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Dryer Fires & Home Fire Safety/Prevention

Home fires are a genuine threat to the property and lives of people across the United States. In the latest study by the National Fire Protection Agency, there were over one million fires in the U.S. in 2011. Of these fires, nearly three thousand were caused by clothes dryers. This results in an average of $35 million in destroyed property and roughly one hundred injuries on an annual basis. The cause of dryer fires is generally preventable. Failure to clean one's dryer is one of the leading causes of these types of fires. They account for approximately thirty-four percent of dryer fires. Mechanical and electrical malfunction or failure are also common causes of clothes dryer fires, as is misuse of the machine by putting in the wrong materials. For this reason, it is important that families incorporate dryer safety into their home's safety plan. Both children and adults must understand the threat that dryers can pose and what their part is in avoiding these types of fires.

To reduce the risk of clothes dryer fires, proper maintenance is required. Dryer fires are commonly caused by a build-up of lint and dust. Lint is highly flammable and can become trapped not only in the machine's lint trap, but also around the dryer and in the vent. Lint is the loose fibers that come from clothing and other articles made of materials such as cotton and linen. When lint is allowed to accumulate, an overheated dryer can ignite the lint and start a fire. For this reason, kids and anyone who uses the dryer must be made aware of the importance of cleaning the lint trap between each load. Lint and dust may also accumulate on the floor around the machine. This too should be swept away on a regular basis. Obstruction of the vent is another way that dryer fires start. If the vents are not cleaned of lint and dust it may begin to accumulate, causing the dryer to overheat and safety sensors within the unit to fail. This may cause the lint inside of the vent pipe to smolder and eventually spread to cause a fire. To prevent lint buildup in vents, they should be cleaned at least twice a year. Kids who are old enough to operate the dryer should be advised of the warning signs, such as clothing taking longer to dry and the dryer feeling overly hot to the touch. Instruct kids to inform an adult of any of these signs so that the proper preventative steps can be taken.

For the safety of themselves and their family, people must be able to recognize when a fire is out of control. A small flame can, within thirty seconds, turn into one that is too big to contain quickly. When this happens, the main priority is to get everyone safely out of the home. First and foremost it is critical that everyone stay as calm as possible under the circumstances. The best way to do that is to crawl. Because the heat and the smoke will rise, down near the floor is the easiest place to breathe as the air will be less smoky and cooler. Before leaving a room, stop and touch the door first. If the door or knob feels hot to the touch, do not open it. Instead, exit the home from a window or alert firefighters by hanging out a noticeable towel or sheet that is light in color and easy to detect.

A safety checklist is vital to keeping families safe in the event of a fire. The checklist is meant to help prevent fires from occurring and to prepare the family in the event that one does occur. The checklist will also ensure that everyone within the home, grown-ups and children alike, understand what role they play in keeping the family and themselves safe. For adults, the checklist will ensure that they verify that smoke alarms are tested and operational, that each room has been checked for fire hazards, and that a fire escape plan has been created. The fire escape plan should be one that allows for two ways to exit every room in the home. Adults must also ensure that the escape plan is practiced by the entire family at least twice a year. The fire safety checklist for children involves recognizing the sound of the fire alarms, keeping toys and other clutter away from exits in the home and the bedroom, and understanding the escape plan and the location of any meeting spot. Although fire is a very real danger, taking the right steps can help reduce the chances of one occurring.

For more information about home fire safety, please view the following links:

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