Your Home Fire Saftey Checklist

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Your Home Fire Safety Checklist


Table of Contents

About the


Of Fire

Supplemental Home Heating Equipment
Cooking Equipment
Cigarette Lighters and Matches

Materials That Burn

Upholstered Furniture
Mattresses and Bedding
Wearing Apparel
Flammable Liquids

Early Warning and Escape

Smoke Detectors
Escape Plan

About the Commission

This Home Fire Safety Checklist was developed by the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent regulatory agency of the
U.S. Government.

The Commission has four statutory missions:

-- to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury associated
with consumer products;

-- to assist consumers in evaluating the comparative safety of consumer

-- to develop uniform safety standards for consumer products and
minimise conflicting state and local regulations; and

-- to promote research and investigation into the causes and prevention
of product-related deaths, injuries and illnesses.

It has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 consumer products used in the
home, school and in public places. Among the products not subject to the
Commission's authority are food, drugs, automobiles, tobacco, and fire arms.
The Commission administers five safety laws: The Consumer Product Safety Act,
the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, the Flammable Fabrics Act, the Poison
Prevention Packaging Act, and the Refrigerator Act.

CPSC began operation on May 14, 1973. It is headed by three
Commissioners appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the

On October 29, 1973, the Commission instituted a toll-free Hot line to
make it easier for consumers to report product-related injuries or
potentially hazardous products, and to get information on recalled products
seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You may call the Commission's Hot line
from anywhere in the continental U.S. by dialling 1-800-638-2772. A
teletypewriter for the hearing impaired is also available (including Alaska
and Hawaii) on a special Hot line number 1-800-638-8270, in Maryland only
dial 1-800-492-8104. To order publications, write to the Office of
Information and Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20207.


The United States has one of the highest fire death and injury rates in
the world. Fire--in the form of flames and smoke--is the second leading cause
of accidental death in the home.

More than 4,000 people die each year in home fires. Every year, there
are more than 500,000 residential fires serious enough to be reported to fire
departments. More than 90 percent of residential fire deaths and injuries
result from fires in one and two family houses and apartments. Property
losses exceed 4 billion dollars annually, and the long term emotional damage
to victims and their loved ones is incalculable.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has targeted the
principal consumer products associated with fires, namely home heating
devices, upholstered furniture, bedding, cigarette lighters, matches, and
wearing apparel. The Commission is participating in a special Congressionally
authorised study of cigarette-ignited fires, which cause more deaths than any
other kind of fire. The Commission continues to push for extensive use of
smoke detectors. With the help of concerned consumers, the number of
residential fires has declined about 30 percent since 1980.

The CPSC is fulfilling its role to make products inherently more fire
safe. We recognise that much more can be done to cut down on the needlessly
high and tragic fire toll by an alert and informed public. Many of the
injuries associated with flammable products result from hazards that are
overlooked. Fire experts agree that one key to fewer fires is a greater
awareness of how accidents can be prevented. By spotting these hazards and
taking some simple precautions, many fires and fire-related injuries can be

Use this checklist as a safety guide to spot possible fire safety
problems which may be present in your home. It is a first step in reducing
the risk of fire. Check YES or NO to answer each question. If you check NO to
any question, the potential hazard should be corrected to avoid the risk of
injury or death.

How safe is your home from fire?


Sources of Fire

Supplemental Home Heating

The use of supplemental room heaters, such as wood and coal burning
stoves, kerosene heaters, gas space heaters and electrical heaters, has
decreased, along with the number of residential fires.

Even though there has been a decrease in fires associated with
supplemental heaters, it is important to remember that about 120,000
residential fires still occur annually with the use of these heaters, or
about 22 percent of all residential fires. These fires kill more than 600
people. Annually there are thousands of contact burn injuries and hundreds of
carbon monoxide poisoning.

Wood Stoves

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following
safety statements.

