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Fact Sheet

The majority of reported structure fires occur where people live. Nationally, the most common causes of home fires are cooking, and heating equipment. To help reduce your fire risk:

Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. The chances of dying in a fire are cut in half by a working smoke alarm. People are at greater risk of dying in a fire when they're sleeping, because smoke and toxic gases can put them into a deeper sleep and eventually kill them.

Test your alarms once a month and change batteries twice a year.

Consider purchasing ten-year lithium batteries for your alarms. Remember that the alarms themselves have a lifespan of less than ten years and must be periodically replaced.

Consider installing a residential fire sprinkler system in your home. With working smoke alarms and a sprinkler system, you increase your chance of survival to approximately 73 percent.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy, especially in the kitchen, and learn how to use it.

The majority of kitchen fires occur when food being cooked on or in the stove is left unattended. Don't use water to extinguish a grease fire ­ this will only spread the fire - use a fire extinguisher or a pan lid, if it's safe to do so. Protect your hand with an oven mitt, hold the lid vertically to shield yourself from smoke and flames and turn the burner off. Then move the lid toward the pan and ease the lid over the fire. Do not attempt to bring the lid up over the fire and then straight down. Once the lid is on and oxygen is cut off, the fire will go out.

Keep matches and lighters locked away, out of sight and reach of children.

Keep children away from cooking and heating appliances.

Never smoke in bed.

If you smoke, smoke outside.

Make sure that all power cords are in proper working order; replace any damaged power cord immediately. Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many appliances. Extension cords and outlets can become overheated due to overuse and cause fires. If cords are hot to the touch, disconnect the appliance.

Keep space heaters three feet away from anything that can burn.

Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.

Store all flammable liquids such as gasoline and propane outside of the home.

Plan and practice home fire drills. Have at least two exits (doors or windows) out of every room. Set a pre-arranged meeting place outside. Make children familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm. Show them what firefighters look like in full rescue gear - children have been known to hide from firefighters because they're frightened by how they look.

Every member of the family, especially children, should know the following steps to take in case of fire:
 Crawl low under smoke and cover mouth and nose with a piece of cloth. An estimated three-fourths of all fire victims die from smoke inhalation and lack of oxygen.
 Touch closed doors with the back of your hand to feel the temperature before opening them.
 Get out of the house as quickly as possible. Don't stop to try to save valuables.
 Never return to a burning house.
 Call 9-1-1 after you've left a burning building, not from inside.
 If clothes catch on fire, "stop, drop, cover your face, and roll" to extinguish the flames.

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.