Residence: Fire prevention & preparation

Here are some things to consider doing. Some items may not be applicable to you.

According to, in the U.S., 1) between 2000 and 2009, an average of 2,919 civilians lost their lives and another 14,081 were injured annually as the result of residential structure fires, 2) unintentional/careless fires, followed by smoking, are the leading cause of residential fire deaths, 3) the leading cause of residential fire dollar loss is unintentional/careless fires, followed by electrical malfunction, 4) cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries.

To help prevent injuries from residential structure fires:

  • Develop a home escape plan including:
    • At least two ways (primary and alternate) out of each room in the event of fire, smoke, etc.
    • Where to meet after getting out of the residence
  • Have an emergency escape ladder available for rooms on upper floors
  • If a smoke alarm sounds or anyone sees or smells smoke:
    • Get out of the residence immediately
    • Meet other residents at the designated meeting place to ensure everyone is out
    • Call 911 from a neighbor’s phone or anyone’s cell phone

ASAP, to help minimize damage/losses in the event you need to evacuate quickly:

  • Determine which items you would want to get out of your residence in the event of an impending wildfire, storm, flooding, etc., e.g.:

    • Pictures
    • Will
    • Insurance papers
    • Other important and/or irreplaceable documents

To help prevent residential structure fires:

  • Install, maintain and regularly test smoke detectors in the residence

  • Place fire extinquishers in the residence, especially in the kitchen

  • Before going to bed or leaving the house:

    • Ensure:
      • Candles are blown out
      • Cigarettes are completely extinquished
      • There are no smoking materials in the trash
      • All appliances (e.g., clothes iron, curling iron, clothes dryer) are turned off
  • If you use lighted candles:

    • Use a non-flammable item under each candle
    • Ensure the non-flammable item under each candle is large enough to hold all of the hot wax produced by the candle
    • Keep lighted candles away from flammable items, e.g., curtains, tablecloths
    • Don’t leave lighted candles unattended
      In the U.S., candles have caused an average of over 100 deaths and over 8,000 fires each year, according to Fire Marshals Quarterly, Winter 1999
  • Minimize the use of extension cords

  • If you use extension cords:

    • Use heavy duty extension cords
    • Ensure cords are in good condition (e.g., not frayed, no exposed wires)
    • Don’t plug cords into other cords
    • Don’t place cords under rugs, etc. (cords can overheat)
  • Do not use fireworks in or near structures
    Personal use of fireworks is illegal in most locations

  • Every six months:

    • Test all smoke detectors in the residence (e.g., when advancing or turning back clocks)
  • Every year:

    • Have your furnace inspected

Also see:


Thanks for reading!