Yes No

1. The wood stove or fireplace has been
installed according to existing
building codes and manufacturer's
instructions. _____ _____

2. The chimney and stovepipe are checked
frequently during the heating season
for creosote build up and are cleaned
when necessary. _____ _____

3. The stove sits on a non-combustible
or on a code-specified or listed
floor protector. _____ _____

4. Combustibles such as curtains, chairs,
firewood, etc., are at least three
feet away from the stove. _____ _____

5. Only proper fuel is used in the stove. _____ _____

6. A metal container with a tight-fitting
lid is used for ash removal. _____ _____


* Do not use wood burning stoves and fireplaces unless they are
properly installed and meet building codes.

* Follow the label instructions on the stove which recommends an
inspection twice monthly. Have chimneys inspected and cleaned by a
professional chimney sweep. Creosote is an unavoidable product of wood
burning stoves. Creosote builds up in chimney flues and can cause a chimney
fire. To cut down on creosote build up, avoid smouldering fires.

* Use a code-specified or listed floor protector. It should extend 18
inches beyond the stove on all sides. This will reduce the possibility of the
floor being ignited.

* Follow the instructions on the stove label for proper location of the
stove from combustible walls.

* Never burn trash in a stove because this could over heat the stove.
Gasoline and other flammable liquids should never be used to start wood stove
fires. Gasoline will ignite and explode. Use coal only if designated as
appropriate by the manufacturer.

Kerosene Heaters

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following
safety statements.

Yes No

1. Only 1-K kerosene is used and it is
bought from a dealer who can certify
that the product is 1-K kerosene. _____ _____

2. The heater is placed out of the path
of traffic areas such as doorways and
hallways. _____ _____

3. Kerosene is stored outdoors, and out
of the reach of children in a tightly
sealed, preferably blue plastic or
metal container, labelled "kerosene." _____ _____

4. No attempt is to be made to move the
heater if flare-up (flames outside the
heater cabinet) occurs. The fire
department is called immediately. _____ _____

5. The heater is used in well ventilated
rooms. _____ _____

6. The heater is turned off while
sleeping and is never left operating
unattended. _____ _____

7. The heater is placed at least three
feet away from anything that might
catch fire such as clothing,
furniture, curtains, etc. _____ _____


* Check with your local fire marshal regarding local and state codes
and regulations for using a kerosene heater.

* NEVER USE GASOLINE. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with
kerosene can increase the risk of fire.

* Use properly labelled containers. It reduces the likelihood of
mistaking gasoline for kerosene.

* Place heater so it will not be knocked over or trap you in case of

* Use 1-K kerosene because grades other than 1-K contain much more
sulphur and will increase sulphur dioxide emissions, posing a possible health
problem. If you buy kerosene from a gasoline station make sure you and/or the
attendant are using the kerosene pump, not the gasoline pump.

* Never fill the heater while it is operating. Always refuel the heater
outdoors to prevent spillage on floors and rugs which could later result in
fire ignition.

* Keep the room in which the heater operates ventilated (e.g. door open
or the window ajar). This will prevent an indoor air pollution problem and
minimise health problems. Kerosene heaters are not usually vented.

* Keep flammable liquids and fabrics away from an open flame.

* Never try to move the heater or try to smother the flames with a rug
or a blanket if a flare-up occurs. Activate the manual shut-off switch and
call the fire department. Moving the heater may increase the height of the
flames and cause leakage resulting in personal injury.

Gas-Fired Space Heaters

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following
safety statements.

Yes No

1. Only vented heaters are installed or
used in sleeping quarters. _____ _____

2. Vented heaters are properly vented to
the outside. _____ _____

3. The unvented gas-fired room heater has
a warning label and instructions that
are followed. _____ _____

4. The unvented gas-fired room heater has
a label stating it has a "pilot safety
system" which turns off the gas if not
enough fresh air is available. _____ _____

5. The vented heater has a label stating
that is equipped with a vent safety
shutoff system. _____ _____

6. If the heater uses liquefied petroleum
(LP) gas, the container is located
outside the house. _____ _____

7. The manufacturer's instructions for
lighting the pilot are followed. _____ _____

8. Matches are lighted before turning on
the gas if pilot lighting is required. _____ _____

9. Flammable materials and liquids are
kept away from gas heating appliances. _____ _____


* Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding where and how to use
gas space heaters. Unvented heaters should not be used in small enclosed
areas, especially bedrooms because of the potential for carbon monoxide

* Do not use a propane heater (LP) which has a gas cylinder stored in
the body of the heater. Its use is prohibited in most states and localities
in the United States.

* Follow the manufacturer's instructions for lighting the pilot. Gas
vapours may accumulate and ignite explosively, burning your hand or face.

* Light matches, if needed for lighting the pilot, before turning on
the gas to prevent gas build up.

* Do not operate a vented style heater unvented. It could allow combustion
products, including carbon monoxide, to reach dangerous levels which will
result in illness and death.

Portable Electric Heaters

The Commission estimates that half the deaths and one-third of the
injuries resulting from electric heater fires occurred at night when family
members were asleep and the heater unattended. The Commission is also
concerned about the use of power or extension cords which can be too small to
supply the amount of current required by the typical portable electric

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety

Yes No

1. The heater is operated at least three
feet away from upholstered furniture,
drapes, bedding and other combustible
materials. _____ _____

2. The extension cord (if used) is
marked #14 or #12 American Wire Gauge
(AWG). _____ _____

3. The heater is used on the floor. _____ _____

4. The heater is turned off when family
members leave the house or are
sleeping. _____ _____


* Operate heater away from combustible materials. Do not place heaters
where towels or the like could fall on the appliance and trigger a fire.

* Avoid using extension cords unless absolutely necessary. If you must
use an extension cord with your electric heater, make sure it is marked with
a power rating at least as high as that of the heater itself. Keep the cord
stretched out. Do not permit the cord to become buried under carpeting or
rugs. Do not place anything on top of the cord.

* Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or the like. Never
use heaters to dry wearing apparel or shoes.

Cooking Equipment

Cooking equipment is estimated to be associated with more than 100,000
fires annually, and almost 400 deaths, and 5,000 injuries. Gas cooking
equipment accounts for about 30,000 fires, and electric cooking equipment for
about 55,000 fires.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety

Yes No

1. The storage area above the stove is
free of flammable and combustible
items. _____ _____

2. Short or tight fitting sleeves, and
tight fitting shirts, robes, gowns,
etc., are worn while cooking. _____ _____

3. Items that could attract children
(e.g. cookies and candy) are not kept
above the range and are kept out of
the immediate area. _____ _____

4. The stove is not left unattended when
cooking especially when the burner is
turned to a high setting. _____ _____


* Never place or store pot holders, plastic utensils, towels and other
non-cooking equipment on or near the range because these items can be

* Roll up or fasten long loose sleeves with pins or elastic bands while
cooking. Do not reach across a range while cooking. Long loose sleeves are
more likely to catch on fire than are short sleeves. Long loose sleeves are
also more apt to catch on pot handles, overturning pots and pans and cause

* Do not place candy or cookies over top of ranges. This will reduce
the attraction kids may have for climbing on cooking equipment, thus reducing
the possibility of their clothing catching fire.

* Keep constant vigilance on any cooking that is required above the
"keep warm" setting.

Cigarette Lighters and Matches

Each year more than 200 deaths are associated with fires started by
cigarette lighters. About two thirds of these result from children playing
with lighters. Most of the victims are under five years old.

You should be able to answer "yes" to the safety statements

Yes No

1. Cigarette lighters and matches are
kept out of the reach of children. _____ _____

2. Cigarette lighters are never used to
entertain a child. _____ _____


* Keep lighters and matches out of sight and out of the reach of
children. Children as young as two years old are capable of lighting
cigarette lighters and matches.

* Never encourage or allow a child to play with a lighter or to think
of it as a toy. Do not use it as a source of amusement for a child. Once
their curiosity is aroused, children may seek out a lighter and try to light

* Always check to see that cigarettes are extinguished before emptying
ashtray. Stubs that are still burning can ignite trash.

