Fire Prevention

Safety Tips from the NFPA
Escape planning
Fire and safety equipment
Household equipment
Unintentional injuries

A Planned Escape from Fire
A home is a vulnerable place for a fire. There are many fabrics, plastics and other materials that can go up in smoke or flames. The time a family should think about fire is before one happens.

These tips can help a family be safer in the event of a fire:

  • Have a fire escape plan. This plan should include several routes of escape. If only one escape route is developed, it could be worthless if it is in flames. The escape plan should include a meeting spot OUTSIDE THE HOME where the family can congregate in the event of a fire. Children should be taught NOT to re-enter a burning home, no matter what.
  • Have monthly fire drills. Set aside one time a month for a fire drill. Practice the escape plan and going to the meeting place.
  • Have smoke alarms throughout the house, outside each bedroom, near the stairway leading upstairs. Test the alarms every month. This can be done on the same monthly day that your family does a Fire Drill.
  • Teach kids the importance of not playing with the stove, electrical outlets or matches. Leave matches out of children's reach.
  • Do not set towels, pot holders or other flammable items near a stove top. They can easily catch on fire.
  • Keep the area in front of a toaster oven clear. Many fires are started with a stack of items in front of a toaster oven accidentally pull down the lever, starting the toaster oven and starting a fire. Be even safer and unplug your toaster oven (and other appliances) when not in use.
  • Have electrical problems checked by a certified electrician. Problems like lights that flicker could be signs of fire-causing trouble.
  • Keep dryers clean and lint free, and in good working order.
  • Do not store flammables in attics or garages. If an item says, "store in a cool dry place," attics or garages are not proper storage areas.
  • Visit your local fire station. You may want to call first or schedule a tour with a scout troop. Fire departments have a great deal of information to share, and it is presented in a kid-friendly way.

Heating Safety

With the recent temperature drop, city residents have begun using portable heating devices to help keep their homes warm. While many are anxious to get their units up and running quickly, safe measures and precautions should always be taken to ensure a safe, warm home through the upcoming winter. Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January and February, and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year-round.

Space Heaters
Residents that utilize wall space heaters or other heating device should remember to pull all furniture and other combustible items at least three feet away from any heating devices Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day and should never be connected to an outlet with an extension cord. When not in use, be sure to unplug the unit and let it cool down if you will be storing the unit. Unvented fuel fired space heaters are illegal in New Haven and will be confiscated in accordance with local ordinance 13-828.Never use heaters to dry clothing or other combustibles. Electric heaters with frayed or damaged cords should never be used. Young children should be kept away from any appliance that has hot surfaces that can cause burns. Kerosene heaters are illegal in the city of New Haven.

Before using the fireplace for the first time in a season, make sure the flue is open. The flue is a trap door that keeps heat out in the summer and cool air from coming in when the fireplace is not in use. You can check it by looking up the chimney to see if you are able to see daylight. If there are any obstructions, remove them. If not removed, these obstructions will cause carbon monoxide to back up into your home. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless and invisible gas. Artificial logs made from wax and sawdust should be used one at a time. Pressure-treated wood should not be burned in stoves or fireplaces because it contains toxic chemicals that can make you sick. Never leave a fireplace unattended. Chimneys and vents should be inspected and cleaned annually. Have chimneys inspected and cleaned when necessary by a professional chimney sweep. Creosote is an unavoidable product of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Creosote builds up in connectors and chimney flues and can cause a chimney fire. Don't burn newspapers or other trash in a fireplace because they burn too hot and can ignite a chimney fire.

Gas or Electric Furnaces
Gas or electric furnaces that have not been used for several months will most likely have a build-up of dust and dirt on heating elements. This can cause a burning smell and even a light haze of white smoke when first operated for the season. This smell and haze are not harmful, and will take only several uses before all the dust and dirt on the heating unit are burnt away. To be safe, try to run the furnace on a warm day while opening all windows so the smell can escape. If the smoke turns black and the furnace starts to rumble leave the building immediately and call the fire department by dialing 911.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Test your home smoke alarms at least once per week. Do this by pressing the test button on the unit. Some newer models also feature the ability to test the unit with a flashlight as well. If you are unsure as to whether your unit has this feature, check your operations manual or consult the manufacturer.

