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Table of Contents

About the Commission


Sources Of Fire

     Supplemental Home Heating Equipment

     Cooking Equipment

     Cigarette Lighters and Matches

 Materials That Burn

     Upholstered Furniture

     Mattresses and Bedding

     Wearing Apparel

     Flammable Liquids

 Early Warning and Escape

      Smoke Detectors

     Escape Plan


About the Commission



     This Home Fire Safety Checklist was developed by the U.S.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent

regulatory agency of the U.S. Government.


     The Commission has four statutory missions:


     -- to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury

        associated with consumer products;


     -- to assist consumers in evaluating the comparative

        safety of consumer products;


     -- to develop uniform safety standards for consumer

        products and minimize conflicting state and local

        regulations; and


     -- to promote research and investigation into the causes

        and prevention of product-related deaths, injuries and



     It has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 consumer

products used in the home, school and in public places. Among

the products not subject to the Commission's authority are

food, drugs, automobiles, tobacco, and fire arms. The

Commission administers five safety laws: The Consumer Product

Safety Act, the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, the Flammable

Fabrics Act, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, and the

Refrigerator Act.


     CPSC began operation on May 14, 1973. It is headed by

three Commissioners appointed by the President with the advice

and consent of the Senate.


     On October 29, 1973, the Commission instituted a toll-free

Hotline to make it easier for consumers to report

product-related injuries or potentially hazardous products, and

to get information on recalled products seven days a week, 24

hours a day. You may call the Commission's Hotline from

anywhere in the continental U.S. by dialing 1-800-638-2772. A

teletypewriter for the hearing impaired is also available

(including Alaska and Hawaii) on a special Hotline number

1-800-638-8270, in Maryland only dial 1-800-492-8104. To order

publications, write to the Office of Information and Public

Affairs, Washington, DC 20207.







     The United States has one of the highest fire death and

injury rates in the world. Fire--in the form of flames and

smoke--is the second leading cause of accidental death in the



     More than 4,000 people die each year in home fires. Every

year, there are more than 500,000 residential fires serious

enough to be reported to fire departments. More than 90 percent

of residential fire deaths and injuries result from fires in

one and two family houses and apartments. Property losses

exceed 4 billion dollars annually, and the long term emotional

damage to victims and their loved ones is incalculable.


     The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has

targeted the principal consumer products associated with fires,

namely home heating devices, upholstered furniture, bedding,

cigarette lighters, matches, and wearing apparel. The

Commission is participating in a special Congressionally

authorized study of cigarette-ignited fires, which cause more

deaths than any other kind of fire. The Commission continues to

push for extensive use of smoke detectors. With the help of

concerned consumers, the number of residential fires has

declined about 30 percent since 1980.


     The CPSC is fulfilling its role to make products

inherently more fire safe. We recognize that much more can be

done to cut down on the needlessly high and tragic fire toll by

an alert and informed public. Many of the injuries associated

with flammable products result from hazards that are

overlooked. Fire experts agree that one key to fewer fires is a

greater awareness of how accidents can be prevented. By

spotting these hazards and taking some simple precautions, many

fires and fire-related injuries can be prevented.


     Use this checklist as a safety guide to spot possible fire

safety problems which may be present in your home. It is a

first step in reducing the risk of fire. Check YES or NO to

answer each question. If you check NO to any question, the

potential hazard should be corrected to avoid the risk of

injury or death.


     How safe is your home from fire?






Sources of Fire



Supplemental Home Heating



     The use of supplemental room heaters, such as wood and

coal burning stoves, kerosene heaters, gas space heaters and

electrical heaters, has decreased, along with the number of

residential fires.


     Even though there has been a decrease in fires associated

with supplemental heaters, it is important to remember that

about 120,000 residential fires still occur annually with the

use of these heaters, or about 22 percent of all residential

fires. These fires kill more than 600 people. Annually there

are thousands of contact burn injuries and hundreds of carbon

monoxide poisonings.