Materials That Burn

Your home is filled with materials and products that will burn if
ignited. Upholstered furniture, clothing, drapery fabrics, and liquids such
as gasoline and volatile solvents are involved in many injury-causing fires
each year. Most of these fires could be prevented.

Upholstered Furniture

In 1989, there were 18,600 residential fires associated with
upholstered furniture; about 900 people lost their lives. About one half of
these fires were caused by smoking materials. Property losses amounted to
over $100 million from fires started by cigarette ignition of upholstered

You should be able to respond "yes" to the safety statements

Yes No

1. Upholstered furniture fabrics made
from vinyl, wool or thermoplastic
fibres are generally selected for
safety reasons. _____ _____

2. I check thoroughly after parties for
ashes or unextinguished cigarettes
that may have fallen behind and
between cushions and under furniture. _____ _____


* Look for furniture designed to reduce the likelihood of furniture
fire from cigarettes. Much of the furniture manufactured today has
significantly greater resistance to ignition by cigarettes than upholstered
furniture manufactured 10 to 15 years ago.

This is particularly true of furniture manufactured to comply with the
requirements of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council's (UFAC) Voluntary
Action Program. Such upholstered furniture may be identified by the gold
coloured tag on the furniture item. The legend on the front of the tag in red
letters states--"Important Consumer Safety Information from UFAC."

* Always check the furniture where smokers have been sitting for
improperly discarded smoking materials. Ashes and lighted cigarettes can fall
unnoticed behind or between cushions or under furniture.

* Do not place or leave ashtray on the arms of chairs where they can be
knocked off.

* Look for fabrics made predominantly from thermoplastic fibres (nylon,
polyester, acrylic, olefin) because they resist ignition by burning
cigarettes better than cellulosic fabrics (rayon or cotton). In general, the
higher the thermoplastic content, the greater the resistance to cigarette

Mattresses and Bedding

Smouldering fires in mattresses and bedding materials caused by
cigarettes are a major cause of deaths in residential fires. In 1989 over
35,000 mattress/bedding fires caused about 700 deaths.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety

Yes No

1. "No smoking in bed" is a rule that
is practised in my home. _____ _____

2. Heaters, ash trays, smoking materials
and other fire sources are located
away from bedding. _____ _____


* DO NOT smoke in bed. Smoking in bed is a major cause of accidental
fire deaths in homes.

* Locate heaters or other fire sources three feet from the bed to
prevent the bed catching on fire.

* Consider replacing your old mattress with a new one if you are a
smoker. Mattresses manufactured since 1973 are required to resist cigarette

Wearing Apparel

Most fibres used in clothing can burn, some more quickly than others. A
significant number of clothing fires occur in the over 65 age group principally
from night wear (robes, pyjamas, night gowns). In 1989 about 200 clothing
fire deaths were reported; about three fourths occurred in the 65 and older
age group. The severity of apparel burns is high. Hospital stays average over
one month.

Small open flames, including matches, cigarette lighters, and candles
are the major sources of clothing ignition. These are followed by ranges,
open fires and space heaters. The most commonly worn garments that are
associated with clothing ignition injuries are pyjamas, night gowns, robes,
shirts/blouses, pants/slacks and dresses.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

Yes No

1. When purchasing wearing apparel I
consider fibre content and fabric
construction for safety purposes. _____ _____

2. I purchase garments for my children
that are intended for sleep wear since
they are made to be flame resistant. _____ _____


* Consider purchasing fabrics such as 100% polyester, nylon, wool and
silk that are difficult to ignite and tend to self extinguish.

* Consider the flammability of certain fabrics containing cotton,
cotton/polyester blends, rayon, and acrylic. These are relatively easy to
ignite and burn rapidly.

* Look at fabric construction. It also affect ignitability. Tight weaves
or knits and fabrics without a fuzzy or napped surface are less likely to
ignite and burn rapidly than open knits or weaves, or fabrics with brushed or
piled surfaces.

