Safety is a priority in every household, but not many families practice home fire safety. More often than not, accidental fires catch people unprepared and cause devastating results, especially injuries and deaths. Follow these five key steps today to protect your loved ones and property from disastrous fires.

1. Install fire prevention devices.

Smoke alarms and sprinklers are a must. The ¬†Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 4 out of 10 fire-associated deaths happen in houses with no smoke alarms. Home fires that occur at night often result in deaths, because fire produces large amounts of carbon monoxide, an odorless yet highly toxic fume. When fire starts and you inhale carbon monoxide while asleep, you’ll most likely fail to wake up and escape from the fire.

Smoke alarms can greatly reduce the risk of dying in your sleep during a fire. Make sure to install fire alarms in every bedroom and in central spaces, but do not put a fire alarm in the kitchen to avoid frequent false alerts. Change batteries regularly, and always check if the fire alarms are working properly.

Install sprinklers in your home for added safety. It also helps to place a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in an accessible location that small children won’t easily reach. Your family members should know how to use them. Additionally, ensure that fire-prone materials, such as mattresses and furniture with flammable polymers, are flame retarded. Check if dangerous items in your house are compliant with home fire safety requirements.

2. Make a reliable fire escape plan, and practice it at least twice a year.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 18,300 Americans get injured in fires each year and around 3,500 die in fires. Because most fire incidents occur at home, it’s best to plan ahead for the safety of your family and property. Prepare a blueprint of your home, and mark all possible escape areas. Each family member, including kids and older people, should know exactly what to do when fire occurs. Plan different ways to escape quickly from your home, and decide what to do and where to meet outside. For example, you may instruct your family to contact the fire department and call the neighbors for help.

3. Place fire sources far from children.

Matches, candles, lighters, and other viable sources of fire should be kept far from children’s reach. Take time to explain to your kids why playing with fire is dangerous.

4. Use appliances appropriately, and buy fire-safe products.  

Electrical appliances are notorious sources of home fires, which is why it’s best to buy high-quality products instead of cheap, flammable items. Always read the manufacturer’s safety precautions, and unplug appliances when not in use. High-traffic areas should be free of cords and wires. Never overload extension cords or circuits. If you notice any of your appliances start to sputter or emit a strange smell, unplug immediately. Proper ventilation and maintenance of heating equipment are crucial to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Cook with care.

It’s a good idea to prepare a wet teacloth within arm’s reach when cooking. When the stove is on, avoid leaving food unattended, and keep anything prone to fire away from the stove. Also, don’t wear very loose or long clothes that may catch on fire while cooking.

By taking these precautionary measures and practicing home fire safety, you can immensely decrease the risk of accidental fires and make your home a safer place for you and your loved ones. Be proactive in reducing safety hazards, and don’t wait until a fire disaster strikes.