Fire Preparedness

Fire Safety

Fire Hazards

Seven out of ten fires occur in the home, if you practice fire prevention, you can stop those fires.

Here are some tips you help you remove common fire hazards:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Always have a fire screen for fireplaces.
  • Do not use extension cords that are overloaded.
  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Be sure to unplug appliances after you use them in the bathroom.
  • Remove all unnecessary combustibles from the basement and attic.
  • It is said that gasoline is more dangerous than dynamite. The vapors given off by gasoline are invisible. Never store gasoline in unapproved containers and keep fire away from gasoline.
  • Never use gasoline as a cleaner or a charcoal starter. If you smell gasoline in your home, do the following:
    • Clear people from the area.
    • Open all doors and windows.
    • Call the fire department FROM A NEIGHBORS HOUSE.
    • Do not turn on lights.
    • Do not turn on appliances.
    • Do not light matches or lighters.
    • Do not re-enter the area until the fire department has said it is safe.
There’s A Fire, What Should I Do?
  • If you are caught in a fire and can’t breathe, get down on the floor on your hands and knees and crawl low under the smoke. You will find clean air below the smoke.
  • Never attempt to extinguish a large fire that is out of control.
  • You should get everyone out of the house or structure.
  • You should close all doors as you exit the house or structure.
  • Don’t open any door on the way before you feel it. If the door is hot – DO NOT OPEN IT! Exit through another door or window. Remember if the house is filled with smoke, crawl low under the smoke.
  • Dial 9-11 from a neighbor’s house.
  • NEVER go back into a burning house or structure.
If My Clothing Catches On Fire, What Should I Do?

Always remember – if you clothing catches on fire – DO NOT RUN! Running makes the fire spread faster.

DROP – Drop wherever you are, covering your face with your hands.
ROLL – Roll over and over to smother the flames.

If someone else’s clothes catch fire, tell them to get to the floor or ground and roll over and over to smother the flames. Tell them not to run.

To further assist you in creating and maintaining your fire escape plan, please use the Home Fire Escape Worksheet.

Family Escape Plans

Here are some escape plan tips:
  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. For easy planning, download this escape planning grid (PDF) from the National Safety Council. This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code® requires interconnected smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
  • Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor’s house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they’ve escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
  • Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.
  • Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the household can call from a neighbor’s home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
  • If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not home during the emergency.
  • If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Emergency release devices won’t compromise your security – but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
  • Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family’s fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people’s homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don’t have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially important when children are permitted to attend “sleepovers” at friends’ homes. See NFPA’s “Sleepover fire safety for kids” fact sheet.
  • Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Residents of high-rise and apartment buildings may be safer “defending in place.”
  • Once you’re out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform rescues.
  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
  • Make arrangements in your plan for anyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective as a surprise drill.
  • It’s important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency situation.
  • If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so you’ll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don’t want to have to search for it during a fire.
  • Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit.
  • Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
  • In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice “sealing yourself in for safety” as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can get outside quickly. Working smoke alarms cut your risk of dying in a fire by almost half.

Here are some smoke alarm tips from the NFPA:
  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. Install alarms in the basement.
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • It is best to use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • There are two kinds of alarms. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. It is best to use both types of alarms in the home.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms have strobe lights and bed shakers.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
  • If you do not have a smoke alarm check with your local fire department. Many departments have free smoke alarm programs.


Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January and February.

Here are some heating safety tips:
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable heater.
  • Only use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Never use your oven for heating.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.
  • Test smoke alarms and CO2 alarms monthly.


Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year.

Cooking Safety Tips
  • Be alert if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol. Don’t use the stove or stovetop.
  • Have an approved fire extinguisher handy.
  • Remove pans from the stove when not in use.
  • Turn handles in so pots cannot be easily pulled off the stove.
  • Never leave food cooking unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire!
Cooking Safety Videos
Kitchen Tips for Kids
  • Kids and pets should stay at least 3 feet away from the stove when food is cooking.
  • A grown-up watches the stovetop when he or she is frying, grilling, or boiling food.
  • Grown-ups always pay attention to the things that are cooking.
  • Things that can burn, dish towels, curtains, or paper, are at least 3 feet away from the stove.
  • Pot holders or oven mitts are easy for grown-ups to reach when they are cooking.
  • Pot handles are turned in toward the back of the stove when a grown-up is cooking.
  • If someone gets burned, put cool water on the burn for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Microwave ovens cook food really fast. Food cooked in a microwave can get very hot. Be careful when you take the cover off food because hot steam can burn you. Let the food cool before you eat it. You should use a microwave oven only if a grown-up says it is okay.


The Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office, recommends these grilling safety tips:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
Charcoal grills
  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
Propane grills
  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill.
  • If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

Turkey Frying

Here are some tips to assist you in preventing fires while frying turkeys:

  • Fryers should always be used outdoors, a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials. (Some manufacturers are now offering turkey fryers designed for indoor use. If you use one of these follow manufacturer directions carefully.)
  • Never use a fryer in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer. (If directions for filling fryer are not available a reliable method to use is to- a) place the turkey in the pot, b) fill with water until the turkey is covered by about ½ inch of water, c) remove and dry turkey, d) mark water level. Dump water, dry the pot, and fill with oil to the marked level.)
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dried before cooking. Be careful with marinades- oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard. (The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture recommends you thaw a turkey 24 hrs for every 4 to 5 pounds.)
  • Keep an all purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire.

Holiday Decorating

Practice the 12 Days of Christmas Fire Safety:
  • DAY 1 – Use holiday decorations made with flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • DAY 2 – Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. Use lights approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories. Do not overload extension cords.
  • DAY 3 – Keep children and pets away from light strings and electrical decorations.
  • DAY 4 – Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • DAY 5 – Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and make sure any lit candles in the room are place away from tree branches.
  • DAY 6 – Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • DAY 7 – Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily.
  • DAY 8 – Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • DAY 9 – Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.
  • DAY 10 – When entertaining provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • DAY 11 – After a party, check on, between and under upholstery and cushions for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
  • DAY 12 – Take the tree down when it becomes dry. Recycle it, use it as a fish shelter in a farm pond or put it out with the trash. Do not burn it in the fireplace. Heat may explode the wood and set the room on fire.


For those choosing to use consumer fireworks, the Mississippi State Fire Marshal suggests you follow these safety tips:

  • Observe local laws. Those wishing to purchase and use fireworks should first check with their local county and/or fire protection officials to determine that local laws are being followed. Some municipalities prohibit fireworks from being used within city limits. Additional zoning regulations prohibiting the use of fireworks may apply in non-municipal areas. If you are unsure whether it is legal to use fireworks in your area, first check with local officials.
  • Use common sense and always read and follow the directions on each firework.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Buy from reliable fireworks sellers. Store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Always have an adult present when shooting fireworks.
  • Put used fireworks in a bucket of water and have a hose ready.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors, away from homes, dry grass, and trees.
  • Light only one item at a time and keep a safe distance.
  • Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks.
  • Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Never give fireworks to small children.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.

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