With Holidays Quickly Approaching, DCA's Fire Experts Offer

Helpful Tips to Keep Kids and Families Safe

"Protecting Your Family from Fire" is Critical during the Fall Season 


TRENTON, N.J. – Summer has past and fall is here, bringing cooler weather, falling leaves and higher risks of fire hazards. During October, National Fire Prevention Month, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs' (DCA) Division of Fire Safety urges New Jersey residents to teach their children about all risks associated with fire, and learn how to protect themselves. The Division also has a number of useful tips that will keep children and families safe this fall and throughout the holiday season.

"Because fires can happen at any time and without warning, it is important that everyone prepare for unexpected events. We especially encourage parents to set aside time with their children and teach them about fire hazards in the home, now that fall has arrived," said DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa. "The upcoming holiday season poses elevated fire risks, but with adequate planning, we can significantly reduce the chances of unnecessary deaths, injuries, and property damage caused by fires."

One particularly effective preventative measure is devising a family escape plan. Fire safety experts recommend that families find two ways out of every room in the house and practice these routes with adults at least twice a year, including at night, so that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds.

Items that block doors and windows should be removed as young children may not be able to move them quickly enough to escape. Windows should be tested to ensure they are not stuck and their screens can be removed from the inside. If windows have security bars on the outside, they should be retrofitted to be opened from inside. Adults should teach children how to unlock and open the window and remove the screen in case they ever need to get out.

Decide on a safe, easy-to-remember meeting place outside the home. If small children are in the family, choose a location where they would not have to cross the street.

"Educating children about fire safety is important for disaster prevention. Parents should teach their kids about what activities are safe and unsafe," said Acting Division of Fire Safety Director William Kramer. "The conversation should include why it's unsafe to play with matches and the kitchen stove, and how to avoid getting an electric shock from household appliances."

Other fire safety tips for families include:

  • Have fireplaces and fireplace dampers checked;
  • Always use a screen around the fireplace to keep kids and pets safe;
  • Examine wood burning stoves and check the flue and chimney for creosote buildup;
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors outside each sleeping area;
  • Place smoke alarms inside and outside bedrooms on each floor, at stairwells, and inside basements;
  • Change the batteries of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms twice a year;
  • Always use child-resistant lighters;
  • Always keep candles out of the reach of children and pets, and consider using flameless candles;
  • Use tamper-resistant electrical receptacles inside the home;
  • Keep children up to 3 feet away from the stove, open fires/flames, and heaters;
  • Keep matches and lighters in a locked cabinet;
  • Remember that children's skin is more sensitive and burns easily; and
  • Never hold a child while preparing hot foods or drinking hot beverages.

When escaping a building on fire, test doors with the back of the hand before opening them. A hot door means there may be fire on the other side. Open a cool door slightly and be ready to slam it shut if there is smoke or flame present. Try to find another way out, and stay low on the floor when escaping a fire. Once out of the building, all people should stay outside and avoid re-entering at all costs. Call the fire department from a mobile phone at a pre-arranged location outside.

For more detailed information on specific fire safety tips, please download the Division of Fire Safety "Fire Safety Facts" brochures located at www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/publications/. Families can use the brochures for discussions about fire safety and what each family member can do to stay fire safe.

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.