Here are a few tips to help prevent fires, and if you do have a fire in your home, some advice that could save you or a family member's life.
1. Smoke Alarms - Sounds like a pretty basic concept but there are many homes and apartments that do not have working smoke detectors. They should be installed on every level of your house, especially near bedrooms. You should test them twice a year (when you change your clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall). I actually check mine more often than that (when I use my oven to cook a new dish that gets a little smoky; I won't go into detail...)
2. Fire Extinguisher - Have one installed in or near your kitchen. Grease fires can be difficult to put out and burn very hot. They can rapidly spread to surrounding cabinets. A dry chemical extinguisher can put out a grease fire. A small extinguisher can be purchased for around $20 at Home Depot or Menards. I keep mine under the sink.
3. Practice fire safety with your kids. The US Fire Administration has a great website that teaches kids about fire safety: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/kids/flash.shtm. This site has games, puzzles and quizzes that help educate children in a fun, engaging manner.
4. Use caution with candles - 55% of candle fires start because of close proximity to combustible material such as curtains or bedding. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Sounds like common sense but 20% of candle fires start from unattended candles.
5. Establish multiple escape routes from your home and practice them with your family. Determine a meeting place outside so you can account for all family members. This will not only be important during a fire; it will also make your neighbors wonder what kind of family activity you have going on that involves climbing out of windows and standing together under the maple tree in the front yard!
These are just a few reminders to keep you and your family safe. More information can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/index.shtm and through your local Fire Department.