* Consider purchasing garments that can be removed without having to
pull them over the head. Clothes that are easily removed can help prevent
serious burns. If a garment can be quickly stripped off when it catches fire,
injury will be far less severe or avoided altogether.

* Follow manufacturer's care and cleaning instructions on products
labelled "flame resistant" to ensure that their flame resistant
properties are maintained.

Flammable Liquids

One of the major causes of household fires is flammable liquids. These
include gasoline, acetone, benzene, lacquer thinner, alcohol, turpentine,
contact cements, paint thinner, kerosene, and charcoal lighter fluid. The
most dangerous of all is gasoline.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety

Yes No

1. Flammable liquids are stored in
properly labelled, tightly closed
non-glass containers. _____ _____

2. These products are stored away from
heaters, furnaces, water heaters,
ranges, and other gas appliances. _____ _____

3. Flammable liquids are stored out of
reach of children. _____ _____


* Take extra precautions in storing and using flammable liquids, such
as gasoline, paint thinners, etc. They produce invisible explosive vapours
that can ignite by a small spark at considerable distances from the flammable
substance. Store outside the house.

Early Warning and Escape

Even when you have complied with every item in this Home Fire Safety
Checklist, you still need to have a plan for early warning and escape in case
a fire does occur.

Many fire deaths and fire injuries are actually caused by smoke and
gases. Victims inhale smoke and poisonous gases that rise ahead of the
flames. Survival depends on being warned as early as possible and having an
escape plan.

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

Smoke Detectors

Yes No

1. At least one smoke detector is
located on every floor of my home. _____ _____

2. Smoke detectors are placed near
bedrooms, either on the ceiling or
6-12 inches below the ceiling on the
wall. _____ _____

3. Smoke detectors are tested according
to manufacturer's instructions on a
regular basis (at least once a month)

and are kept in working condition at
all times. _____ _____

4. Batteries are replaced according to
manufacturer's instructions, at least

annually. _____ _____

5. Batteries are never disconnected. _____ _____

6. The detector has a distinct warning
signal that can be heard whether
asleep or awake. _____ _____

Follow manufacturer's directions for testing the detector.

Make sure detectors are placed either on the ceiling or 6-12 inches
below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke detectors away from air vents or
registers; high air flow or "dead" spots are to be avoided.


* Purchase a smoke detector if you do not have one. Smoke detectors are
inexpensive and are required by law in many localities. Check local codes and
regulations before you buy your smoke detector because some codes require
specific types of detectors. They provide an early warning which is critical
because the longer the delay, the deadlier the consequences.

* Read the instructions that come with the detector for advice on the
best place to install it. As a minimum detectors should be located near
bedrooms and one on every floor.

* Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance. Smoke
detectors can save lives, but only if properly installed and maintained.

* Never disconnect a detector. Consider relocating the detector rather
than disconnecting it if it is subject to nuisance alarms, e.g. from cooking.

* Replace the battery annually, or when a "chirping" sound is

* Follow the manufacturer's instructions about cleaning your detector.
Excessive dust, grease or other material in the detector may cause it to
operate abnormally. Vacuum the grill work of your detector.

Escape Plan

Planning ahead, rehearsing, thinking, and acting clearly are keys to
surviving a fire. How prepared are you?

You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

Yes No

1. The family has an escape plan and an
alternate escape plan. _____ _____

2. Escape routes and plans are rehearsed
periodically. _____ _____

3. The escape plan includes choosing a
place safely outside the house where
the family can meet to be sure
everyone got out safely. _____ _____

4. At least two exits from each part of
the house are established. _____ _____

5. The fire department number is posted
on every telephone. _____ _____


* Establish advanced family planning for escape. It is an important
partner with smoke detectors and it will prepare you for a fire emergency.

* Include small children as a part of the discussion and rehearsal. It
is especially important to make sure they understand that they must escape;
they can't hide from fire under a bed or in a closet.

Your life and that of your family can be saved by foresight, planning,
discussing and rehearsal.


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