-- health information for the whole family

Burns: Preventing Burns in Your Home

Fire Safety

Prevent burns by preventing fires in your home. Be prepared and know what to do if fires ever do occur. Here are some fire safety tips for your home:
  • Put smoke alarms in your home. Check them weekly. If they run on batteries, put in new batteries every 6 months.
  • Think about how you would get out of your home in a fire emergency. Make a family escape plan and have regular fire drills at home. Designate a meeting place outside your home in case there is a fire.
  • Have a professional electrician check the wiring in your home at least once every 10 years.
  • Have a professional inspect and clean your chimney and fireplace once a year.
  • Learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Keep one or more in your home.
Fires and burns often happen unexpectedly, but you can take precautions to help prevent them.

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What should my family and I do if there is a fire in our home?

If there is a fire in your home:
  • Stick to your family escape plan and get to your meeting place as fast as you can.
  • Stay as low to the ground as possible--crawl if you have to. Smoke and heat rise, so it will be easier to breathe closer to the floor. (Many more people die from the poisonous gasses caused by house fires than from burns.)
  • Check closed doors by touching them with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, don't open it--it means the fire is near by. If it is cool, open it slowly and peek out.
  • Close doors to separate yourself from the fire and smoke.
  • If you or your clothes catch on fire, "stop, drop and roll."

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How can we prevent other fires or burns in our home?

  • Prevent chemical burns by wearing gloves and other protective clothing when you handle chemicals. Store chemicals, including gasoline, out of the reach of children.
  • To prevent electrical burns, put covers on any electrical outlets that are within children's reach. Throw out electrical cords that are frayed or damaged in any way.
  • Use space heaters carefully and teach children to stay away from them.
  • Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can't reach them.
  • Never leave candles unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room.
  • If you smoke, don't smoke in bed. Get rid of used cigarettes carefully. Fires caused by smoking materials are the leading cause of deaths in house fires.
  • Before putting a child less than 1 year old into a car seat, touch the seat to see how hot it is. Hot seat-belt straps or buckles can cause second-degree burns on small children. Cover the car seat with a towel when you park in the sun.
  • Don't let small children play near the stove or help you cook at the stove.
  • Don't wear clothing with long, loose sleeves when you are cooking.
  • Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires. Put out a small fire on a stove by sliding a lid over the flames.

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How can we prevent hot water burns in our home?

  • Test the water temperature before you or your children get into the tub or shower. Don't let young children touch the faucet handles during a bath.
  • Set the temperature on your water heater to 120ยบ F, or use the "low-medium" setting. Water that is hotter than this can cause burns in 2 to 3 seconds.
  • Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the side of the stove, or use the back burners of the stove.
  • Use cool-water humidifiers or vaporizers. If you use hot-steam vaporizers, keep them out of the reach of children.

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Written by editorial staff.

Ambulatory Management of Burns by ED Morgan, MAJ, MC, USA; SC Bledsoe, CPT, MC, USA; and J Barker CPT, MC, USA (American Family Physician November 1, 2000,

Reviewed/Updated: 12/06
Created: 11/00