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Be Fire Safe PA

The Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) provides important year-round and seasonal fire prevention information to help Pennsylvanians stay safe and healthy.

Explore the below information to Be Fire Safe PA!

Winter Season Fire Prevention and Safety

Winter is upon us! As we enjoy the season, we also need to take a moment to think about how we can all be more fire safe.

Holiday Kitchen Safety

Each year, we prepare to cook meals for our close friends and families, during the holidays. Cooking fires are the undisputed, number cause of home fires and injuries. The leading cause for fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.

What you should know about home cooking safety:

  • Be alert! The pandemic has presented new challenges for home fire safety. When cooking at home do not let children home from school or teleworking tasks distract you from monitoring your cooking.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire:

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Turkey fryers can be dangerous. Be as safe as possible as you prepare your meal with these resources:

A Word on Holiday Decorations

Graphic showing 5 fire safety tips for holiday decorating

Holiday lights and candles are a beloved part of the season, but they are a common source of ignition for house fires. Here are a few suggestions for decorating safely this holiday season:

  • Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Keep all holiday greenery, including trees, well-watered. A poorly cared-for tree can ignite exceptionally fast.
  • Never leave burning candles or cooking appliances unattended, and strongly consider using flameless candles in your decorations.
  • Always keep children and pets away from open flames and hot surfaces.
  • Replace light strands that have worn or broken wires or loose bulb connections, avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many cords, and do not run extension cords beneath rugs and carpet.
  • Be sure to turn off holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Homeowners should be sure to place Christmas trees at least three feet away from a heat source, like a candle, radiator, or fireplace.

Heating System Maintenance

Throughout the season, it remains important to properly maintain and care for your home heating system. There are a few things homeowners can do to ensure their heating systems are well maintained and safe to use:

  • Regularly replace furnace filters.
  • Keep areas around you furnace free of clutter and combustible material; never set items on top of your furnace.
  • Likewise, keep combustible materials a safe distance from vent/exhaust lines.
  • Before winter arrives, turn your system on for a test run.
  • If you notice any issues with your home heating system, contact a professional immediately. Certified HVAC contractors often offer preventative care services that include cleaning that reduce fire risk but have the added benefit of reducing utility costs.

Fireplace Safety

Both modern and older fireplaces have a way of collecting dirt and debris over their lifetimes. It’s important to keep fireplaces clear of debris and schedule annual inspections before use. If your home is equipped with a gas fireplace, have all the lines and connections inspected before use. In addition to these recommendations, here are a few other helpful tips:

  • Fireplace screens, guards, or glass doors are helpful safety devices to keep hot ash and sparks contained inside the fireplace.
  • Spare wood and other combustibles should be stored at least five feet away from the fireplace.
  • Do not overload a fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Burn seasoned hardwoods, that have been stored in a safe and dry environment for at least 6 months.

Year-Round Fire Safety

Have a Plan and Practice It

Do you know what to do in the event your home catches fire? Does your family? This knowledge is critical to ensure everyone’s safety. From the moment a smoke alarm sounds, you and your loved ones may have just 2 minutes to respond, according to NFPA. 

Take the time to develop an evacuation plan. Families should have a designated meeting place a safe distance from their home, for instance, a mailbox. Everyone should be able to identify to points of escape from each room in the house. Its also a good idea to practice one’s emergency plan under challenging conditions, like when it is dark.

Make sure the kids understand how and when to dial 9-1-1. (They should also know their home’s physical address.) Teach them the stop, drop, and roll method for extinguishing fire, and when practicing one’s escape plan, teach them to crawl to avoid smoke.

Don’t forget about older adults. These individuals often have unique health challenges or mobility issues that make evacuation burdensome. Unsurprisingly, home fire fatalities disproportionately affect older adults.

Check Your Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are vital to ensuring your family’s safety. Test these devices frequently (at least once a month) and replace any batteries when needed. 

If you have fire extinguishers in your home, they should be routinely checked to make sure they’re fully charged, and within their expiration dates.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Homes should be equipped with CO detectors. Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed.

The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Learn More

To learn more about fire prevention and safety, visit these websites: