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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!

Fall Fire Safety text with a pumpkin and leaves 

Many of the fire hazards that plague modern households are in and around your home right now.

Whether it’s a poorly maintained heating system, or an accident in the kitchen, it’s not terribly surprising that the American Red Cross warns of increased risks of house fires during the fall and winter seasons.

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 smoke sounds the alarm, you and your loved ones may have just two minutes to respond, according to the National Fire Protection Administration.

Here's how to get started:

  • Take the time to develop an evacuation plan.  Families should have a designated meeting place a safe distance from their home, for instance, a neighbor’s mailbox. Everyone should be able to identify two points of escape from each room in the house. It’s also a good idea to practice your emergency plan under challenging conditions, like when it’s dark.
  • Make sure the kids understand how and when to dial 9-1-1. They should also know your home’s physical address. Teach them the stop, drop, and roll method for extinguishing fire, and when practicing your escape plan, teach them to crawl to avoid smoke.
  • Don’t forget older adults. They often have unique health challenges or mobility issues that make quick evacuation burdensome. Unsurprisingly, home fire fatalities disproportionately affect older adults.

Check the Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

Working smoke alarms save lives. That's why it's important to test your smoke alarms once a month. Replace smoke alarms when they've been in use for ten years.

Replace any batteries if 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.

Check Your Heating System

October is perfect time to "kick the tires" on your home’s heating system. After six or more months of disuse, you’ll want to make sure everything is in proper working order.

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 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 to 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 six months.

The Great Outdoors

Many Pennsylvanians like to spend time outdoors and when autumn rolls around, we are that much keener to take in the sights.

Whether enjoying a firepit in our backyards, getting some late season grilling in, or even decorating for/participating in the holidays, we have some useful tips for you.

  • Before using a firepit or building a campfire, be sure it is permitted; check with your local fire department.
  • Don’t burn anything outdoors on windy, dry days.
  • Never use gasoline or other combustible liquids; fires should be kept small and easily controlled.
  • Grills should be kept clean, and free of debris and grease build up. They should be set up several feet away from a home, and never be used indoors.
  • Avoid using open flame candles to decorate for holidays. Consider using battery operated lights in jack-o-lanterns and paper-lanterns.
  • Halloween costumes should be made with flame resistant materials. Avoid costumes that are big and billowy. Masks, and face paints should not obscure a one’s vision.

A Word About Kitchen Safety

As fall sets in, we invariably spend more time in our homes cooking meals for our friends and families, doubly so during the holidays. Cooking fires are the number cause of fires and home injuries. The leading cause for fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. 

You are 400% more likely to experience a cooking fire on Thanksgiving than any other day during the year according to National Fire Protection Association.

What you should know about home cooking safety:

  • Be alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • 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.
  • Turn pot handles inward, to prevent burns caused by overturned pans or spills.
  • Create and enforce a three-foot child – free zone around your stove.

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 from a safe place 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.

Additional Fall Safety Resources

For more information, visit these websites: