Home fire safety checklist

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

TAMPA, Fla. -  Many times, fires start in the kitchen.

"Rarely does it stop at the kitchen," Elizabeth Monforti, with Palm Harbor Fire Rescue in Tampa said. "It immediately can spread." This is why Monforti does home fire safety checks for free.

"It's not something I've given a lot of thought to I have to confess," said homeowner Wendy Whitt.

But Whitt did have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

"It's one extinguisher per person," Monforti said. "And once you use it, use it completely because you can't use it again. And if that does not put the fire out, then you need to evacuate."

Another kitchen warning: grocery bags and stoves don't mix. And don't store things in the oven. If there's a fire on the stove, take the lid and, "Kind of slide it real slow," she explained. "And then it depletes the oxygen so that the fire goes out right away."

Monforti also spots a hazard lurking behind Whitt's dryer. A hole in the coil that looks clogged.

"And with the lint that can start a fire pretty easily, so it would be a good idea to replace the coil," Monforti told Whitt.

Another trouble spot: there's no clear path to the electrical panel.

"Keep your storage away from that so in an emergency you can quickly get to that electrical breaker and turn the power off," Monforti said. "Also keep areas clear for our firefighters so that we can get to it quickly and turn off the power."

Other potential deadly dangers: outdated smoke alarms, storage near the water heater and upstairs bedrooms without escape plans.

"Being on the second floor could create a problem," Monforti said. "They make an escape ladder and you can actually keep the escape ladder under a child's bed."

And it's worth going through this check list every year.

If you only have one fire extinguisher, store it in the kitchen. And fire officials want to make sure you know how to use them, before you need to.

Additional Information:

When it comes to house fires, 80 percent of deaths happen in a home. Often fire safety is overlooked, but when a fire ignites, it spreads quickly. The National Fire Protection Association has some top tips to insure a home is in the best possible condition to stop potentially fatal fires. Using the Exit Drills In The Home (E.D.I.T.H.) system gives expert plans for fire safety.

E.D.I.T.H.

First, create a home escape plan. Inform everyone in the home what to do in case of a fire. Make sure every person has at least two ways to get out and always make one way out by window in case doors are blocked by smoke or flames. Stairways should always stay clear and windows with security bars need a release hatch in case of emergency. Children need to know how to dial 911 and people in your home with disabilities, the elderly or young children will need special care and perhaps assistance to exit. A meeting place needs to be set so all can be counted at a safe distance from a home fire. Working fire alarms are a necessity in each room and level of the home. Make sure they are interconnected so if one sounds, they all sound. And always test a smoke alarm once per month.

Second, practice makes perfect. A fire drill isn't only for school and work. They should be performed at least twice a year in a home to test family and friends knowledge of what to do. Drills should happen at different times of the day to perfect each scenario. Make one at night and one during the day. To begin a fire drill:

  • Push the button on the smoke alarm.
  • Execute escape plan.
  • Practice leaving different ways (the doors and windows).
  • Close all doors as you leave to contain a potential fire inside.
  • Go to meeting place.


Finally, if a fire happens, never go back into a home once you've left. Get to a neighbor's house and call the fire department once you're safely out, but never go back in for any personal items. (Source: http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/escape-planning)

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