The importance of fire safety
Thousands of people annually suffer injuries in home fires in the U.S. The majority
of fire-related deaths (about 70%) are caused by smoke inhalation of the toxic gases
produced by fires. Fires and burns are a leading cause of unintentional injury-related
deaths among children ages 14 and younger.
What are the different types of burns?
A burn injury usually results from an energy transfer to the body. There are many
types of burns caused by thermal, radiation, chemical, or electrical contact, including:
Thermal burns. Burns from external heat sources that raise the temperature of the skin and tissues
and cause tissue cell death or charring; Hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, and
flames, when coming in contact with the skin, can cause thermal burns.
Radiation burns. Burns from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, or to other sources
of radiation, such as X-ray.
Chemical burns. Burns from strong acids, alkalis, detergents, or solvents coming into contact with
the skin or eyes.
Electrical burns. Burns from electrical current, either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).
Preventing fires and burns
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, one-third of residential fires that kill children are caused by children playing
with flammable products, such as matches. In addition, smoking in the home and a lack
of working smoke alarms can significantly increase the chance of dying in a residential
fire. But by taking appropriate steps to make your home safe, you can protect your
children and your family from fires:
Keep flammable products, such as matches, lighters, and candles locked and out of
the reach of children.
Don't smoke or allow others to smoke in your home.
Install smoke alarms in bedrooms, outside sleeping areas, and on every level of your
home. Test monthly and replace every 10 years.
Keep and maintain your fire extinguishers.
Maintain heating equipment, regularly have your furnace inspected, and turn off and
unplug supplemental heaters when sleeping.
Only burn logs in the fireplace with a fireplace screen in place to protect against
sparks. Have your chimney cleaned and inspected yearly.
Develop several fire escape plans from each room in the house and practice them regularly
with your family.
Make sure items such as clothing or blankets do not cover lamps that are turned on.
Teach fire and burn safety behavior to your children.
The family escape plan
In the event of a fire, it is important to get out of the house fast. A good family
escape plan should include:
Two escape routes from each room (in case one exit becomes blocked by the fire)
A chain ladder for every upstairs bedroom
A drawn floor plan of your home with arrows showing escape routes
Repeated practice so you and your family know the escape plan
An agreed-on meeting place outside the house
Electric shocks from appliances and electrical outlets and cords can burn the skin
and cause tissue and nerve damage. To avoid electrical shock, take these precautions:
Keep electrical appliances away from sinks and bathtubs.
Make sure that your electrical appliances are approved by Underwriter's Laboratories
(UL), which is indicated on the box or appliance itself.
Use ground fault circuit interrupters in areas near water, such as the kitchen and
bathroom, and outdoors.
Unplug electrical cords that aren't in use. Keep electrical cords out of reach of
Cover unused electrical outlets with safety covers.
Turn off electrical equipment that is not being used.
Burns are among the most painful and devastating injuries to a person. Severe burns
can require long periods of treatment, including rehabilitation, skin grafts, and
The skin of young children is thinner than adults, which means it burns deeper and
at a lower temperature. In fact, it only takes seconds of exposure to hot tap water
to burn a young child. Serious burns require hospitalization and skin grafts. But
by taking appropriate preventive steps, you can protect your children from burns:
Set your water heater thermostat to 120° F (49° C) or below. Antiscald devices are
now available for water faucets and shower heads to prevent scalding.
Check the water temperature with your elbow, wrist, or bath thermometer before bathing
Use the back burners on stove as much as possible, away from the reach of children.
Turn pot handles away from the edge of the stove.
When cooking, put your toddler in a safe area, such as a high chair or play pen.
Never carry a child while carrying a hot drink or hot food.
Don't use tablecloths or placemats around young children, because they can pull on
them and spill hot food or drinks.
Test microwaved foods and drinks before giving them to a young child. Avoid heating
baby bottles in the microwave, as the heat may be unevenly distributed.
Open microwaved containers away from you and your child, as the steam can scald the
Keep irons, curling irons, and other heat appliances and their cords out of a child's
Don't allow children to handle fireworks.
Keep children away from kerosene lamps, supplemental heaters, and outdoor grills when