Babysitting is a job many people take for granted.When parents call and ask you to “sit” in their place with their children, they are telling you that they trust you to be as responsible as they are for the safety of their children. It’s a big job! It certainly should be enjoyable, but it needs to be safe and responsible as well. In many instances, you are in a strange house for the first time and are unfamiliar with the house layout and the information that becomes vital in an emergency.

Discuss the following points with the parents before they leave the house. Have the parents fill out the fire safety checklist. Carry it in your pocket until they return.

  • When babysitting, you are in charge. During an emergency, you must immediately act on your own to ensure the safety of the children you are sitting for.
  • Be familiar with the house. Learn all exits and how to unlock doors and windows. Know 2 ways out of each room and then plan alternate escape routes.
  • Have the parents show you and the children an established meeting place outside the home. Don’t confuse the children with a different plan.
  • Cook only if you have the permission of the parents. Turn pot handles in to prevent spilling, and never leave cooking unattended.
  • In case of fire, gather the children and exit the house immediately.
  • Account for everyone and go immediately to a neighbor’s house to call 9-1-1. Have an adult neighbor meet the police or first-arriving fire officer to tell them everyone is out safely. Tell them the exact reason for exiting the house, and where the smoke alarm activated or fire started.
  • Never go back inside the house! Stay outside, stay safe, and keep the children calm and close by.
  • If you encounter smoke or flames that are blocking the way to the children, go straight to the neighbor’s house and dial 9-1-1. Tell them the children are trapped inside and where they are. Wait for the fire company on the street outside with the neighbor so you can them exactly where the children are.
  • If you encounter smoke or flames while you and the children are escaping a fire, use other established exit routes.
  • If you must escape through smoke, remember that heat and smoke rises, so stay low by crawling through the cleaner air on the floor. Keep the children constantly in sight and tell them to get out quickly.
  • If the parents haven’t tested the smoke alarms recently, ask them to test the alarms before they leave the house. Replace batteries as required to ensure they are operating.
  • Three out of every 10 reported home fires start in the kitchen — more than any other place in the home.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires.
  • Two out of three reported home cooking fires start at the range or stove.

Residents can prevent these and other fires by emphasizing 4 key safety measures:

  • Keep the handles of pots and pans turned toward the rear of the range, out of reach of children.
  • Never leave cooking food unattended on stovetops or ovens.
  • Replace the batteries in all your smoke home’s smoke alarms during Fire Prevention Week.
  • Discuss home escape planning as a family to prevent injuries in the event of a home fire.

Whether you use charcoal, wood, gas or electricity for grilling, a moment’s inattention can spell disaster. Below are some fire safety tips to ensure a summer of safe grilling.

  • Keep grills away from combustibles, including the exterior of your house, balcony or garage.
  • Check hose integrity and hose connections to make sure gas is not leaking from your gas grill. Apply soapy water to hoses and connections to reveal any leaks.
  • Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • Never store propane cylinders in your home or garage.
  • Establish a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the grill, and keep pets from being underfoot.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited.
  • Use only approved charcoal lighter fluid — never gasoline or other combustibles — to start charcoal fires.
  • If your propane tank is more than 3 years old or shows signs of age, get a new one.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it.
  • When finished grilling, first turn off the propane at the tank control and then turn off the grill fuel control.
  • Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills; leaks and fuel line cracks are the leading cause, accounting for nearly half of gas grill fires.
  • Gas-fueled grills caused an estimated 600 home structure fires and 3,200 outdoor fires in 2001.
  • Half of all gas and charcoal grill home fires begin on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch.
  • Wall coverings, exterior trim, and plants are the leading items first ignited in home outdoor charcoal grill fires.
  • Gas fuel is the leading item first ignited for home outdoor gas grill fires.
  • Placing combustibles too close to heat, and leaving cooking unattended, are the 2 leading causes for charcoal grill home fires.
  • Allow your tractor or lawn mower to cool down outside before being stored in a shed or garage.
  • Clean and clear your mower or tractor of all accumulated lawn debris prior to storage, as dried grass near heated areas may cause a fire.
  • Keep gas and fuel containers stored in well-ventilated outdoor storage areas.
  • Have your tractor or mower serviced by a professional maintenance technician.
  • Install and test smoke alarms in your garage and storage areas.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near and/or mounted on garage walls, kitchen areas and outdoor grills.
  • Test your home smoke alarms monthly.
  • Take the time to discuss and develop a home fire drill with all family members.
  • Schedule a professional technician to service your air conditioning unit.
  • Check the exhaust hoses on your clothes dryers for accumulated lint.

The fall and winter holidays are a time for celebration, and that means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining,and an increase in fires due to heating equipment. Below are summarized some fire safety tips to make your home safer during the winter holiday months.

Heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires during the months of December, January, and February, and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year-round.

  • Have your heating unit serviced by a professional.
  • Buy fuels only from a reputable company.
  • Use only fuel type recommended by manufacturer.
  • Hire a certified chimney sweep to clean your chimney.
  • Ensure that you know how the fireplace flue works.
  • Purchase and use a fireplace screen to control sparks.
  • Make sure that all combustibles are a safe distance from any heating source.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from all combustibles.
  • Dispose of ashes in metal container located away from buildings.
  • Provide proper ventilation.
  • Properly install smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.

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