If you do not have one already installed, install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas, which is absorbed by the human body 200 times faster than oxygen. Carbon monoxide will cause people to fall into a deep sleep and cause death. Gas fireplaces, gas stoves, barbecues, gas furnaces, automobiles, propane appliances and any other device that produces a flame will produce carbon monoxide.

Coal and Wood Burning Stoves
Use coal only if specifically approved by the stove manufacturer. Gasoline or other flammable liquids should never be used to start a wood fire since it might explode or flare up. Never use gasoline in kerosene heaters. Gasoline or other flammable liquids should never be used to start a wood fire since it might explode or flare up. The directions on artificial logs made from wax and sawdust say they should be used one at a time in fireplaces and never used in wood stoves. This is because the heat can melt the log causing it to flare up or leak burning liquid from the appliance. Pressure-treated wood should not be burned in stoves or fireplaces because it contains toxic chemicals that can make you sick.

Barbecues should never be used indoors or as a heating device. Barbecues produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.

Facts & Figures**
In 1998, there were 49,200 heating equipment-related home fires reported to U.S. fire departments, resulting in 388 deaths, 1,445 injuries and $515 million in property damage.

Two of every three home heating fires in the U.S. in 1998, and three of every four related deaths, were attributed to space heating equipment.

All types of common space heating equipment are involved in home fires: portable electric heaters, portable kerosene heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces with inserts and room gas heaters.

**From NFPA's U.S. Home Heating Fire Patterns and Trends

Safety Tips

  • Space heaters need space. Portable space heaters need a three-foot (one meter) clearance from anything that can burn and should always be turned off when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • When buying a new unit, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing lab. Be sure that a qualified technician installs the unit or checks that the unit has been installed properly.
  • Wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors, and all other solid-fueled heating equipment need to be inspected annually by a professional and cleaned as often as the inspections indicate.
  • When turning a heating device on or off, be careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions. When buying heaters, look for devices with automatic shutoff features.
  • Be sure any gas-fueled heating device is installed with proper attention to ventilation, and never put unvented gas space heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms. Also, LP (liquefied petroleum) gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies are prohibited for home use by NFPA codes.

Home Safety Inspection
You CAN Improve Fire Safety In Your Home. Start by making a fire safety inspection of your home. Check your house or apartment room by room to see which of these fire hazards you can find. Then take action to correct them!

Inspection Hints and fixes

  • Remove piles of stored newspapers or other rubbish. Newspapers stored in a damp, warm place may ignite spontaneously.
  • Check for overloaded outlets or old or frayed extension cords.
  • Replace fuses of the wrong size.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Flammable liquids (cleaning fluids, contact adhesives, etc.) or aerosols stored near the range or other heat source. Remember, even a pilot light can set vapors on fire. Dispose of outdated or empty cans properly.

Safety Tips

  • Remove all materials on or near your stove that could catch on fire, including paper, dishcloths, etc.
  • Put a box of baking soda and a large pot lid next to your stove. Get a kitchen fire extinguisher and learn how to use it.
  • Remove electrical cords from under rugs, those nailed to walls and behind radiators. Replace old damaged cords.
  • Move flammable liquids stored near stoves or other heat source to a safe, distant location.
  • Test your smoke detector regularly and replace batteries twice a year when you change your clock for Daylight Savings.

Smoke Detectors

Installing smoke detectors is the smart thing to do. It's also the safe thing to do.

Did you know?