Wood Stoves



     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. The wood stove or fireplace has been

     installed according to existing

     building codes and manufacturer's

     instructions.                          _____       _____


  2. The chimney and stovepipe are checked

     frequently during the heating season

     for creosote buildup and are cleaned

     when necessary.                        _____       _____


  3. The stove sits on a non-combustible

     or on a code-specified or listed

     floor protector.                       _____       _____


  4. Combustibles such as curtains, chairs,

     firewood, etc., are at least three

     feet away from the stove.              _____       _____


  5. Only proper fuel is used in the stove. _____       _____


  6. A metal container with a tight-fitting

     lid is used for ash removal.           _____       _____







   * Do not use wood burning stoves and fireplaces unless they

     are properly installed and meet building codes.


   * Follow the label instructions on the stove which

     recommends an inspection twice monthly. Have chimneys

     inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.

     Creosote is an unavoidable product of wood burning stoves.

     Creosote builds up in chimney flues and can cause a

     chimney fire. To cut down on creosote buildup, avoid

     smoldering fires.


   * Use a code-specified or listed floor protector. It should

     extend 18 inches beyond the stove on all sides. This will

     reduce the possibility of the floor being ignited.


   * Follow the instructions on the stove label for proper

     location of the stove from combustible walls.


   * Never burn trash in a stove because this could over heat

     the stove. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should

     never be used to start wood stove fires. Gasoline will

     ignite and explode. Use coal only if designated as

     appropriate by the manufacturer.



Kerosene Heaters



     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. Only 1-K kerosene is used and it is

     bought from a dealer who can certify

     that the product is 1-K kerosene.      _____       _____


  2. The heater is placed out of the path

     of traffic areas such as doorways and

     hallways.                              _____       _____


  3. Kerosene is stored outdoors, and out

     of the reach of children in a tightly

     sealed, preferably blue plastic or

     metal container, labeled "kerosene."   _____       _____


  4. No attempt is to be made to move the

     heater if flare-up (flames outside the

     heater cabinet) occurs. The fire

     department is called immediately.      _____       _____


  5. The heater is used in well ventilated

     rooms.                                 _____       _____


  6. The heater is turned off while

     sleeping and is never left operating

     unattended.                            _____       _____


  7. The heater is placed at least three

     feet away from anything that might

     catch fire such as clothing,

     furniture, curtains, etc.              _____       _____






   * Check with your local fire marshal regarding local and

     state codes and regulations for using a kerosene heater.


   * NEVER USE GASOLINE. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed

     with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.


   * Use properly labeled containers. It reduces the likelihood

     of mistaking gasoline for kerosene.


   * Place heater so it will not be knocked over or trap you in

     case of fire.


   * Use 1-K kerosene because grades other than 1-K contain

     much more sulfur and will increase sulfur dioxide

     emissions, posing a possible health problem. If you buy

     kerosene from a gasoline station make sure you and/or the

     attendant are using the kerosene pump, not the gasoline



   * Never fill the heater while it is operating. Always refuel

     the heater outdoors to prevent spillage on floors and rugs

     which could later result in fire ignition.


   * Keep the room in which the heater operates ventilated

     (e.g. door open or the window ajar). This will prevent an

     indoor air pollution problem and minimize health problems.

     Kerosene heaters are not usually vented.


   * Keep flammable liquids and fabrics away from an open



   * Never try to move the heater or try to smother the flames

     with a rug or a blanket if a flare-up occurs. Activate the

     manual shut-off switch and call the fire department.

     Moving the heater may increase the height of the flames

     and cause leakage resulting in personal injury.




Gas-Fired Space Heaters



     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. Only vented heaters are installed or

     used in sleeping quarters.             _____       _____


  2. Vented heaters are properly vented to

     the outside.                           _____       _____


  3. The unvented gas-fired room heater has

     a warning label and instructions that

     are followed.                          _____       _____


  4. The unvented gas-fired room heater has

     a label stating it has a "pilot safety

     system" which turns off the gas if not

     enough fresh air is available.         _____       _____


  5. The vented heater has a label stating

     that is equipped with a vent safety

     shutoff system.                        _____       _____


  6. If the heater uses liquefied petroleum

     (LP) gas, the container is located

     outside the house.                     _____       _____


  7. The manufacturer's instructions for

     lighting the pilot are followed.       _____       _____


  8. Matches are lighted before turning on

     the gas if pilot lighting is required. _____       _____


  9. Flammable materials and liquids are

     kept away from gas heating appliances. _____       _____






   * Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding where and

     how to use gas space heaters. Unvented heaters should not

     be used in small enclosed areas, especially bedrooms

     because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.


