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Firefighters respond to nearly 400,000 home fires annually. Home fires can be devastating or even fatal, but the right precautions may help prevent disasters. Local State Farm Insurance agent Karen O’Brien is helping raise awareness and encourage education around the topic of fire prevention during National Fire Prevention Week, observed October 7-13.

“Now is a great time to think about fire prevention and safety, and don’t forget to educate children,” O’Brien explains.  To help further drive home the safety message to kids, O’Brien is offering free firefighter hats and fire safety activity books during National Fire Prevention Week. Community members are welcome to stop by her office at 35 Danbury Rd. in Wilton (Kent Center–Dunkin’ Donuts Plaza).

O’Brien offers these safety tips to help protect you, your families, and your possessions:

Smoke Alarms

  • If you have stand-alone, battery-powered alarms, test them once a month and replace the batteries once a year.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 years old, or if they do not respond properly.
  • If you have questions about where to install smoke alarms, contact your local fire department. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on installation, battery replacement and maintenance.

Cooking Fires

  • Stay in the kitchen while you’re frying, grilling or broiling food. If you need to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the oven or stove.
  • Keep your stovetop clear of anything that can catch fire, including oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels and curtains.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking on the stovetop. If a small grease fire occurs, smother it by sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the stove and leave the pan covered until it has completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Candle Fires

  • Many candle fires start during power outages. Instead of candles, use flashlights and similar sources of light.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended or within reach of children or pets.
  • Keep burning candles at least one foot away in all directions from combustible items.
  • Don’t allow candles to burn to the bottom of their container.

Electrical Fires

  • Have your home inspected by a qualified electrician, especially when you’re buying an older home. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends an electrical inspection on any home that’s 40 years old or older.
  • Use a qualified electrician when you’re having any electrical work done on your home.
  • Never use extension cords as permanent wiring. If your home needs more outlets, consult a qualified electrician for help with the problem.
  • Be alert for any red flags that may signal electrical problems. If you have frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers, dimming or blinking lights, outlets that are warm to the touch, or similar types of problems, have your home inspected by a qualified professional.

State Farm also offers other in-depth articles to help you prevent and recover from fires.