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From the NIH Fire Marshal COVID-19 and Home Fire Safety

​​​​The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many of us spending more time at home. The Division of the Fire Marshal (DFM), Office of Research Services, wants to remind everyone that fires in the home claim many lives - 3,645 in the U.S. last year, including 63 in Maryland alone. Today, it is more important than ever to practice good fire prevention and planning in our homes. First, please take the time to watch this 5-minute video showing how fast modern furnishings burn and how little time you have to escape a home fire:

Smoke Alarms

Depending on when your home was built or renovated, smoke alarms will provide varying degrees of coverage. You should install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Test smoke alarms each month by pushing the test button until the alarm activates. You may be cooking at home more frequently - don't be tempted to remove smoke alarms or their batteries due to nuisance alarms. Maryland law requires residents to replace all battery-powered smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old with a smoke alarm having a 10-year life battery. For more information:

Home Fire Sprinklers

Home fire sprinkler systems keep fires small by reducing the heat, flames and smoke produced by a fire. They greatly increase the chances of survival beyond homes protected with only smoke alarms. These systems are installed in a newer home and can be retrofitted in existing homes - especially when remodeling. As a bonus, they can reduce your homeowner's insurance premiums. Unlike what you see on TV, heat will activate only sprinkler heads closest to a fire, minimizing excess water damage. You may be participating in unusual activities or games to keep everyone occupied while home these days; take care not to hit sprinkler heads or hang anything from them – that may activate them. For more information:

Fire Escape Plan

Here is a perfect idea for an activity while you are social distancing at home: make and practice a family fire escape plan for actions to take in the event of a fire. Keep bedroom doors closed when sleeping. Know two ways out of every room. Have a meeting place outside of your home. Dial 9-1-1 from outside of the home to report a fire. Provide information to arriving firefighters – even if everyone has escaped. For more information:

Cooking Fire Safety

Many of us are cooking at home more than usual. Stay in the kitchen when you do any type of stovetop or oven cooking. If you must leave the kitchen, turn the burners off. Keep things that can burn away from cooking area, even when not cooking. If a stovetop fire does occur, slide a lid over the burning pan to smother the fire and turn off the gas or electric burner to prevent fire from spreading. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to prevent them from getting bumped. Have a tip-over protection device to prevent the stove from tipping over. Do not microwave face masks as you may see on social media sites. They can catch fire quickly, especially if they have metal components. For more information:

Fire Extinguishers

These can be helpful on small fires. If you choose to have a fire extinguisher at home, know how to use it safely and mount it near an exit. If a fire occurs, call 911 and ensure everyone else is escaping before attempting to extinguish the fire. An ABC type fire extinguisher is good for general home protection. BC-rated extinguishers with a sodium bicarbonate extinguishing agent clean up relatively easy for kitchen fires. For more information:

If you have any questions concerning home or work fire safety, please contact the NIH Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487 or contact your local fire department or state fire marshal.