• FIRE PREVENTION COUNCIL MALAYSIA

    FIPCOM

    A Government Linked NGO
    Under

    National Fire Prevention Committee (NFPC)

  • Home Fire Safety


  • Imagine yourself caught at home in the midst of a house fire. All obvious exits are blocked. You start to feel weak and nauseated and your lungs burn with each breath as the vapours and emissions accumulate. You find yourself stumbling with each step and it feels like you’ve lost control of your arms and legs. Next, you’re hit with a wave of headaches and drowsiness.


    While we’re all aware that the flames and heat from a fire are dangerous and can cause severe burns, fires are also a deadly mixture of fumes and toxic gases. Carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas, is a by-product of a fire that can cause asphyxiation, a condition of being deprived of oxygen.


    Basic fire safety begins at home, where a little bit of planning can go a long way towards protecting your loved ones and preventing damage to your property. Below are a few tips about fire prevention as well as what to do in case there is a fire.


    Home Fire Safety: Fire Prevention

    Confidence that your loved ones will be safe amid a house fire comes from having a safe home. Home fire safety starts with recognizing the common causes:

    • Cooking
    • Smoking
    • Appliances
    • Candles 

     
    Cooking

    Cooking is one of the leading causes of house fires, as well as injuries from fire.  Adopting good habits in the kitchen is necessary for fire prevention: 

    • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing while cooking - sleeves can easily get caught on pot handles.
    • Turn pot and pan handles inwards and towards the back of the stove.
    • Do not cook or use other appliances when you are sleepy or drowsy.
    • Keep flammable objects such as paper towels, pot holders, and tea cloths at a safe distance from the stove and oven. As a rule of thumb, it does not belong on the stovetop if it is not a pot or pan.
    • Stay in the kitchen while you are cooking, and use a timer as a reminder when roasting or baking foods.
    • When you finish cooking, turn off the stove burners, appliances, and oven off promptly. Make it a habit to double-check that the elements and oven are off before leaving the kitchen and your home.
    • Keep heat-proof oven mitts handy and use them when moving hot pots or pans.
    • Enforce a kid-free zone (such as an area a certain number of feet around the stove and oven) in the kitchen.
    • Regularly clean the burners and stovetop - built-up grease can easily catch fire.
    In the case of a kitchen fire:
    • Do not turn on an overhead fan as it can cause the fire to grow and spread.
    • If you’re experiencing a grease fire, never use water to put it out the. Instead, use a lid to cover the pan and smother the flames. For shallow grease fires, use baking soda.
    • If a fire starts in the microwave, leave the door closed and unplug the unit.

    Smoking

    Aside from being bad for your health, smoking is also a significant fire hazard. Smoking-related fires often occur in the home through careless smoking: lit cigarettes left near combustible materials, a smoker falling asleep with a cigarette in hand, or improperly extinguished cigarette butts. Follow these tips:
    • Smoke outside!
    • Avoid smoking in bed. The sheets and bedding can quickly catch fire.
    • Used butts should be stubbed in a can filled with sand. If possible, douse cigarettes and ahes with water before discarding.
    • Double-check that cigarettes and ashes are out completely before walking away.
    • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used. Oxygen is an explosive substance, and can make fires burn faster and hotter.


    Electrical and Appliance Safety

    Home appliances are another potential source of house fires, particularly old and damaged goods. Some simple steps to avoid electrical fires include:
    • Check appliances (like hair dryers and lamps) frequently for worn or frayed cords. Damaged cords should be replaced and discarded.
    • Avoid counterfeit electrical products that may malfunction or have not be assembled properly to withstand power demands. These products can easily overheat or short circuit (where an electrical current follows an unintended path).
    • Don’t overload extension cords and wall sockets.
    • Don’t run cords under rugs or carpeting.
    • Use extra caution when using portable space heaters - turn them off when you’re away from home or plan to go to bed.
    • Inspect your furnace regularly.
    Fireplaces and woodstoves require extra attention:
    • Inspect and clean on a regular basis.
    • Check for damage and obstructions.
    • Ensure that always use a fireplace screen that is heavy enough to withstand rolling logs and large enough to catch flying sparks.
    • Make sure the fire is out completely before leaving the house or going to bed.
    • Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.
    • Never leave children unattended near operating fireplaces and woodstoves, even for a short time.

