Ask Danny | Ep. 15: Fire Safety Tips Straight From the Experts

Today's Homeowner TV host Danny Lipford chats with Steven Millhouse and Dwight Smith with Mobile Fire-Rescue about home fire safety
Danny Lipford chats about home fire safety with Steven Millhouse and Dwight Smith with Mobile Fire-Rescue. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

October is National Fire Prevention Month, so this week, I’m chatting with Capt. Dwight Smith and Steven Millhouse with Mobile Fire-Rescue in Alabama about their top fire safety tips for homeowners.

Firefighters outside of a burning home
Once you’ve escaped a house fire, never go back inside to retrieve any items. (davelogan, Getty Images Signature)

Fire Safety Plan

How do you put together a fire safety plan?

Stephen: The first thing is to actually have a plan. Many don’t even consider it until an emergency happens. You want to have a plan in place especially if you have small children or elderly people living with you as well.

  • Know the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • Practice escaping the home safely.
  • Know your means of egress, whether it’s the nearest door or window if you have a multi-story home.
  • Let your children practice crawling. You can make it like a game to make it fun for them. 
  • Have a safe meeting spot outside, whether it’s the mailbox, a big tree at the end of the driveway, or a neighbor’s house.
  • Get out and stay out. Don’t run back in for pets, photo albums or anything like that. Call 911 and let the professionals do their job. 

Dwight: To expand on having children practice crawling, making it like a game also makes it a reality to them because it makes them familiar with what they need to do.

Direct them to feel on doors, and tell them if it feels hot, then they should go to the window. 

Even though you’re teaching this to them as a game, you’re familiarizing them on how to get out of the house in case there’s a fire. 

Fire extinguisher against a white wall in a home
Every home needs a multi-purpose fire extinguisher. (photo_chaz, Getty Images Signature)

Fire Extinguishers

What are some fire extinguisher guidelines?

Dwight: A typical home should have at least two fire extinguishers: one for the laundry room and one for the kitchen. 

Know what type of fire extinguisher you need. Fire extinguishers are categorized according to the class of fire they extinguish — Class A, Class B, Class C, Class, D, and Class K.

Class of FireDescription
Class A FiresFires in ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.
Class B FiresFires in flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohols, and flammable gases.
Class C FiresFires that involve energized electrical equipment.
Class D FiresFires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium.
Class K FiresFires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats).
National Fire Prevention Association

In most cases, homeowners need a multiple-purpose fire extinguisher, which is classified as A, B and C. 

Towel accidentally catches fire on stove
The number one cause of fires in a home is unattended cooking. (Pears2295, Getty Images Signature)

House Fires

What are some of the hazards that lead to a house fire? 

Stephen: The number one cause of fires in a home is unattended cooking. This usually happens in the kitchen, but depending on the time of year it could happen outside. 

During football season and summer when people are grilling, a fire could easily happen outside. If you’re using a deep frier, grill or smoker, you can’t cook if you’re not in that area. 

As a fire safety precaution, stay there and attend to whatever you’re cooking, and have an outdoor fire extinguisher nearby, so you’re prepared in case something happens. 

Also, before you leave your home, add making sure your iron and oven are off to your mental checklist of things you need to do. 

Hands adjust a smoke detector as a fire safety precaution
The batteries in most modern smoke detectors last for 10 years, but you should still regularly check them. (Kevin Brine, Getty Images)

Smoke Detectors

What’s some smoke detector maintenance homeowners should know?

Dwight: You should replace your smoke detector after 10 years. Mobile Fire-Rescue has a program to change out smoke alarms and batteries for citizens, and we’ve seen a lot of smoke alarms that are more than 20 years old that are not working. 

Stephen: Test your smoke alarm to make sure it’s still operational. If you hear that chirping sound, don’t ignore it. That means it’s time to change out your smoke alarm batteries. 

Electric heater on a hard floor in a home as a fire safety precaution
Always place a space heater on a hard, flat surface. (-aniaostudio-, Getty Images

Space Heaters

What are some fire safety tips for space heaters?

Stephen: The best thing you can do when using a space heater is follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and give it space.

You can’t operate a space heater if you’re not in that room. It’s supplemental heat for a small area, so it’s not meant to heat an entire room or home.

  • Plug the space heater directly into a wall outlet and never into an extension cord.
  • Keep it at least 3 feet away from anything. 
  • Operate it on a flat, hard surface. Don’t put it on a carpet or rug or anywhere it might tip over. 
  • Don’t put it on a table or under a desk. It’s tempting to do this in an office setting to warm your feet, but it’s easy to forget that it’s there. 

View of a metal chimney cap
A metal chimney cap will keep critters out. (3 Echoes Content Studio)


How often and when should you sweep your chimney?

Stephen: An important part of fire safety is sweeping your chimney at least once a year, especially just before you light it at the start of a new season.

Every season, there are all kinds of things that could be in that chimney — squirrels, birds, leaves, sticks, brush, anything that’s accumulated while you haven’t been using it.

Have it professionally inspected, cleaned and swept before you light it for cold weather months.

Further Reading

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