   * Do not use a propane heater (LP) which has a gas cylinder

     stored in the body of the heater. Its use is prohibited in

     most states and localities in the United States.




   * Follow the manufacturer's instructions for lighting the

     pilot. Gas vapors may accumulate and ignite explosively,

     burning your hand or face.


   * Light matches, if needed for lighting the pilot, before

     turning on the gas to prevent gas buildup.


   * Do not operate a vented style heater unvented. It could

     allow combustion products, including carbon monoxide, to

     reach dangerous levels which will result in illness and





Portable Electric Heaters



     The Commission estimates that half the deaths and

one-third of the injuries resulting from electric heater fires

occurred at night when family members were asleep and the

heater unattended. The Commission is also concerned about the

use of power or extension cords which can be too small to

supply the amount of current required by the typical portable

electric heater.


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. The heater is operated at least three

     feet away from upholstered furniture,

     drapes, bedding and other combustible

     materials.                             _____       _____


  2. The extension cord (if used) is

     marked #14 or #12 American Wire Gauge

     (AWG).                                 _____       _____


  3. The heater is used on the floor.       _____       _____


  4. The heater is turned off when family

     members leave the house or are

     sleeping.                              _____       _____






   * Operate heater away from combustible materials. Do not

     place heaters where towels or the like could fall on the

     appliance and trigger a fire.


   * Avoid using extension cords unless absolutely necessary.

     If you must use an extension cord with your electric

     heater, make sure it is marked with a power rating at

     least as high as that of the heater itself. Keep the cord

     stretched out. Do not permit the cord to become buried

     under carpeting or rugs. Do not place anything on top of

     the cord.


   * Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or the

     like. Never use heaters to dry wearing apparel or shoes.



Cooking Equipment



     Cooking equipment is estimated to be associated with more

than 100,000 fires annually, and almost 400 deaths, and 5,000

injuries. Gas cooking equipment accounts for about 30,000

fires, and electric cooking equipment for about 55,000 fires.


    You should be able to respond "yes" to the following safety



                                             Yes         No


  1. The storage area above the stove is

     free of flammable and combustible

     items.                                 _____       _____


  2. Short or tight fitting sleeves, and

     tight fitting shirts, robes, gowns,

     etc., are worn while cooking.          _____       _____


  3. Items that could attract children

     (e.g. cookies and candy) are not kept

     above the range and are kept out of

     the immediate area.                    _____       _____


  4. The stove is not left unattended when

     cooking especially when the burner is

     turned to a high setting.              _____       _____







   * Never place or store pot holders, plastic utensils, towels

     and other non-cooking equipment on or near the range

     because these items can be ignited.


   * Roll up or fasten long loose sleeves with pins or elastic

     bands while cooking. Do not reach across a range while

     cooking. Long loose sleeves are more likely to catch on

     fire than are short sleeves. Long loose sleeves are also

     more apt to catch on pot handles, overturning pots and

     pans and cause scalds.




   * Do not place candy or cookies over top of ranges. This

     will reduce the attraction kids may have for climbing on

     cooking equipment, thus reducing the possibility of their

     clothing catching fire.


   * Keep constant vigilance on any cooking that is required

     above the "keep warm" setting.



Cigarette Lighters and Matches



     Each year more than 200 deaths are associated with fires

started by cigarette lighters. About two thirds of these result

from children playing with lighters. Most of the victims are

under five years old.



    You should be able to answer "yes" to the safety statements



                                             Yes         No


  1. Cigarette lighters and matches are

     kept out of the reach of children.     _____       _____


  2. Cigarette lighters are never used to

     entertain a child.                     _____       _____







   * Keep lighters and matches out of sight and out of the

     reach of children. Children as young as two years old are

     capable of lighting cigarette lighters and matches.


   * Never encourage or allow a child to play with a lighter or

     to think of it as a toy. Do not use it as a source of

     amusement for a child. Once their curiosity is aroused,

     children may seek out a lighter and try to light it.


   * Always check to see that cigarettes are extinguished

     before emptying ashtrays. Stubs that are still burning can

     ignite trash.



