Editor's note: The following is a press release from Dakota County Public Health issued Oct. 17.
Cooler weather means many of us are starting up our furnaces and fireplaces. Since most home fires occur in the fall and winter, now is a good time to take steps to protect your family from fires.
The risk is real. In 2011, fire departments across the country responded to 384,000 home fires. These fires claimed the lives of 2,640 people and injured another 13,350.
Young children are especially vulnerable. Every day more than 300 children are treated in emergency rooms for fire-related injuries. Two children die per day as a result of being burned.
Dakota County has its share of fires—55 structure fires were reported to fire departments in 2011, with losses totaling over $400,000. Fortunately, no lives were lost last year in Dakota County, but since 1983, 38 people died due to fires.
Tips to prevent home fires:
- Be alarmed. Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home—on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in. Test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they are working properly. Four out of 10 home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms.
- Cook with care. Never leave cooking food unattended on the stove. Keep anything that can catch on fire, like potholders and towels, away from the cooking area. Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves that can catch on fire. Also, keep pot handles turned in.
- If you smoke, attempt to quit. Don't smoke in your home. However, if you do, never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended. It is unsafe to smoke while drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or medications. Don't empty burning or hot ashes in a trash can, and keep ashtrays away from upholstered furniture and curtains.
- Stay warm—safely. If you use a space heater, keep it more than three feet away from anything that can catch on fire, like draperies.
- Have an escape plan. Create and practice a family fire escape plan and involve kids in the planning. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside.