Life-Saving Steps to Reduce Home Fires

By Ashley Henyan as published in the Offical California Apartment Journal

It can happen in the blink of an eye— with a single flame that quickly grows and spreads.  Before you know it, you could be dealing with a life-threatening fire! Although the American Red Cross responds to home fires more than any other emergency, fires can be easily prevented by taking note of these simple life-saving precautions. You can also share these fire safety tips with your family, friends and tenants to help prevent home fires!

Having working smoke alarms can double your chance of surviving a fire

Life-saving Precaution #1: The Working Smoke Alarm

Having working smoke alarms can double your chance of surviving a fire but, in order to keep them in working order, you must test them and change the batteries regularly. At the American Red Cross, we recommend you test your smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries every six months. The best and easiest time to change your batteries is twice a year, during daylight’s savings time. Just remember “Turn and Test,” and test your batteries every time you turn your clocks!

Life-saving Precaution #2: Safety First in the Kitchen

Many home fires start in the kitchen, usually on the stove top when someone is using it for cooking. The best way to stay safe is to always stay in the kitchen to monitor your stove top while it is in use. It is also important to check for curtains, towel racks, and even paper towel dispensers that might be too close to a burner. Microwaves can be a fire-hazard as well, so make sure yours is free of clutter and that the vents are not obstructed. Everyone should have a fire extinguisher within easy reach of their kitchen. This can be a life-saver should something ignite while cooking. And remember, never toss water on a grease fire! If a fire starts in a pan, put a lid on it to suffocate the flames.

Life-saving Precaution #3: Warming Your Home

One in every six home fire is caused by heating equipment, like a space heater; but, these tips can help keep your home safe while you work to keep it warm. Keep anything that gives off heat at least three feet away from flammable materials. Never plug more than one heating appliance into an outlet and, don’t leave fires or candles burning or heating appliances plugged in while asleep, in another room, or when you leave your home.

Life-saving Precaution #4: The Appliance Check

Did you know that clothing dryers are responsible for approximately 9 out of 10 appliance fires? Make a habit of checking your dryer and all your appliances. If you can’t find a testing label that indicates you purchased them in a safe and working order, consider whether it is time to replace them or have them checked by a professional. As for your dryer, make a habit to clean out the lint screen every time you use it. This simple step can save a lot of hassle down the road.

Life-saving Precaution #5: Electrical Outlets

All of your appliances and electronics must be plugged in somewhere and that is why electrical outlets should be next on your home inspection list! Look for outlets that may be overloaded, or showing signs of wear and tear. Rearrange if you have to, to make sure as many appliances as possible have their own outlet. Use extension cords to reach distant outlets but, remember to never run an extension cord under a rug! Replace all the bulbs in your lamps with bulbs that have wattage equal to or less than what the manufacturer recommends. As a general rule, un-plug electronics whenever they are not in use. And remember, televisions and computers need space from anything flammable because they can easily overheat!

Life-saving Precaution #6:  Safe Storage

Garages, basements, closets and even yards can present a fire hazard. In fact, storage areas have the potential to be very dangerous! Avoid cluttering debris or junk, especially near a furnace or heater. Old newspapers, when piled in damp warm places, can actually self-combust. Get rid of them!  If you store gasoline or other flammable liquids in your storage areas, make sure you keep them far away from sources of heat. Storing your gas or charcoal grill can also be a hazard. Keep yours at least 10 feet from homes and away from overhead branches and structures.

Life-saving Precaution #7: The Escape Plan

Despite your best efforts to stay safe, something unexpected could occur at any time. Because of this, you and your family should always have a plan on how to evacuate safely during an emergency. Create an escape route that provides two possible exits from every room (like windows and doors). Avoid using windowless rooms as bedrooms. And, remember to keep your escape routes clutter free, so that no one trips or falls on their way out during an emergency. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year and make sure that everyone can get out safely in two minutes or less!

The American Red Cross is committed to increasing awareness by educating local communities about emergency preparedness. As part of our Prepare SoCal Campaign, Red Cross volunteers can come to your community and instruct a preparedness education seminar (for 20 or more individuals) about fire safety. We also cannot stress enough the importance of having working smoke alarms. Since 2014, throughout the country, the American Red Cross has saved over 200 lives just by going door-to-door and installing new working smoke alarms.

To learn more about fire safety, schedule your in-home fire safety visit, or request a preparedness education seminar, please visit or call 1-800-Red-Cross.

Author Byline

Ashley Henyan is a Digital Communications Manager with the American Red Cross in Los Angeles, California. You can read more articles about the American Red Cross and emergency preparedness on