Fire Safety

Prevention and Planning is the Key to Survival

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Smoke DetectorSmoke Alarms

Smoke detectors (as pictured at right) are one of those amazing inventions that are saving thousands of lives each year. They are important for the safety of you, the rest of your family and your home. Every home should have at least one smoke detector. They warn you of a fire. This is especially important at night when everyone is asleep.


All smoke alarms consist of two basic parts: 1) a sensor to sense the smoke; and 2) a very loud electronic horn to wake people up. Some smoke detectors run off 120-volt house current, but most detectors run off of 9-volt batteries.

The two most common types of smoke detectors used today are: 1) the photoelectric detector and 2) the ionization detector. Both types sound an alarm when smoke enters the smoke detectors.


Smoke alarms should be installed in every room and the attic in the home. If you live in a two story home, put smoke alarms on both levels of the home. Your father should install the smoke alarms; you can help him. Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceilings or the upper end of a wall.

If you are limited by the number of smoke alarms:

  • put a smoke alarm outside of the bedrooms if you have only one smoke alarm.
  • put one in the kitchen and outside the bedrooms if you have two smoke alarms.


Smoke alarms must be maintained properly, so they will warn you in case of fire. Proper maintenance requires:

  • testing every month. The alarm can usually be tested by pushing a button on the face of the smoke alarm.
  • if your smoke alarm begins to chirp like a bird every minute or so, the batteries are weak and need to be replaced immediately.
  • batteries should be replaced yearly. It is recommended to replace the batteries during Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention Week occurs in the week that October 9 falls. October 9 marks the anniversary of the “Great Chicago Fire of 1871.”

Smoke Alarms are a wise investment.

They Save Lives.

Burglar Bars

Burglaries have been getting worse, and people are installing burglar bars on their windows and exterior doors on their homes to protect their families. Burglar bars are making homes safe, but also pose a danger in case of fire. To eliminate the fire hazard, the Houston Fire Department advises the following to eliminate the fire hazard:

The installation and use of burglar bars are regulated by the City of Houston Uniform Building Code. Bars, grilles or grates may be installed on windows or doors of residences if they meet the following requirements:

Anyone must be able to open the burglar bars from the inside without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort, even a child.

If burglar bars are installed, your home should have smoke detectors installed as follows: If the bedrooms are on separate sides of the house or separated in any way, one smoke detector is required to protect each sleeping area or hallway.

  • One smoke detector is required for each level of the house if the house is more than one story.
  • When bedrooms are upstairs, the smoke detector shall be installed on the ceiling near the stairway.
  • If bedroom ceilings are more than 24 inches higher than the hallway ceiling, smoke detectors shall be installed in the bedrooms and in the hallway.
  • When a smoke detector signals, the smoke detector must be heard from every bedroom in the house.
  • If a smoke detector is installed on the ceiling, place it at least 4 inches from the wall; If installed on the wall, place the smoke detector 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling.
  • The recommended release mechanism for hinged burglar bars would be a single cylinder dead bolt lock with a thumb & forefinger turn lever on the inside cylinder or other quick release devices. Note: For security purposes the dead bolt on a hinged burglar bar could be protected from outside intrusion by the use of expanded metal or a plate to prevent intruders from reaching the release lever.
  • Do not install burglar bars, grills, grates or any device on windows or doors used for rescue or escape routes that cannot be easily opened from the inside. Your life can depend on it!

If you have questions, call HFD’s Public Education Division at 713-865-7120.

Escape Plan

An escape plan is a plan of how to escape from the home in case of a fire. But a plan is not enough alone; the plan must be practiced by everyone in the home.

Prepare the Escape Plan

Start by all of the family taking part. Draw a diagram of your home showing the walls and the location of the windows and doors. Then draw the route from every room to the outside. An additional route should exit each room in case the original route is blocked. This would probably be through a window.

Everyone in the home should be familiar with the routes to outside from each room. Then plan where everybody should meet. This should be in the front yard near the sidewalk. You will know that everyone else got out alright when there is a fire. Meeting near the front sidewalk enables you to flag down the firefighters when they arrive.

An important point is to NEVER go back once you get outside. Do not go back to rescue your valuables, a pet or even if it is your brother or sister. Many people have died going back after escaping from a burning building. Wait for the firefighters and tell them who is still missing.

Do not take the time to call the fire department before you escape. You can call 9-1-1 after you get out.

Safety Before A Fire

Things to do that go along with an escape plan are:

  • It is best to have a smoke alarm in every room. If you have just one smoke alarm, mount the one smoke alarm on the ceiling just outside the bedrooms.
  • Test the smoke alarm, usually by pressing a button on the smoke alarm once a month.
  • Change the batteries of smoke alarms once a year.
  • Practice your escape plan periodically. Have a live drill once a year. This should involve the whole family.
  • Keep escape routes clear throughout the home. Don’t store anything in or near a route.
  • Make sure windows are maintained and work easily. These could be needed when a main escape route is blocked.

What to Do In Case of Fire

Roll off the bed and crawl new the floor. Heat and smoke rises. Good air is near the floor. Crawl to the door and feel the door before opening it. If the door is cool, it is safe to open the door and proceed along your escape route. Otherwise you must use your alternate route.

Go to the meeting spot at the front sidewalk. Notify the fire department after you’re safely outside. Then stay until the fire department arrives and tell them all you know about the fire. Then stay back and let the firefighters put out the fire.