Talking to Residents – Some Recommendations

Download free apps with four home fire safety videos to share during your home visits. Produced by the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association in partnership with the Institution of Fire Engineers – Vision 20/20, these videos cover the speed of fire, smoke alarms, escape planning and practice, and cooking fire safety. They are presented in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language. You can download the free “Safety Visits” App from the Apple store. The Android version of the “Safety Visits” App is available on Google Play.  Download fire safety sheets prepared by NFPA and ProLiteracy. These are illustrated, with minimal wording that is intended for adults with low English literacy proficiency.

Smoke Alarms

  • installing smoke alarmsFire can move very fast. Smoke alarms give you the added time you may need to escape, and to get others in the home awake and moving.
  • Most people who die in fires die from the smoke, not burns. Smoke from a fire is deadly. You need working smoke alarms in your home to keep you and your family safe. They will give you early warning so you have more time to get out of the home.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms work—push the test button monthly.  If you do not hear the loud alarm noise, you need a new battery or a new alarm. Fix this immediately.
  • If the battery in your alarm makes a “chirping” sound, put in a new battery. If you have a sealed smoke alarm, where you cannot access the battery, then it is time to replace the entire smoke alarm.
  • Replace smoke alarms with new ones if they are 10 years old or older.
  • NFPA Smoke Alarm Information Page

fire escape planMake an Escape Plan

  • Show your family what to do if they hear the smoke alarm. Fire and smoke move fast, and you need to know at least two ways to get out of each room (door, window, onto roof, etc.) and outside from there.
  • Pick a meeting place outside and in front of your home where everyone will gather. This is to make sure everyone is out, and protects rescuers from entering a dangerous environment to look for someone who is already safe.
  • Some children and older adults do not wake to the smoke alarm when they are sleeping.  Plan and practice how you will help them get out if the smoke alarm sounds.
  • fire escape planningPractice your escape plan with everyone in your home two times each year.
  • NFPA Escape Plan Tip Sheet
  • Note: For some, particularly some older adults or those with mobility impairments, a “defend in place” strategy is their only option.  Be prepared to discuss this when applicable.

What to do if your alarm goes off

  • Go to your outside meeting place immediately.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the fire department from outside.
  • Never go back inside a burning building.

kitchen safety zoneCooking Safety

  • Keep an eye on what you fry—stay in the kitchen when you are using high heat to fry, grill, or broil food.
  • Make the cooking area safe. Clean and clear the area around the stove before you turn on the heat.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the stove.
  • Know what to do if your pan is on fire. Keep the pan where it is and slide a lid or a cookie sheet over the top to put out the flames.
  • USFA Cooking safety page
  • USFA Cooking Flyer
  • NFPA Tip Sheet

Heating Safety

  • Give space heaters space. Keep them at least 3 feet from anything that can burn.  Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep.


  • Ask smokers to smoke outside.
  • Use deep, sturdy ashtrays.
  • Put water on cigarette butts before you throw them in the trash.
  • USFA Smoking Page
  • NFPA Tip Sheet

lock matches upMatches and Lighters

  • If there are children in the home keep all matches and lighters in a locked place.


  • Use flameless candles.
  • Keep lit candles at least 1 foot from anything that can burn—they may fall or get knocked over.  Don’t put them directly on wood, plastic, or another flammable surface.
  • Only light candles when an adult is in the room. Blow them out when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • USFA Candle Fire Safety Page
  • NFPA Candle Fire Safety Page

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Consumer GuideInstall Fire Sprinklers

While you are conducting your home safety visit, you may well come across unsafe practices in the home, such as matches lying around, heaters too close to flammable materials, materials etc. When you address issues give solutions to the problem.

sleeping childSome homes are going to require you to address special needs. These include:

Home Fire Safety Checklist

Chelan County (WA) Fire District

During the visit, make notes of important things for the residents to do after you leave.

  • Review the key points at the end of the home safety visit, and allow time for questions and answers with the residents.
  • Make sure the residents especially adult caregivers understand, and that you have satisfactorily answered all their questions.
  • Give them a number to call in the event that questions or issues arise after you leave.
  • Encourage residents to use their checklist as an ongoing reminder of key safety tips and as their template of change.

Since they won’t remember all that you teach, this will provide them with a positive reference sheet.

Home visit teams often encounter situations such as overcrowding, unsafe use of cooking and heating equipment, unsupervised children and other hazards. It is essential that these potentially dangerous conditions be approached with the resident with sensitivity and without moral judgment. The intent should be to address the hazard and equip the resident with the steps they can to take to protect those living in the home. With kindness and in simple terms, help residents understand their potentially dangerous conditions and the steps they can take to protect those living in the home. If appropriate, share information on other community services and resources that might be available and offer to make those connections.

Finally, remember your own safety. People with mental illness or social problems and residents who simply don’t want to take advantage of the situation can be negative. Always take necessary safety precautions. It is important to be smart, cautious and if necessary take action to protect yourself during the visit. When doing the home safety visits, work in pairs or more. If you sense something is not right, trust your instinct and leave.

Going Beyond Your Program

When there is a home fire in a neighborhood, everyone knows about it, and everyone is affected by it directly or indirectly. Every time a person drives by the burned home they are reminded that this could easily have been their home, and their family. This is an opportunity to advance your home safety program and help a neighborhood heal. Regardless of whether the fire is in an area of high risk it’s an excellent teachable moment.

Emergency medical calls provide the opportunity for identification of hazards in the home. During or immediately following the response, offer to install smoke alarms and/or batteries in homes without them and provide information to address and resolve the hazards you’ve identified. When time or circumstances do not allow for immediate action, ask to follow up at a later time.