Every year, most fire deaths occur in the home. As of September, Pennsylvania has experienced 104 civilian fire deaths in residential homes in 2018. Of these deaths, 55 have been older adults.

Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. Decades ago, homeowners had five to seven minutes to escape a house fire, but now that time is down to one to two minutes.

Please review the below points to prepare yourself in the event of a fire.


Home Fire-Escape Planning

Home fire-escape planning and drills are an essential part of fire safety. A home fire-escape plan needs to be developed and practiced before a fire strikes.

A home-escape plan should include the following:


• Two exits from every room in the home, usually a door and a window

• Properly installed and working smoke alarms

• A meeting place outside, in front of the home, where everyone will meet after they exit

• A call to 9-1-1 or the local emergency number from a cellphone or a neighbor’s phone


Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms detect and alert people to a fire in the early stages. Smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death; working smoke alarms cut in half the risk of dying in a home fire.

Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement.

Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button. Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.



Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home-fire injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food.

If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in the home. Keep anything that can catch fire away from your stovetop.



Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months. Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating-equipment fires.

All heaters need space. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from heating equipment. Have a 3-foot (1-meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

Purchase and use only portable space heaters listed by a qualified testing laboratory.

Have a qualified professional install heating equipment, and maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional.


Kraig Herman is the public education specialist with the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner.

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