smoke, causing breathing and vision problems. If you awake in the middle of the night to a fire, you might be disoriented because of the smoke's darkness. Know that the heat and toxic gases cause more harm than the actual flames. Just because you're not directly in the fire doesn't mean you're out of harms way. The best thing to do is exit the home immediately, or wave something out the window to signal your position to fire fighters if you can't escape.

Use smoke alarms correctly

There should be a smoke detector on each level of your home, and you should replace fire alarms every 10 years. Also, test them once a month, and change batteries as needed. For extra precaution, smoke detectors can be installed in every bedroom.

Pay attention while cooking

Cooking was the leading cause of residential building fire injuries in 2012, according to the USFA. Many of those accidents happened because homeowners left things on the stove and forgot about them. With busy lives, it's understandable why you might try to multitask while making dinner. However, in order to prevent damage and promote safety, give the stovetop all of your attention while cooking.

Set rules for the kids

While it's important to build independence in children, safety should always come first. Teach your kids never to play with matches or lighters and never to use the stove without adult supervision. When the smoke alarm goes off, they are to immediately head outside—not stopping for toys or even a jacket. However, if it's winter time, you can put jackets right by the door so your family can easily grab them as they head outside. Additionally, kids should know their address and how to dial 911 in the event of an emergency.

Don't leave candles unattended

Open flames should never be left to burn without an adult in the room. When they are burning, make sure there's nothing located too close to the candle that could potentially catch fire, such as curtains. An alternative to an open flame is a battery operated candle. If you're looking to fill the room with a pleasant aroma, consider using air fresheners instead. However, if you do burn candles, make sure they're blown out before you leave the room.

By staying informed and practicing these simple tips, you can help prevent a fire from happening in your home. Teach your family the proper behavior in the event of a fire, so you'll only be filing a home insurance claim instead of treating burns.