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Publication #FAR7511

Fire Safety for Families1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
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It’s a terrifying thing to picture—your home in flames, with someone trapped inside. Unfortunately, house fires can break out suddenly and spread quickly.

The first step towards protecting your family is to install working smoke alarms on every level of the house and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly, and replace the batteries at least once a year (U.S. Fire Administration, 2010b). Next, develop a fire safety plan: identify all escape routes and designate a meeting place outside the home. Review and practice this plan with your family at least twice a year (U.S. Fire Administration, 2010a).

Children under 4 and seniors are especially vulnerable in fires because both groups have trouble escaping in an emergency (U.S. Fire Administration, 2011a; U.S. Fire Administration, 2011b). Start rehearsing what to do in case of fire when children are young. Even a three year old can memorize a fire escape plan with enough practice (U.S. Fire Administration, 2010a). Also, make sure children know what the smoke alarm sounds like, and teach them never to hide from a firefighter (U.S. Fire Administration, 2010a). And since many children start fires while playing with lighters or matches, store these items out of reach, never use them to entertain children, and teach children to immediately tell an adult if they find one (U.S. Fire Administration, 2011a).

Older adults are particularly at risk from smoking-related fires (U.S. Fire Administration, 2011b). To protect them, remind smokers to put out cigarettes at the first sign of drowsiness, and to never smoke in bed. Hearing impaired seniors should install a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light (U.S. Fire Administration, 2011b).

Reviewing these simple precautions can dramatically reduce your family’s risk and protect its youngest and oldest members.

Listening, learning and living together, it’s the science of life. “Family Album” is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and of WUFT-FM.  If you’d like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


U.S. Fire Administration. (2010a). Information about home fire escape planning. Retrieved from

U.S. Fire Administration. (2010b). Information about smoke alarms. Retrieved from

U.S. Fire Administration. (2011a). Fire risk to children in 2007. Retrieved from

U.S. Fire Administration. (2011b). Fire risk to older adults in 2007. Retrieved from



This document is FAR7511, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date March 19, 2011, as program 1625. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.