Materials That Burn



     Your home is filled with materials and products that will

burn if ignited. Upholstered furniture, clothing, drapery

fabrics, and liquids such as gasoline and volatile solvents are

involved in many injury-causing fires each year. Most of these

fires could be prevented.



Upholstered Furniture



     In 1989, there were 18,600 residential fires associated

with upholstered furniture; about 900 people lost their lives.

About one half of these fires were caused by smoking materials.

Property losses amounted to over $100 million from fires

started by cigarette ignition of upholstered furniture.


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the safety

statements below.


                                             Yes         No


  1. Upholstered furniture fabrics made

     from vinyl, wool or thermoplastic

     fibers are generally selected for

     safety reasons.                        _____       _____


  2. I check thoroughly after parties for

     ashes or unextinguished cigarettes

     that may have fallen behind and

     between cushions and under furniture.  _____       _____







   * Look for furniture designed to reduce the likelihood of

     furniture fire from cigarettes. Much of the furniture

     manufactured today has significantly greater resistance to

     ignition by cigarettes than upholstered furniture

     manufactured 10 to 15 years ago. This is particularly true

     of furniture manufactured to comply with the requirements

     of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council's (UFAC)

     Voluntary Action Program. Such upholstered furniture may

     be identified by the gold colored tag on the furniture

     item. The legend on the front of the tag in red letters

     states--"Important Consumer Safety Information from UFAC."


   * Always check the furniture where smokers have been sitting

     for improperly discarded smoking materials. Ashes and

     lighted cigarettes can fall unnoticed behind or between

     cushions or under furniture.


   * Do not place or leave ashtrays on the arms of chairs where

     they can be knocked off.






   * Look for fabrics made predominantly from thermoplastic

     fibers (nylon, polyester, acrylic, olefin) because they

     resist ignition by burning cigarettes better than

     cellulosic fabrics (rayon or cotton). In general, the

     higher the thermoplastic content, the greater the

     resistance to cigarette ignition.



Mattresses and Bedding



     Smoldering fires in mattresses and bedding materials

caused by cigarettes are a major cause of deaths in residential

fires. In 1989 over 35,000 mattress/bedding fires caused about

700 deaths.


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. "No smoking in bed" is a rule that

     is practiced in my home.               _____       _____


  2. Heaters, ash trays, smoking materials

     and other fire sources are located

     away from bedding.                     _____       _____






   * DO NOT smoke in bed. Smoking in bed is a major cause of

     accidental fire deaths in homes.


   * Locate heaters or other fire sources three feet from the

     bed to prevent the bed catching on fire.


   * Consider replacing your old mattress with a new one if you

     are a smoker. Mattresses manufactured since 1973 are

     required to resist cigarette ignition.




Wearing Apparel



     Most fibers used in clothing can burn, some more quickly

than others. A significant number of clothing fires occur in

the over 65 age group principally from nightwear (robes,

pajamas, nightgowns). In 1989 about 200 clothing fire deaths

were reported; about three fourths occurred in the 65 and older

age group. The severity of apparel burns is high. Hospital

stays average over one month.


     Small open flames, including matches, cigarette lighters,

and candles are the major sources of clothing ignition. These

are followed by ranges, open fires and space heaters. The most

commonly worn garments that are associated with clothing

ignition injuries are pajamas, nightgowns, robes,

shirts/blouses, pants/slacks and dresses.




     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following



                                             Yes         No


  1. When purchasing wearing apparel I

     consider fiber content and fabric

     construction for safety purposes.      _____       _____


  2. I purchase garments for my children

     that are intended for sleepwear since

     they are made to be flame resistant.   _____       _____






   * Consider purchasing fabrics such as 100% polyester, nylon,

     wool and silk that are difficult to ignite and tend to

     self extinguish.


   * Consider the flammability of certain fabrics containing

     cotton, cotton/polyester blends, rayon, and acrylic. These

     are relatively easy to ignite and burn rapidly.


   * Look at fabric construction. It also affect ignitability.

     Tight weaves or knits and fabrics without a fuzzy or

     napped surface are less likely to ignite and burn rapidly

     than open knits or weaves, or fabrics with brushed or

     piled surfaces.


   * Consider purchasing garments that can be removed without

     having to pull them over the head. Clothes that are easily

     removed can help prevent serious burns. If a garment can

     be quickly stripped off when it catches fire, injury will

     be far less severe or avoided altogether.


