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Fire Prevention Week: Fire Won’t Wait, So Plan Your Escape

Learn about Fire Safety Tools and Resources to Protect Your Family

According to the American Red Cross, house fires increase between the fall and winter months with peaks in December and January, and the U.S. Fire Administration estimates that about 890 people die in winter house fires each year. To help the community prepare for the busiest season for house fires, the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) sponsors , which takes place Oct. 9–15, 2022. This year marks the 100th anniversary for Fire Prevention Week, which aims to educate the public on fire safety in the home. This year’s theme is “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™.” Read the following community update for fire safety tips and tools to protect your family.

Eighty percent of fire deaths are caused by home fires. The top causes are unattended cooking, heating equipment accidents and faulty wiring. In addition to using care when cooking and heating, and making sure your home wiring is properly maintained, investing in smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, plus carbon monoxide alarms, are the best approaches to help protect your home and family.

“The way homes are built today, they tend to burn faster than ever,” said Palo Alto Fire Department (PAFD) Chief Geo Blackshire. “Last year for fire prevention week we talked about learning the different sounds of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms are extremely important, but it’s important to understand that they often only buy you a minute or two to escape a home fire. It’s just as important to have an escape plan so that when you hear that life-saving alarm, you know exactly what to do to keep yourself and loved ones safe.”


For residents to have time to escape a fire, make sure alarms are positioned properly to give you as much notice as possible. PAFD recommends installing smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. The Fire Department also recommends checking regularly that alarms are functioning properly. A popular time to do that is the holiday season, but it’s good to check more than once a year.

Other safety tips for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms include replacing smoke alarms every 10 years and if chirping continues after the battery has been replaced it means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced. Replace the smoke detector with a lithium battery powered smoke detector that will last for 10 years — and still test it annually. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities. A continuous set of three loud beeps — beep, beep, beep — means smoke or fire. Get out, call 9–1–1, and stay out. A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.

Learn about other important fire prevention tips and escape plans .


The PAPD advises gathering the entire household to make your home fire escape plan, reviewing and practicing it twice each year to make sure it’s working, and updating it as needed. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes, as fire can happen in just about any room of the home.

Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping. Telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be just as effective as a surprise drill, which can frighten them and hinder them from learning. To help younger children, consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors, and have them memorize the fire department emergency phone number. If there are infants, older adults, or family members with mobility limitations, make sure that someone is assigned — including a backup person — to assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. If members of your household don’t readily waken to the sound of the smoke alarm, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real emergency.

Checking to make sure the and doors and windows can be opened easily and choosing an outside meeting place a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they’ve escaped are key to ensuring everyone’s safety. If your house number is not clearly visible from the road, paint it on the curb or install house numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.

For a printable fire escape map to create your plan and that kids can contribute to , go .


If your home has two floors, every family member should be able to escape from the second-floor rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Always choose the escape route that is safest — the one with the least amount of smoke and heat — but be prepared to escape under toxic smoke if necessary.

When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low and going under the smoke to your exit. Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape. In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. Close all doors between you and the fire, using towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.

Once you’re out, stay out! If someone is missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call 9–1–1 and allow firefighters — who have the skills and equipment to perform rescues — to search.

For more tips, go and for a fire escape planning document go .


Pets & Home Fires

Did you know that Pets or wild animals have a part in starting about 750 home fires per year? Pets may bump into, turn on, or knock over cooking equipment. Keep pets away from stoves and countertops, candles, lamps, and space heaters.

For additional pet safety tips, go .

Preparing for Wildfires

Wildfires can happen any time of year, we are still in the most active season, so it’s important to stay vigilant and know where you will go if you get an evacuation notice. While the City does everything, it can to reduce your community’s wildfire risk, every property owner must ensure they mitigate their own property’s risk and be prepared to leave quickly when wildfire strikes. Check out a that shares resources to help you plan for wildfires to keep your home and family out of harm’s way. Another resource to help you plan your escape from disasters like fires is last month’s community update.

Holiday Fire Safety Tips

As you are preparing for Halloween and pumpkin carving, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) reports that each year from 2017 to 2019, an estimated average of 9,200 fires were reported to fire departments in the United States over a 3-day period around Halloween. Choose battery-operated candles for Halloween decorations.

It is important to note that nearly half of holiday decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Looking towards November and December, the USFA reminds us that winter holiday decorations can increase the risk for a home fire. As you deck the halls this season, be fire smart. Inspect holiday lights each year before you put them up. Throw away light strands with frayed or pinched wires. Water your Christmas tree every day. A dry tree is dangerous because it can catch on fire easily. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles. If you do use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be knocked down easily.

Go for more holiday-related tips.


To learn more about the Palo Alto Fire Department and resources, go .

For fire prevention tips for the home, download these .

For a simple one pager on fire safety in your home, go .

Find fun family-friendly fire prevention activities .

Sign up for Emergency Alerts and learn more about how to Stay Informed during an emergency .

Read more about Emergency Preparedness , or read more about Wildfire Preparedness .

Find a summary of fire incidences from CAL Fire , or find regional fire status updates .

Connect with the City of Palo Alto for important news and updates .

View upcoming events on the .



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