  •  Landlords must install smoke detectors in multiple-dwelling apartment buildings? But it is your responsibility to maintain them!
  • Most fire deaths occur at home.
  • Most occur in homes with no working smoke detectors.
  • So why take a risk? Install smoke detectors! They really do work!
  • Follow these tips to help save your life & property from fire:
  • For minimum protection, install a smoke detector outside of each bedroom or sleeping area in your home.
  • Keep your bedroom doors closed while you are asleep. Better, install detectors on every level of your home.
  • Keep your smoke detectors properly maintained. Test them once a week to ensure that the detectors are working properly.
  • Every Spring and Fall when you change your clocks, remember to change your smoke alarm batteries. Use only the type of batteries recommended on the detector.
  • Develop an escape plan and review the plan with all members of the family frequently. Be aware that children and elderly people may need special assistance should a fire occur. Establish a meeting place outside the house for all members of the family to ensure that everyone gets out safely. When fire occurs, get out of the house and use a neighbor's telephone to notify the Fire Department.

High Rise Safety 

The attack on the World Trade Center created a catastrophic collapse of both towers. While this tragedy will be reviewed and evaluated for a long time to come, we still recommend you follow the safety guidelines presented below.

A fire in a high-rise residential building usually can be confined to the apartment where it starts. However, smoke and heat can travel throughout the building, especially upward.

High-rise residential buildings are constructed to be fireproof. Most of what is inside the buildings, including your furnishings and belongings, can burn and produce a tremendous amount of heat and smoke.

Ways to Keep your Apartment Safe
Never keep rubbish in the hallway. Make sure it is stored properly and collected regularly.

Don't put items in the trash chute that are too big and may get stuck. Things caught in the chute easily can turn a fire in the basement into a fire on your floor.

Be careful not to overload electrical circuits. Short circuits are the cause of many fires.

Cook with care. Keep baking soda handy to smother stove fires.

Never smoke in bed and make sure that there are no smoldering butts when you empty ashtrays.

Test smoke detectors weekly and replace batteries twice a year (the beginning & end of Daylight Savings time).

Make sure that your apartment door is tight fitting and complies with the fire code.

Inspect your exit stair doors. They must be self-closing, snap shut and unlock from both sides. If they don't meet this standard, report it to the superintendent or the Fire Department.

If The Fire is in Your Apartment

  •  Get everyone out. Stay low as you go out. Close but don't lock all doors in the apartment as you leave.
  • Alert others on the floor by knocking on doors. Activate the fire alarm if there is one.
  • Go down the nearest STAIRWAY, holding the railing.
  • Call the Fire Department from a floor BELOW THE FIRE or from a street fire alarm box outside.
  • If the Fire is NOT in Your Apartment
  • Stay inside rather than entering smoke-filled hallways, especially if the fire is above your apartment.
  • Keep your door closed.
  • Seal the door with duct tape or wet sheets and towels. Seal ventilators and any other openings where smoke may enter.
  • Turn off air conditioners.
  • Fill your bathtub with water. If the front door gets hot, wet it down.
  • Unless flames or smoke are coming from below, open your windows a few inches at the top or bottom. Don't break the windows; they may need to be closed later.
  • Call the Fire Department with your apartment number and a description of the conditions in your apartment. Firefighters will be directed to your location.
  • If you feel you are in grave danger, open a window and wave a bed sheet for firefighters to spot you.
  • Planning Ahead Can Save Your Life

Things to know
- The layout of your floor.
- The location of stair exits.
- The number of doors between your apartment and the exit stairs. This is essential knowledge to find the exit in the dark.
- Where your apartment key is located. Take the key with you if you are forced to evacuate.
- The location of fire alarm boxes (if your building has them.)

Things to Do

  • Keep flashlights ready and in a handy place.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors. Owners of high-rise buildings are required by law to install one detector in each apartment, but its maintenance is up to you.
  • Report fire hazards to your superintendent. Blocked exits, piled-up trash, missing exit lights and open fire doors are violations of law. If your superintendent doesn't correct them call the Fire Department and report the condition.