   * Follow manufacturer's care and cleaning instructions on

     products labeled "flame resistant" to ensure that their

     flame resistant properties are maintained.



Flammable Liquids



     One of the major causes of household fires is flammable

liquids. These include gasoline, acetone, benzene, lacquer

thinner, alcohol, turpentine, contact cements, paint thinner,

kerosene, and charcoal lighter fluid. The most dangerous of all

is gasoline.


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following

safety statements.


                                             Yes         No


  1. Flammable liquids are stored in

     properly labeled, tightly closed

     non-glass containers.                  _____       _____


  2. These products are stored away from

     heaters, furnaces, water heaters,

     ranges, and other gas appliances.      _____       _____


  3. Flammable liquids are stored out of

     reach of children.                     _____       _____






   * Take extra precautions in storing and using flammable

     liquids, such as gasoline, paint thinners, etc. They

     produce invisible explosive vapors that can ignite by a

     small spark at considerable distances from the flammable

     substance. Store outside the house.



Early Warning and Escape



     Even when you have complied with every item in this Home

Fire Safety Checklist, you still need to have a plan for early

warning and escape in case a fire does occur.


     Many fire deaths and fire injuries are actually caused by

smoke and gases. Victims inhale smoke and poisonous gases that

rise ahead of the flames. Survival depends on being warned as

early as possible and having an escape plan.


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following




Smoke Detectors


                                             Yes         No


  1. At least one smoke detector is

     located on every floor of my home.     _____       _____


  2. Smoke detectors are placed near

     bedrooms, either on the ceiling or

     6-12 inches below the ceiling on the

     wall.                                  _____       _____


  3. Smoke detectors are tested according

     to manufacturer's instructions on a

     regular basis (at least once a month)

     and are kept in working condition at

     all times.                             _____       _____


  4. Batteries are replaced according to

     manufacturer's instructions, at least

     annually.                              _____       _____


  5. Batteries are never disconnected.      _____       _____


  6. The detector has a distinct warning

     signal that can be heard whether

     asleep or awake.                       _____       _____




     Follow manufacturer's directions for testing the detector.




     Make sure detectors are placed either on the ceiling or

6-12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke

detectors away from air vents or registers; high air flow or

"dead" spots are to be avoided.






   * Purchase a smoke detector if you do not have one. Smoke

     detectors are inexpensive and are required by law in many

     localities. Check local codes and regulations before you

     buy your smoke detector because some codes require

     specific types of detectors. They provide an early warning

     which is critical because the longer the delay, the

     deadlier the consequences.


   * Read the instructions that come with the detector for

     advice on the best place to install it. As a minimum

     detectors should be located near bedrooms and one on every



   * Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper

     maintenance. Smoke detectors can save lives, but only if

     properly installed and maintained.


   * Never disconnect a detector. Consider relocating the

     detector rather than disconnecting it if it is subject to

     nuisance alarms, e.g. from cooking.


   * Replace the battery annually, or when a "chirping" sound

     is heard.


   * Follow the manufacturer's instructions about cleaning your

     detector. Excessive dust, grease or other material in the

     detector may cause it to operate abnormally. Vacuum the

     grill work of your detector.



Escape Plan



     Planning ahead, rehearsing, thinking, and acting clearly

are keys to surviving a fire. How prepared are you?


     You should be able to respond "yes" to the following



                                             Yes         No


  1. The family has an escape plan and an

     alternate escape plan.                 _____       _____


  2. Escape routes and plans are rehearsed

     periodically.                          _____       _____


  3. The escape plan includes choosing a

     place safely outside the house where

     the family can meet to be sure

     everyone got out safely.               _____       _____


  4. At least two exits from each part of

     the house are established.             _____       _____


  5. The fire department number is posted

     on every telephone.                    _____       _____






   * Establish advanced family planning for escape. It is an

     important partner with smoke detectors and it will prepare

     you for a fire emergency.


   * Include small children as a part of the discussion and

     rehearsal. It is especially important to make sure they

     understand that they must escape; they can't hide from

     fire under a bed or in a closet.


     Your life and that of your family can be saved by

foresight, planning, discussing and rehearsal.



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