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How can I prevent fires in my home?
You're right to be concerned about keeping your kids safe from fires -- nearly 14,000 children 14 and under are injured every year in fire-related accidents, and almost 600 injuries are life-threatening, according to the National SAFE Kids Campaign in Washington, D.C. To protect your family, you should know at least two exits from your house, and practice the escape route spontaneously at different times of day. Choose a meeting place so family members can account for one another after a safe exit from the house. You should also test smoke alarms monthly and change batteries annually. Check into equipping your home with a variety of alarms. Ionization alarms, for example, sense flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms detect slow, smoky fires. And double-check this list to avoid other potential hazards:
When you're inside:
• Make sure an adult is always in the kitchen when the stove is on, and turn pot handles inward so they can't be bumped.
• Keep curtains and other flammable objects away from the stove.
• Keep a "kid-free" zone of 3 feet around the stove when cooking.
• Use separate outlets for each kitchen appliance.
• Turn off portable space heaters at bedtime or when adults leave the room, and keep them at least 3 feet from anything that can catch on fire.
• If you have a fireplace, install a screen around it to catch sparks. Have your chimney and furnace professionally inspected and cleaned annually.
• Make sure electrical cords have no cracks or frayed areas, and don't run extension cords under carpets or across doorways.
• Clear all exits of furniture, toys, and clutter.
• Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of children's reach.
• Never smoke in bed.
• Don't store gasoline, paint thinner, ammonia, propane tanks, or other flammable liquids in your home.
When you're outside:
• If you have a grill, keep it at least 10 feet from the house, garage, and trees.
• Store and use the grill on a large, flat surface that can't burn, such as concrete or asphalt. Never use it in a garage or on a porch or deck.
• You should never leave a grill unattended, and establish a 3-foot "kid-free" zone around your grill.
• Have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose, and water nearby when grilling.
• Don't use any liquid other than barbecue starter fluid to start or refresh the fire, and never pour starter fluid directly on the flame -- this can cause it to quickly explode.
• Keep the grill clean and free of grease buildup that could cause a fire.
• Build campfires away from dry branches and grasses, and don't store extra wood near the fire.
• Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze can cause the fire to spread. To put out a campfire, drown it with water, dirt, or sand, and check under rocks and large pieces of wood for burning embers.
• Don't bury coals before smothering them with water -- they can smolder and start a new fire.
Copyright © 2003, Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.