    Candles

    Candles, when used carefully, help to create a cozy and welcoming environment and are especially festive decorations during the holidays. Just keep the following tips in mind the next time you light a candle:
    • Avoid using lighted candles at home. If possible, use battery-operated candles instead.
    • Never leave a lit candle unattended, and children should not be left alone with a burning candle.
    • Store lighters and matches out of sight and out of reach. If possible, keep them in a locked cabinet.
    • Teach children that if he or she finds matches or a lighter to tell an adult immediately.
    • Keep flammable items away from a lit candle.
    • A burning candle should be stored on a stable surface.

    Smoke Alarms

    As part of your home fire safety plan, set up smoke alarms around your home which will alert you and your family in the presence of a fire. The general rule of thumb is that there should be at least one smoke alarm for each level in your home, and where possible, smoke alarms should be installed inside and outside sleeping areas (such as in a hallway, the living room, and in the bedroom).

    Discuss with an expert the types of smoke alarms and sensors available to you. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly, batteries changed annually, and the entire unit replaced approximately every 10 years!
    • Do not disable your smoke alarm while you’re cooking - it can be easy to forget to turn it on again.
    • Help seniors and those with special needs set up and check smoke alarms. People with hearing impairments may consider smoke alarms with vibrations or flashing lights.


    Around the House and Other Home Fire Safety Tips

    Perform an evaluation of your home - are there knickknacks lying around the house that could cause or add to a fire?

    While it’s fun to collect mementos – old newspapers, magazines, and papers make for the perfect fire-starter. Routinely check your basement, attic, garage and workshop for potentially ignitable objects and discard what you don’t need. The same should be done for the area around your home - clear the perimeter of your house of any flammable vegetation - and maintain a roof clear of needles and leaves.

    As with any emergency preparedness plan, set up personalized and easy-to-transport first aid and emergency kits and store in an accessible location. A complete kit should include duct tape, at least one flashlight, copies of important documents, and a working fire extinguisher. Routinely perform maintenance checks of any extinguishers in your home. Click here [link] for more tips on preparing your own emergency kit.

    Other tips to keep in mind:
    • Install an automatic fire sprinkler system.
    • Sleep with your door closed as an additional barrier to a fire’s path.
    • Set up a home inspection with local fire authorities to identify other fire hazards.
    • Get adequate home insurance [link to relevant article?].
    • Educate children about the importance of fire safety - fire is a tool, not a toy.
     

    Create a Fire Escape Plan

    If and when you’re faced with a fire, every second counts. Having a fire escape plan [add link once article on fire escape planning is up] will enable you and your family to get of your home quickly and safely. This plan should be practiced and reviewed twice a year, and should be adapted to accommodate health and personal changes.

    A fire escape plan should cover these issues:
    • What are your primary exit options for each room?
    • If your primary exit plan is blocked, what are other ways to get out? Consider a window onto a neighbouring roof or a collapsible ladder.
    • Are you able to quickly release and remove window screens and security bars?
    • If all of the lights in your home are out, will you know how to get navigate your home? Practice getting around with your eyes closed.
    Home Fire Safety: During a Fire

    Even with extensive planning and preparedness, fires can still happen! In the event you’re caught in a fire, take the following steps:
    • Avoid inhaling particles by covering your nose and mouth with a damp cloth.
    • Get low and crawl your way to your planned escape exit - heavy smoke, gases and heat tend to rise and will first collect along the ceiling.
    • Get out as quickly as you can!
    • Do not open doors right away! Feel the door and doorknob for heat. Keep the door closed if it’s hot, and go to your secondary escape exit.
    • If you’re able to open the door, proceed slowly and with caution.
    If your clothes or hair catch on fire, STOP, DROP and ROLL!
    • STOP immediately.
    • DROP to the ground, using your hands to cover your face.
    • ROLL back and forth or over until the fire is out.
    • If you cannot STOP, DROP and ROLL, smother the flames with a towel or a blanket.
    In some circumstances, you may not be able to get out of your home, for example if you live in a high-rise or condominium. Sometimes staying where you are is a better choice than trying to leave. If you’re unable to get out of your home safely:
    • Try to get to a secure area (it should be completely enclosed with a solid door and preferably, a phone and a window)
    • Close (but don’t lock!) doors in your home.
    • Cover vents and cracks around doors with tape or wet cloths to keep the smoke out.
    • Use a flashlight to signal for help.
    • Soak everything in the room if possible and prop a water-soaked mattress against the door.
    • If you live in an apartment building:
      • Listen for instructions from the building’s public address system.
      • Never use elevators.
      • Hold onto handrails when evacuating the building.
    With awareness and planning, home fires are largely preventable. It pays to learn home fire safety.